Valentino Rossi “needed more time” to decide on his MotoGP future but could still end up on a satellite Yamaha in 2021 after his factory ride went to Fabio Quartararo.
Rossi explained in a separate Yamaha release to the Quartararo news that he could not commit to another contract until he gets “some answers” after “the first few races” of the 2020 season, the last of his current agreement.
The door remains open for Rossi to continue on a Yamaha after this year, presumably with the Petronas Yamaha SRT team as the Italian himself had raised as a possibility, or for the Iwata factory to expand its support of his VR46 academy.
Yamaha’s announcement has advised that Rossi’s decision will be made at the conclusion of “the first seven or eight races of 2020” and stated that the timeframe was requested by Rossi himself.
“For reasons dictated by the riders’ market, Yamaha asked me at the beginning of the year to make a decision regarding my future,” said the soon-to-be 41-year-old.
“Consistent with what I said during the last season, I confirmed that I didn’t want to rush any decision and needed more time. Yamaha has acted accordingly and concluded the ongoing negotiations.
“It is clear that after the last technical changes and with the arrival of my new crew chief (David Muñoz), my first goal is to be competitive this year and to continue my career as a MotoGP rider also in 2021.
“Before doing so, I need to have some answers that only the track and the first few races can give me.
“I’m happy that, should I decide to continue, Yamaha is ready to support me in all respects, giving me a factory-spec bike and a factory contract.
“In the first tests I will do my best to do a good job together with my team and be ready for the start of the season.”
Lin Jarvis, Managing Director of Yamaha Motor Racing, said that the manufacturer felt compelled to secure the highly-rated Quartararo given how early in the year the contract cycle is expected to play out.
However, he also made it clear that Yamaha is not severing ties with the legendary rider who has won the last four of his seven MotoGP world championships with the Japanese marque.
“The totally understandable decision of Valentino to assess his competitiveness in 2020 before making any decision about 2021 was something that Yamaha respects and also wholeheartedly agrees to,” said Jarvis.
“While we have total respect for and confidence in Valentino’s abilities and speed for the 2020 championship – at the same time Yamaha also have to plan for the future.
“These days, with six motorcycle manufacturers in the MotoGP class, fast young talents are greatly in demand, and consequently the riders’ market begins ever earlier.
“So, it’s a weird sensation to start a season knowing that Vale will not be in the Factory Team in 2021, but Yamaha will still be there for Valentino, whatever he may decide for the future.
“If he feels confident and continues to race, we will provide a Factory-spec YZR-M1 bike and full engineering support.
“If he decides to retire, we will continue and expand our collaborations off track with the young riders’ training programmes of the Riders Academy and the Yamaha VR46 Master Camp, and with him as a Yamaha brand ambassador.
“Anyway, that is all speculation – right now we have a full season ahead of us and I can assure the fans that Valentino will have our 100 percent support every day until he eventually one day decides to hang up his leathers!”
Team VR46 competes as a team in Moto2 and Moto3, and has previously been given an open invitation to move into the premier class by Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, although Jarvis’ comments are not clear about exactly if/how Yamaha might support such an endeavour.
Rossi’s stance is consistent with comments he made late last year about early-season results being the main determinant of whether or not he signs a new deal during 2020.
He finished seventh in the championship in 2019 with just two podiums to his name, in Rounds 2 and 3, and is winless since the first half of 2017.
Quartararo missed out on a victory in his first season in the premier class but racked up six poles, second only to Marc Marquez’s 10, and seven podiums.
Confirmation of the Frenchman’s deal comes quickly after that of Maverick Viñales’ re-signing and means that Yamaha has already locked down its two factory riders for 2021 and 2022, while the remaining 10 on the grid are all at least theoretically still in play.