Despite the two-week layoff after Laguna Seca, MotoGP's summer break sees Silly Season in overdrive. As the paddock awaits the final announcement of Valentino Rossi's move to Ducati, expected at Brno, the reshuffling which must necessarily take place to fill the seat left by the Italian is going on behind the scenes.
The rider expected to fill Rossi's seat is of course Ben Spies, as his current boss, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha's Herve Poncharal hinted in an interview at Laguna Seca.But until Rossi officially announces his switch to Ducati, and therefore rejects Yamaha's bid to keep his services, nothing can be finalized. That is set to change at Brno, however. According to Yamaha Racing's managing director Lin Jarvis, speaking to the Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport, Yamaha wants to have their 2011 line-up sorted out by Brno. Yamaha is closing in on a deal with the man currently leading the MotoGP championship Jorge Lorenzo, and should be able to settle the final details within the next two weeks. "We'd like to have everything in place by Brno, in order to announce the 2011 team," Jarvis told the Gazzetta.
Part of the delay in announcing the 2011 line-up was because Yamaha were still waiting for a reply from Rossi. The Italian still has an offer from Yamaha, Jarvis said, but they had not yet received a response to that proposal. Jarvis did not disclose details of the offer, but well-informed paddock sources suggest it involved a substantial pay cut for the Italian, from around 14 million euros a year to between 9 and 10 million, while his teammate is said to have been offered between 7 and 8 million for the 2011 season. Once Rossi announces the switch to Ducati, then Yamaha can announce their own line-up.
Yamaha will have more work to do than just replacing Rossi. The Italian racing legend is likely to take Fiat with him, but even if the Italian car manufacturer doesn't shift its sponsorship to Ducati, it is almost certain to leave Yamaha. Jarvis confirmed as much implicitly to La Gazzetta dello Sport: when asked whether Fiat could leave, he replied "it depends on Valentino's reply."
Malaysian petroleum giant Petronas is expected to pick up some of the slack, with Yamaha negotiating a bigger role for the oil company in Yamaha's sponsorship program. But given the success of Jorge Lorenzo - especially if he wraps up the 2010 MotoGP title, as he is almost certain to do - the most likely source of financial help for Yamaha will be Spain. According to the well-placed Spanish website MotoWorld.es, Jarvis was in Madrid prior to the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring, where he met with representatives from Spanish mobile phone giant Movistar. Movistar, and their parent company Telefonica, were in MotoGP for a long time, but pulled out after Dani Pedrosa, whom Telefonica had backed throughout his 125 and 250cc career, switched to the factory Honda team, backed by Repsol, rather than to the Telefonica-backed squad run by Fausto Gresini, with full factory support. Ironically, Movistar could make their return to the class backing Pedrosa's archrival, Jorge Lorenzo in the factory Yamaha team.