Valentino Rossi has given a little more background as to the behind the scenes discussions that took place back in January when it emerged he would be dropped from the Yamaha Factory squad for the 2021 MotoGP World Championship, kick-starting a long chain reaction that ultimately led to today’s confirmation he will be joining sister outfit Petronas SRT Yamaha.

While the announcement was in no way a surprise itself, with Rossi insisting the deal was 99% done back in July, it does formally ensure the Italian will head into his 25th year of GP racing on a one year deal that he insists isn’t an indication he will retire next year.

 

 

Moreover, while the negotiations may have been drawn out across several months, the physical switch from from Yamaha Factory to Petronas SRT Yamaha should be a seamless one for Rossi, not least because the Malaysian funded team is proving as quick - often quicker - than the doner set up at the moment.

With this in mind, Rossi - who won his first premier 500GP title in 2001 on a satellite Nastro Azzurro Honda -  is enticed by the challenge of weaving into a new working environment having spent 15 of the last 17 seasons as an official Yamaha Factory rider.

“I am very happy and very proud of this decision because I want to continue to race,” said Rossi, who swaps positions with Quartararo in the deal. “It’s a strange season, so my plan at the start of the season was to see if I was still competitive and after we spoke a lot with Lin, Yamaha and the Petronas team. 

“It has been a long time I have been with the Factory Yamaha team, from 2013 the second part, but I think this move is good for me and I have to thank Lin and Yamaha because they continue to give me factory support. 

“I don’t think a lot will change, just the colours of the bike because the Petronas is a high level and very professional with many important results.”

Reflecting on the run up to January’s earlier-than-expected 2021 rider announcement, Rossi reveals he wanted to request a delay on his own decision until the season had started because though he felt he could be competitive, a tough end to the 2019 season had him doubting whether at 40 - seven years older than the next oldest rider - was fit enough to continue. 

Even so, Rossi admits he was always expecting the call from Lin Jarvis on the back of Quartararo’s rising star - coupled withthe risk of losing him to a rival - plus a strong end of the year for Vinales. 

 

 

“Normally I’d ask Yamaha to wait until Mugello because I didn’t like the result of last year. I didn’t feel good with the bike and I was not competitive enough to stay at the top level so when you have this problem at my age, you start to ask yourself some questions. 

“When you look at the birth date of the other riders, you start to understand when you are older than the next oldest by 7 years, is why you start to think you should stay at home!

“In my heart I trust, I still think I can be competitive. For sure, it’s not the same as 10 or 15 years ago when I could win many races in a season but I think if you are good with your body then the motivation makes the difference. So I changed my team, my chief mechanic because we can fight for victories.”

However, Rossi - who will be paired with his own VR46 protege Franco Morbidelli - admits he was adamant he wanted the same machinery as both Quartararo and Vinales to agree to the move.

“Before COVID-19, Lin said he had to come see me and said it’s not good news… but sincerely I expected it, already from Thailand last year. 

“Maverick was strong last year and and Fabio made some incredible results, so it’s difficult to keep the place for 2021. I always said Lin can always ‘fire me’, so I think that was normal. 

“I asked told Lin that ‘if I continue, you have to give me a third factory M1 because I want to continue doing what I do’, so I applied some pressure. He said ‘Yes’ because ‘the relationship with you and Yamaha is really special’. 

“I’m very happy because I enjoy and if I can be competitive, I want to race next year 

A one year deal, which is at odds with the usual two-season cycle, Rossi says it shouldn’t be mistaken for him retiring at the end of 2021 but he doesn’t want to begin a season having to declare it as his last.

“One year is good, but I don’t want to go into next year with the mindset that it will be my last one,” Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis said. “So Vale said he’d like to keep motivation that if I am performing well, if I still enjoy it, if prove I am fast enough that I have the potential to continue into the future. So we agreed quite quickly and Yamaha agreed to. 

“Valentino will have exactly the same bike as Maverick and Fabio at the opening round in 2021. As we progress through the year, sometimes it may be possible to give updates at the same time but sometimes it may not. 

“Valentino knows this, we can only do so much at the time so if we want to move forward and there is limited time, then it will be done at the factory team as a priority.

“With Japanese, Malaysian and Italian legal teams [the contract] was a bit complicated, but we got it done and having Valentino continue in this sport is so important for MotoGP because it would be wrong if he had to stop his career in this COVID influenced year. It is fantastic that he will stay.”
 

 

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