Valentino Rossi will continue to compete in MotoGP in 2021 after confirmation of a new contract with Yamaha.
The seven-time premier class world champion, four times with Yamaha, has inked a one-year deal with the Japanese marque and will ride for the Sepang Racing Team.
The move to the Malaysian-owned SRT outfit represents a direct swap with Fabio Quartararo, who was snapped up for the factory team before the season began when Rossi was then unwilling to recommit.
While the 41-year-old’s plan to assess his form on the race track before signing another contract was upended by the delay in competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he is confident about his decision.
Although not riding for the factory team, Rossi will receive the factory support he was promised when Quartararo was signed in his place.
“I am very happy to continue riding in 2021 and to do it with the Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team,” said the Italian.
“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.”
While a step down in theory, SRT has three wins this season compared to the works squad’s one.
Two of those have gone to Quartararo and one to VR46 Academy graduate Franco Morbidelli, who will remain at SRT at least until the end of 2022.
“I am very happy to move to Petronas Yamaha SRT,” he added.
“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.”
Yamaha Motor Racing Managing Director Lin Jarvis believes that the new deal will allow Rossi a more fitting farewell to racing, whenever that may come, than the disrupted 2020 season.
“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,” he declared.
“A substantial part of the MotoGP fanbase will have grown up with Valentino and followed him throughout his career.
“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.”