The 2011 MotoGP Silly Season is already the biggest news of 2010, and the year is just a few weeks old. Shots have been fired over various bows in the runup to the summer, when negotiations with all four members of the Aliens - Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa, whose contracts expire at the end of 2010 - will commence.
The biggest target for all three major manufacturers - Yamaha, Honda and Ducati - is probably the nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi. So far, Rossi has been decidedly ambiguous about his own plans, flirting openly with Ducati one moment whilst avowing his loyalty to Yamaha the next. Rumors persist that Rossi is considering a switch to Ducati - fueled by the dreams and desires of 60 million Italians - and even Honda have hinted they would welcome a return. So the press, and especially the Italian press, seize on any opportunity to search for any hint of Rossi's intentions for 2011.
With the Italian currently lapping the Barcelona track in a 2008 Ferrari F2008 Formula One car - a "gift" from his friend, Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali - Alberto Porta of the Italian broadcaster SportMediaSet put a few questions to Valentino Rossi's father, Graziano, who was also at the test. In the video interview, Porta asks Graziano Rossi a series of questions about Rossi's future, both in the short and long term.
Graziano was clear about the most important question for motorcycle racing fans - as well as Dorna, the FIM, the motorcycling press and everyone else involved in motorcycle racing - telling SportMediaSet that Valentino Rossi was not about to retire. "Everyone knows that motorcycle racing has an age limit that is lower than Formula 1, and everybody knows that Valentino can't keep on winning for many more years," Graziano told Alberto Porta. "So far, Valentino is as super-motivated and as concentrated as ever, and so for this year, the fans don't have to worry."
The end is coming into view, however. "I believe that Valentino will be capable of competing at the highest level for another couple of years after this one. But once he is convinced he has reached a certain stage, he could start to think about what the right moment, the wise and correct moment, to move," Graziano said.
The reigning World Champion's father was also vocal in his opinion of Rossi's immediate future as well. When asked if Rossi could be tempted into "a new adventure" in MotoGP, Graziano considered it unlikely. "You know just as well as me that Valentino has found at Yamaha the best possible situation to be racing in MotoGP - the best bike, the best people," Graziano said. "So I don't think that Valentino will change bikes. I think that, if he wants to continue racing motorcycles, he will continue with Yamaha. He doesn't have a reason not to do this."
The fact that Valentino Rossi's biggest rival is in the same garage was not sufficient reason to go elsewhere, according to his father." I have the feeling that Yamaha, from this point of view is defending Valentino and is treating Valentino as he wants them to, and so I don't think this will be a reason to leave," Graziano said. "I think Valentino will stay with Yamaha until he finishes racing motorcycles."
Those words will surely fill the hearts of Yamaha racing boss Lin Jarvis, and even more so Yamaha's marketing department, with joy unbounded. But neither will they stop the deluge of speculation about Rossi's future. The Rossi-to-Ducati story will run and run, no matter how unlikely it is.