One day, Valentino Rossi will retire from MotoGP. That day won't come next year, and if Rossi is as competitive next year as he has been this year, it probably won't come in 2019 either. But at some point, age will creep up on the Italian, and he will be forced to hang up his leathers.
When that time comes, Yamaha will be faced with a problem. Valentino Rossi leaves some huge boots to fill. Finding a rider with the same charisma and fame outside of the sport is impossible, but even finding a rider capable of matching his results will be tough. Should Yamaha poach a top-level rider from another factory? Should they give one of the Tech 3 riders a chance to move up? Or should they look to a young rookie to partner Maverick Viñales? And whoever they do choose, what role does Viñales play in all of this, and how much say does he have in the choice?
How do you replace the irreplaceable? I spoke to three factory team managers about how they see the dilemma facing Yamaha once Valentino Rossi retires. They all talked about the various options open to Yamaha, and the strategies for assembling a team. They gave a fascinating insight into dealing with rider selection for a factory team.
First up in this series is Paolo Ciabatti, Ducati Corse Sporting Director, the man who oversees the sporting side of Ducati's race department. Ciabatti talked about how he saw Valentino Rossi, and the role Rossi plays at Yamaha. He discusses the options for replacing Rossi, and the pitfalls of looking for a new rider. Ciabatti was also open about Ducati's strategy in rider choice, and why they chose Jorge Lorenzo to partner Andrea Dovizioso.