Valentino Rossi knew the 'consequence' of being unable to provide Yamaha with an immediate answer on his racing future would be an exit from the factory MotoGP team.

But after a difficult 2019, Rossi's biggest fear is committing to stay in the world championship, only to find he is uncompetitive.

The nine-time world champion will therefore wait until mid-2020 before deciding whether to retire or race on.

However, that timeline didn't suit Yamaha, which had to act quickly if it was to avoid losing either Maverick Vinales or rookie star Fabio Quartararo.

As such, the young Frenchman will now replace Rossi alongside Vinales in 2021, but Yamaha will supporting Rossi at a satellite team should he chose to continue.

"In the second half of last year I struggled very much," Rossi said on the eve of 2020 testing at Sepang.

"I've raced for 25 years and I’m not young any more, it became very heavy. To stay at the top level you need a big, big effort. To continue you need to have the right motivation.

"For me the motivation comes from the result. If I can fight for podium and I can be competitive I have motivation. My target is to try to continue next year. But if results aren’t what I expect, it becomes difficult.

"For this reason when I spoke to Yamaha I was not ready to decide… I don’t want to continue like this [in 2019]. If it’s like this, it’s better that I stop.

"Around half season, the summer break [I will decide]. Now we have to speak also more deeply. But now I have time. I don’t want to decide in one day. I want to decide when I feel ready and I feel from the inside. I think it will be in the summer."

Signing Vinales and Quartararo in the face of competition from the likes of Ducati was a major coup, but Jarvis - who tempted Rossi from Honda in 2004 - admitted it had been a difficult discussion to have with the #46.

"In January this year the [rider] market was already getting hot. We had our young riders pushing us, looking for a sense of direction and decision," explained Yamaha Racing managing director Lin Jarvis.

"In making that move we firstly consulted with Valentino to understand his direction and way of thinking about beyond 2020. He quite rightly said he wanted to spend time to see the level of his performance before taking a decision.

"We were in a situation where we’d have lost some of our young talent. [so] we took an 'advanced booking' for 2021 and ‘22 with two of the youngest, most talented riders in our camp to make sure we could rely on them for the following two seasons.

"With Valentino the consequence of our meeting was that if we needed to wait we would not prolong his career in the factory team. But if he stays on, we have assured him he will have the support of Yamaha Motor Company."

"From one side it was a difficult decision for me. Like Lin said, I knew that waiting had a consequence and the consequence is not to continue in the factory team," Rossi confirmed. "But from the other side it was not difficult, because I don’t want to continue if I’m not competitive.

"For this reason, it’s like this. I asked Yamaha for the support and they say yes if I want to continue. My first target is to continue in 2021. We have fantastic [satellite] team which is the Petronas team. In the end it would not change a lot [to switch teams]."

Many of Rossi's mechanics have followed him from team-to-team since his 2000 debut in the premier-class, but it is not yet clear if they would make a move to Petronas.

"It depends on Quartararo. If he takes someone from his team [to the factory team]. We still didn’t speak about this," Rossi said. "The important thing is Yamaha is happy if we continue together and will give me a factory bike and the maximum support."

Rossi played down rumours that he could form his own VR46 Yamaha team next year and also quashed talk he might switch manufacturers.

"For me Petronas is the best option. The situation is very good. They have a good, young team so they can improve. They have money. They are serious," he said.

"Especially for me it’s important to continue with M1. First of all to change manufacturers is not easy. It’s never easy, especially at my age and at this point of my career.

"The VR46 team with Yamaha? I laugh because I like the idea but we don’t have the money! This is a big problem! It’s better with Petronas."

And what of the rider chosen to take his place at the Monster Yamaha team in 2021 and 2022?

"Like we spoke last year sometimes. I think that Yamaha make the right choice because Quartararo last year was impressive for everybody," Rossi said. "The people in the paddock knew that Quartararo could be competitive, but not like this. He’s a surprise more or less for everyone. He’s very young, very strong. I think it’s the right decision."

Current Petronas rider Quartararo may not have yet won a MotoGP race, "but you have to consider he finished second five times.

"Last year Marquez and Honda were another level. For this reason, Quartararo didn’t win. But there were some races like Valencia or Thailand or Misano where he arrived very close and for a rookie that’s not easy."

It was in Thailand last year, when Quartararo battled Marquez down to the final corner, that Rossi knew his own future at the team was in doubt.

"I already think about this [situation] from October of last year," he said. "I remember in Thailand because the performance of Quartararo changed the situation. If Yamaha didn’t have him, maybe we could also have more time…

"It was not a surprise [to be replaced by Quartararo]. I thought about this very deeply. But also I didn’t want to say yes to keep my place in the factory team and after not be competitive. This is the worst thing. Especially for me.

"It’s my last year with the factory team but anyway if I’m strong and I want to continue, we'll change the colour of the bike [next year], but the rest not a lot."

 

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