The contracts are finally signed and the news is now official: MotoGP superstar Valentino Rossi will race for Petronas Yamaha for the 2021 season.

The long-expected deal means that, although he has re-signed directly with Yamaha, the nine-time world champion switches to satellite status for the first time since his rookie 2000-2001 premier-class campaigns, with Honda.

Nonetheless, Rossi will still receive factory machinery at the Sepang team, as he swaps places with double MotoGP race winner Fabio Quartararo.

"I am very happy to continue riding in 2021 and to do it with the Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team," Rossi said. "I thought a lot before taking this decision, because the challenge is getting hotter and hotter. To be at the top in MotoGP you have to work a lot and hard, to train every day and lead an ’athlete's life‘, but I still like it and I still want to ride.

"In the first half of the year I made my choice and I talked with Yamaha, who agreed with me. They told me even if there was no place for me in the Factory Team, the factory bike and the factory support were guaranteed.

"I am very happy to move to Petronas Yamaha SRT. They are young, but they‘ve shown to be a top team. They are very serious and very well organised. For this year I also changed my crew chief. I‘m very happy with David, and I think we haven‘t reached our best yet. This was one of the reasons why I chose to continue, because the atmosphere in the team is something I like a lot.

"It‘ll be nice to have Franco as my team-mate, as he‘s an Academy rider, it‘s going to be cool. I think we can work together to make good things happen."

Following a brilliant rookie season, Quartararo was confirmed as taking Rossi's 2021 Monster Yamaha place back in January, when the Italian was still pondering his racing future.

Yamaha guaranteed the 41-year-old a place at a satellite team if he decided to continue and, amid calendar disruption caused by the Covid pandemic, it soon became clear that Rossi would take up the offer.

An announcement was initially expected before the revised July season opener, but re-signing for Yamaha while moving to Petronas required paperwork to be agreed between Japan, Malaysia and Italy.

Negotiations were also needed to decide how many of Rossi's current crew, some of which have been at his side since he joined the premier-class, would be making the move with him for 2021.

On Thursday Rossi revealed that crew chief David Munoz, data technician Matteo Flamigni and coach Idalio Gavira would move with him, but 'sadly' he could not bring long-serving mechanics Alex Briggs and Brent Stephens.

Petronas will run an all-Italian line-up next season with Rossi's VR46 Academy protegee Franco Morbidelli, winner of this year's San Marino MotoGP, already confirmed as staying at the squad.

"We are delighted that Valentino will be staying in MotoGP for another year, and we are sure the fans of the sport feel the same way. A substantial part of the MotoGP fanbase will have grown up with Valentino and followed him throughout his career," said Yamaha Racing managing director Lin Jarvis.

"This current and final season with the Factory Yamaha Team is his 25th in the motorcycle Grand Prix racing World Championship and his 15th year with Yamaha.

"Early on we assured Valentino that, should he stay in MotoGP for 2021, Yamaha would continue to give him full support and a Factory YZR-M1. In the end, this is exactly what he decided to do.

"I previously stated that this Covid-19 influenced MotoGP season would not be the appropriate year for such a legendary rider to close his career. Valentino has always been so popular with the fans all around the world, so it‘s great that he has decided to continue for at least another season. Hopefully the fans will be allowed back into the tracks next year to savour watching the GOAT in action again.

"I would like to thank the management of the Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team for their enthusiasm and full collaboration to welcome Valentino into their team. They are still quite a ’young‘ team, but they are very professional and serious contenders for race wins and feature in the top of the championship standings, so we are sure that Valentino will feel comfortable and be able to perform at his best level."

Although winless since Assen 2017, Rossi returned to the MotoGP podium at Jerez this year, narrowly missing out on another rostrum after a last-lap pass by Joan Mir in Misano.

Following an engine failure at the season-opener and crash in the Emilia Romagna race, The Doctor has slipped to ninth in the world championship, but within 26-points of Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso with half a season to go.

Rossi made his 125cc debut back in 1996 and spent his debut season in the premier-class racing the likes of Kenny Roberts on 500cc machinery.

The early years of his MotoGP career, with Honda and then Yamaha, were characterised by famous and sometimes bitter battles with Max Biaggi and Sete Gibernau, then the likes of Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo.

All have now retired, but Rossi continues to challenge rivals that, in many cases, were not even born when he began racing in grand prix.

The only rider on the current grid to have raced in 500cc, Rossi is also the only person in the present line-up to have finished above Marc Marquez in a MotoGP season.

That came in 2015, when Lorenzo and Rossi were one-two in the standings, inflicting Marquez's only title defeat to date, although the Honda rider's arm injury means that will change this year.

This weekend is Rossi's 350th grand prix start, meaning he has taken part in 39% of the 902 premier class races held since 1949, winning almost 10% of them.

Valentino Rossi - Career profile
1997125ccApriliaWorld Champion
1999250ccApriliaWorld Champion
2001MotoGPHondaWorld Champion
2002MotoGPHondaWorld Champion
2003MotoGPHondaWorld Champion
2004MotoGPYamahaWorld Champion
2005MotoGPYamahaWorld Champion
2008MotoGPYamahaWorld Champion
2009MotoGPYamahaWorld Champion