When the Factory Yamaha team decided to sign Fabio Quartararo for the 2021 season, they pledge to give the 9 time world champion Valentino Rossi a satellite seat should he race on in 2021.
The uncertainty over Rossi’s future onto the Petronas Sepang Racing Team, and cannot be completed until “The Doctor” makes his decision in June/July. Earlier before the start of the season, Rossi wanted to use the opening 6-7 races to judge his competitiveness. But had the nine-time world champion then elected to retire, Petronas could have faced a scramble to fill the seat Yamaha had been ‘reserving’ for him.
The coronavirus-delay means waiting for Rossi probably won’t be much of an issue for Petronas, with most rider contract talks currently on hold.
It also looks all-but-certain that the 41-year-old will now choose to continue in 2021, being naturally unwilling to end his illustrious career with a short ten-race season, at best. And potentially no 2020 season at all.
Still there will be a discussion about Rossi’s potential with Petronas deal. Petronas Sepang Racing Team team principal Dato Razlan Razali said he is yet to contact with the Italian or his VR46 management.
Dato Razlan during an interview with Crash.net, Dato Razlan jokingly said “he keet checking on his phone every day and hoping that at least Valentino will send a WhatsApp or something!” “So far nothing, but Petronas SRT are keeping the seat open for Vale.
He is a nine-time world champion and carries a lot of weight in terms of marketing and exposure. “But Petronas Racing Team really need to understand the deal. What are the dos and don’ts? And they need to understand what Vale wants.”
What might happen?
Yamaha and Petronas must approve the satellite team’s rider line-up. Assuming both agree that Rossi at Petronas is the right move, there would still be other issues to resolve.
Rossi would still be on the ‘Factory contract’, which presumably means Yamaha will continue to pay his wages and machine lease costs.
Will Rossi be on a simple one-year deal, or will there be options in place for 2022?
Will bring his loyal team of mechanics (since 2000) and his new-for-2020 crew chief David Munoz to Petronas?
But if Rossi only stays for one season and then retires, would his mechanics do the same?
As an Independent team funded by title sponsor Petronas, Sepang needs its riders to perform the necessary PR duties. One thing that is clear is the machinery spec. If Rossi races in 2021 Yamaha has guaranteed ‘a Factory-spec YZR-M1 bike and full Yamaha engineering support’. At present, Quartararo has a factory-spec M1 at Petronas with team-mate Franco Morbidelli on an A-spec bike. Morbidelli, a member of the VR46 Academy, has a strong chance to remain for 2021 if he can convert his pre-season form into race results.