Within minutes of Valentino Rossi's terrible crash at Mugello, once it became apparent that the Italian's leg was broken, speculation began on who would replace the Italian. During the first update the assembled press received in a hushed media center at Mugello, one journalist, with blatant disregard for taste and decency (mea maxima culpa), pressed the Fiat Yamaha PR spokesperson on whether the team was working on a replacement. The spokesperson rightly pointed out that as the incident had happened less than an hour previously, it was perhaps a little too early to be thinking about this.
Once the dust Rossi's crash had settled, though, and it became clear that The Doctor will be out for the next three to four months, the debate began in earnest. The list of possible replacements was already surprisingly long by Saturday night, and has only grown since then. Disregarding wishful thinking (Troy Bayliss and Garry McCoy) and the downright impossible (Max Biaggi, Toni Elias and Alex de Angelis, all under contract), the two options most commonly named are moving a rider up from the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team (Ben Spies being most frequently named in this regard) or bringing in one of Yamaha's test riders to take Rossi's place.
Sooner or later, however, all discussions of a replacement for Rossi get bogged down in the same swamp: the muddy wording of the so-called Rookie Rule, which prevents rookies from being signed to factory teams. The exact wording of the rule is as follows:
1.11.11 Riders who enter the Championship for the first time (Rookies) must be entered by a non factory team.