For the first time since 2012, the Factory Yamaha team goes into a MotoGP season without Valentino Rossi, having signed Fabio Quartararo to join Maverick Vinales for 2021.

"It's great that Valentino continues in the sport, with the full factory support of Yamaha, but he'll be next door at Petronas with Frankie. I think it can be good for him," said Yamaha Racing managing director LinJarvis.

"From our side, having Fabio join us, a young really exciting rider coupled together with Maverick, we have these young superstar riders with all the potential to win. We're excited. It's a generation change, but I think it will work well.

"We know Maverick has the speed, there's no question," Jarvis added. "We have to rule out the inconsistencies and manage the bad days, also because of our bike, because he's difficult to beat when he's on form."

Of Quartararo, Jarvis said: "I have a lot of confidence in Fabio, he's still very young but he's had two good years in MotoGP, rookie of the year and then winning three races last year. In my opinion he has all the expeirence and raw speed. I don't think joining the Factory team will bring more pressure, he had more pressure last year because he won the first two races.

"Just like Maverick, I think he will be a title contender.

"When we had the Lorenzo-Rossi era, they pushed each other and stepped up and we want to be in that zone again.

"This is the third year of our four-year deal with Monster and we want to deliver the title.

"Our livery looks very similar this year and that's a good thing because it means our sponsors have remained on board."

Yamaha won more races than any other manufacturer last season, with seven victories from the 14 rounds.

But only one win, by Vinales at Misano, was by the Official team, with Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli claiming three wins each for the satellite Petronas outfit.

Quartararo also led the championship standings for most of the season but, like Vinales and Rossi, battled frustrating hit-and-miss form on the latest Factory-spec bike and eventually dropped all the way down to eighth.

Meanwhile Morbidelli, on the '2019' A-Spec machine, rose to finish as Yamaha's top rider in the standings, behind only Suzuki's champion Joan Mir. Vinales was best of the Factory-spec riders, in sixth overall.

Valve problems – in the form of reliability issues at Jerez and ultimately a penalty for changing supplier – hung-over Yamaha for much of last season, meaning riders were unable to make full use of their engine allocation.

Although engine design remains frozen for 2021, the Yamaha riders will at least have a full line-up of engines available for this year, which means they can use maximum revs once again (having cut back by 500rpm until Misano last season).

For the chassis, there will be some big decisions to make in terms of whether to switch back to a frame similar to Morbidelli's specification, or push further in the direction of the 2020 Factory spec.

"The engine is just one element of the bike," Yamaha MotoGP Project Leader Takahiro Sumi said of the Covid technical freeze. "We are looking to improve our engine performance by working outside of the engine unit itself. We are also working on the chassis and can update the aerodynamics this year."

While Vinales, 26, has been a clear step ahead of Rossi in terms of results for the past two seasons, he is likely to face a tougher challenge from 21-year-old Quartararo.

Each will be eager to prove they are the future of Yamaha - "healthy competition" as Sumi called it - but first they must work together to solve the turning and rear grip problems that left both without a podium during the last six rounds of 2020.

"Consistency is the key word for this season," confirmed Yamaha team director Massimo Meregalli.

Rossi is swapping places with Quartararo to ride alongside Morbidelli at Petronas this year.



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