Thursday afternoon at Jerez saw Valentino Rossi's pre-Spanish GP debrief unsurprisingly dominated by the announcement that VR46 will have a MotoGP team next season, after securing backing from Saudi Aramco.

"At the beginning [of the VR46 project] we didn’t think, sincerely, about a MotoGP team," Rossi said. "But step-by-step we have this possibility and in the end we say, why not?

"All the people in VR46 are very happy because we work a lot for more-or-less 10 years. We started from Moto3 in the Italian championship and to arrive in MotoGP is great for us.

"I think it will be fun and it's a good way also to remain in this world when I finish my career as a rider."

The Italian also joked that it gives him another option for 2022, should he want to continue racing but not renew with Petronas Yamaha.

"From one side it doesn’t change a lot because I will decide during this season [to race on or not] and it will depend, like I always say, on the results," Rossi said.

"From another side, maybe it's a help, because I have an extra place if I want to race with my team! For sure if I am the boss and I want to race, I can keep one bike for me! But we will see."

The VR46 MotoGP move had been announced by Tanal Entertainment Sport & Media, the holding company of HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al Saud, which said:

'In 2022 the VR46 Team will debut in the MotoGP class together with Tanal Entertainment Sport & Media with Saudi Aramco, as the new Main Sponsor for the period 2022-2026'.

But the press release contained no quotes from anyone at Tanal, Aramco or VR46 and some media companies, Crash.net included, have since been contacted to say that Aramco doesn’t have knowledge of the deal.

"We know that we have a deal with Aramco to make the [MotoGP] team," Rossi insisted. "...I don’t know sincerely [why] Aramco say that they don’t know!"

The nine-time world champion added that he was not personally involved in the negotiations but is happy with the agreement.

"I don’t speak with [Aramco] myself because first of all I'm a MotoGP rider at this moment so I'm focussed there.

"For sure I'm involved because obviously the bike has 'VR46', like this year in Moto2 and with the Ducati of Luca. But sincerely, we have a lot of people in VR46 that worked on this deal.

"I'm just the boss! I don’t speak directly with the sponsors."

While Rossi having a MotoGP team is huge news for the sport, it's been countered by concern regarding human rights in Saudi Arabia.

"Aramco in the last years support a lot of different sports, from football, and also very much in motorsport, Formula One, and for us it's an important partner and can help to make the team in MotoGP," Rossi said.

"And after, for the rest we will see, maybe we can do something for improve the [human rights] situation, but under our point of view, our relationship is for that."

A mock-up image provided by Tanal Entertainment showed a Yamaha M1 with Aramco branding, but Rossi insisted no decision has yet been made on the machinery.

"About bikes, we speak with everybody, sincerely. Aprilia, Yamaha, Ducati… Suzuki also. I don’t know very well at this moment but I think it's not decided yet."

On paper, the arrival of VR46 plus Aprilia splitting from Gresini to have its own Factory team could mean four more bikes on the grid in 2022.

But it seems likely that VR46, which currently runs Rossi's younger brother Luca Marini within the Esponsorama Ducati team, will effectively take over both of the Andorran team's grid places.

Rossi was speaking ahead of his return to the circuit where he took his most recent podium finish, in last July's Andalucia round.

"Jerez is always a great track for me and I have great memories in the past, including last year when I was on the podium," he said. "We need to try to be stronger, competitive, to make a good weekend.

"Also this year we race here in the right moment of the season, at the end of April, so it can be better than last year which was very hot and difficult for the tyres, riders and everything. So we need to try to work well from tomorrow, try to be strong during the weekend."

Rossi has a best finish of 12th place from the three races so far this year.

 

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