Fabio Quartararo wants to shake off the Valentino Rossi’s replacement tag following his new Yamaha deal which promotes him to the factory team in 2021.

Last year’s MotoGP rookie of the year will contest his second season in the premier class with Petronas Yamaha SRT before moving up to the factory squad having signed a deal securing his Yamaha future until the end of 2022.

With Maverick Vinales re-signing at Yamaha, it means Rossi will step out of the works squad after the 2020 season to make room for Quartararo.

Rossi has still been offered a full factory Yamaha if he chooses to continue racing in 2021, and would likely end up in the Petronas Yamaha team, but the changes have been instigated by the Iwata team as it plans for its future without the Italian rider.

Trying to fill the void of a nine-time world champion and icon of the sport is going to be a tough task for any rider, but Quartararo isn’t thinking about the prospect as he doesn’t see himself as Rossi’s sole replacement.

“I think I am not replacing him yet, I think I have a good job to take this badge in the factory Yamaha team,” Quartararo told the media following Petronas Yamaha’s 2020 team launch.

“He is not retired yet so I will not take his place. I think being in MotoGP factory team, but I am not taking his place.”

Reflecting on his career-changing deal, having been Petronas Yamaha’s outside bet only 12 months ago, Quartararo feels the stability it brings will allow him to focus on developing his riding on the Yamaha in MotoGP.

The French rider is on a ‘factory-spec’ M1 this season meaning he’ll stay on the latest specification Yamaha for the next three years, while current team-mate Franco Morbidelli is on the ‘A-spec’.

“I am really happy about signing the contract with Yamaha, I am so happy to announce it last week, now the future is clear for me which is really good and I can fully focus on three years with Yamaha,” he said.

“I know already the bike from last year so it will be good to follow up the next three years so again thanks to all the people who made it possible.”

Focusing on the upcoming campaign with Petronas Yamaha, Quartararo is aiming to build on the foundations of his stunning rookie year in which he notched up seven podiums and six pole positions on his way to fifth place in the overall riders’ standings.

While the 20-year-old is raising his own targets, he isn’t preparing for a 2020 world title bid for now.

“I think last year we did a really good rookie year and I learnt many things from many riders,” he explained. “I think we need to have this year to fight, of course, but I don’t want to say I am ready to fight for the championship because I am not but I think this year is a year that from the beginning in Qatar we can fight for top positions.

“Let’s say last year in the same moment we were P16 in the [Sepang] tests and I think we will start higher in the standings here. I have more experience and I don’t want to do the same mistakes as last year.

“We will fight for really good positions at a lot of races. Of course, my goal is to try to finish more times on the podium and fight for the victory at the end of the race.”

Quartararo’s team principal at Petronas Yamaha Razlan Razali is naturally delighted for his young rider and sees his future promotion to the factory squad as “natural progression” and a consequence of his standout MotoGP performances and results.

“First of all we are very proud that he has secured his career with Yamaha for an additional two years,” Razali said. “I think it is only natural for a rider from the satellite team to go to the factory team, that is a natural progression and we are very happy for him.

“At the same time, to focus on 2020 we expect him to continue with his good work from last year and to better this year. It is a defining year for him with higher expectations on him this year so we hope that we will continue with his good work from 2019 into 2020.”

MotoGP track action resumes with the Sepang pre-season test on February 7-9.

 

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