The deal is done at last. Today, the Petronas Yamaha SRT team has announced that Valentino Rossi will partner Franco Morbidelli in 2021. Rossi has signed a one-year extension of his contract with Yamaha, to race in the Petronas Yamaha SRT team.
This has been a long and difficult negotiation since the beginning of the year. Back then, Yamaha had faced the problem of trying to fit three riders into their factory Monster Energy team.
Ducati had been chasing both Maverick Viñales and Fabio Quartararo, and Yamaha did not want to lose their two young riders. Rossi had told Yamaha that he wanted to wait for the first five or six races before making a decision on whether he would retire, or stay on for another year. Yamaha moved to fend off Ducati's attempted poaching of Viñales and Quartararo by signing them to the factory team, and offering Rossi a factory-supported Yamaha M1 if he decided to continue.
That meant Rossi and Petronas were condemned to one another, if you can use such a phrase for the most successful premier class rider in history and the best satellite team in MotoGP. And each side had their own list of demands: Rossi wanted to bring his entire crew with him, along with various others, Petronas were willing to take only his crew chief David Muñoz and data engineer Matteo Flamigni. Then there was sorting out the mass of sponsors on both sides.
At Jerez, it became clear that Rossi would only be allowed to bring Muñoz, Flamigni, and rider coach Idalio Gavira to Petronas. That sparked a long negotiation over the rest of the conditions, the final details of which were only settled in the week between the two races in Misano, when Petronas Yamaha boss Razlan Razali visited the VR46 headquarters along with Yamaha racing boss Lin Jarvis. That resulted in the deal signed in Barcelona.
Rossi's move leaves the remainder of his crew in a difficult position. Mechanics Alex Briggs and Brent Stephens have been told there is no place for them in Yamaha, mostly a question of travel costs. Briggs lives in Australia, and Stephens in New Zealand, and both were used to flying home in between races. American Mark Elder will stay with Yamaha, as will Belgian Bernard Ansiau, it is believed.
The fact that this is a one-year deal is another reason Petronas were not keen on taking Rossi's crew. Briggs, Stephens, and Ansiau have all been with Rossi for a very long time, most since he arrived in the premier class with Honda. If they had decided to retire along with Rossi, Petronas would have been forced to look for replacements. That was not a task they relished after investing so much time in putting together their team at the beginning of the 2019 season.
Will 2021 be the end of Valentino Rossi's MotoGP career? It is too early to say. He already has a podium this season, and believes he is capable of more. If he fares worse in 2021 than he does this year, then he may decide to hang up his helmet, especially given that there are talks of the VR46 team making a move up to MotoGP.
But that is all still a long way off. For the moment, Valentino Rossi stays on for another year.
Below are the press releases from Petronas and from Yamaha announcing the deal:
Valentino Rossi to join PETRONAS Yamaha SRT in 2021
9-times World Champion confirmed to continue in MotoGP with the Malaysian squad together with Franco Morbidelli
PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team is proud to announce that Valentino Rossi will join the squad for the 2021 MotoGP season. Valentino Rossi needs no introduction, considered by many as the Greatest Of All Time through a record-breaking career in the premier class of the sport since 2000.
Rossi – Urbino, 16th February 1979 – has competed in the premier class since 2000 and is the only rider in history to win 125, 250, 500 and MotoGP World Championships. In the premier class alone, Valentino boasts seven world titles, 89 race wins, 199 podiums, 55 pole positions and 76 fastest laps. As part of PETRONAS Yamaha SRT in 2021, the Italian will compete aboard a Yamaha YZR-M1 for the ninth season in a row.
The move will see Rossi join the satellite team in what will be only their third season in the MotoGP category, after the Malaysian squad made their debut at the Qatar GP in 2019. That first season in the premier class saw PETRONAS Yamaha SRT rack up six pole positions and seven podiums, and win the Independent Teams’ Championship. This year has already seen two pole positions, four podiums and three race wins, and the lead of the outright Teams’ Championship, for the outfit.
The announcement of Rossi alongside fellow countryman and friend Franco Morbidelli completes the PETRONAS Yamaha SRT line-up for 2021 – a line-up eager to write another chapter of MotoGP history next year.
Razlan Razali - Team Principal
On behalf of PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team and all its partners, it is an absolute honour to welcome Valentino Rossi – an iconic rider and legend into the team next year. His experience will be a great asset to the team as we move into our third season in MotoGP and we are sure we will be able to learn a lot from Valentino. At the same time, we will do our absolute best to assist him to be competitive to reward him for the trust he has in us as a team. We are humbled by this opportunity and ready to take on the challenge. We believe that the combination of Valentino and Franco will provide a truly formidable force on track to help us in our goal of being as competitive as possible together next year. We can’t wait!
Johan Stigefelt - Team Director
To be able to sign a rider like Valentino Rossi, for what will be only our third year in the MotoGP championship, is amazing. We have evolved from a Moto3 team to a Moto2 team to a MotoGP team in a short time frame and now to be leading the MotoGP teams’ championship and signing one of the greatest riders the sport has ever known is incredible. It has been a long time since Valentino was in a satellite team and we will try our best to help him feel like new again. We want to make sure that he feels comfortable in our team, which we trust in and believe in so much. Our target is to get even better as a team, help Rossi deliver the best results possible and make 2021 a memorable year.
YAMAHA MOTOR CO., LTD. SIGNS 2021 CONTRACT RENEWAL WITH VALENTINO ROSSI
Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. and nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi have officially signed a one-year contract renewal for 2021. The Grand Prix racing icon will take part in next year‘s MotoGP World Championship as a Factory Yamaha rider for the PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team, with full support from Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd.
Montmelò (Spain), 26th September 2020
Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. is pleased to announce that it has signed a one-year renewal agreement with Grand Prix racing legend Valentino Rossi. Fans all over the world will be delighted to know that the nine-time World Champion will be participating in the 2021 MotoGP World Championship as a fully supported Factory Yamaha rider for the PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team.
Due to the global Covid-19 outbreak, Rossi was obliged to state his future intention to continue as a MotoGP rider before competing in a single 2020 MotoGP race. However, having completed seven GP weekends since then, the 41-year-old is certain that he made the right decision. He reunited with his beloved YZR-M1 showing competitive pace and has a lot of fight left in him.
The Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP Team wants to thank Rossi for his continuous contribution and effort. Currently competing in their 15th MotoGP season together, to date they have secured 4 world titles, 142 podiums, 56 victories, and competed in 250 races.
Rossi can be assured of the team‘s full support for the remainder of the 2020 championship. Everyone is fully focused on completing this season on a high note, as the team continues to push for the three World Championship titles.
LIN JARVIS - MANAGING DIRECTOR, YAMAHA MOTOR RACING
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. 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.
VALENTINO ROSSI - MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA MOTOGP RIDER
I am very happy to continue riding in 2021 and to do it with the PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team. 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.
"I am very happy to move to PETRONAS Yamaha SRT. 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.