Before the 2020 MotoGP season has started, Yamaha has announced that Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team’s Fabio Quartararo will be replacing Valentino Rossi on the Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP Team in 2021.
Rossi, who will turn 41 next month, has nine World Championships to his credit, seven of them in the premier class. Rossi’s last MotoGP win came at the Dutch TT at Assen in 2017. After making the podium in two of the three opening rounds of the 2019 season, Rossi failed to secure another spot on the rostrum. Rossi has 115 Grand Prix wins in his career, which started in 1997, with 89 of the wins in the premier class.
Quartararo, who will be 21 when he joins the Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP team has yet to win a MotoGP race, though he earned seven podiums and six poles in 2019, his rookie year. Quartararo finished the 2019 MotoGP season in P5, two positions and 18 points ahead of Rossi. He was both Rookie of the Year (by 100 points) and Best Independent Team Rider (by 27 points). In his five-year career in Grand Prix racing, Quartararo has one win—in 2018 in the Moto2 class.
Despite his ouster from the Yamaha Factory Racing team in 2021, Yamaha is offering Rossi a full-factory M1 plus engineering support, should he desire to continue to race in the MotoGP class in 2021.
“For reasons dictated by the riders’ market,” Rossi said, “Yamaha asked me at the beginning of the year to make a decision regarding my future. Consistent with what I said during the last season, I confirmed that I didn’t want to rush any decision and needed more time. Yamaha has acted accordingly and concluded the ongoing negotiations. It is clear that after the last technical changes and with the arrival of my new crew chief, my first goal is to be competitive this year and to continue my career as a MotoGP rider also in 2021. Before doing so, I need to have some answers that only the track and the first few races can give me.”
According to a Yamaha spokesman, it was “mutually agreed that the personal decision whether the Italian will remain an active rider in the MotoGP World Championship in 2021 will be taken mid-2020.”
“The totally understandable decision of Valentino to assess his competitiveness in 2020 before making any decision about 2021 was something that Yamaha respects and also wholeheartedly agrees to,” Managing Director, Yamaha Motor Racing Lin Jarvis said. “While we have total respect for and confidence in Valentino’s abilities and speed for the 2020 championship, at the same time Yamaha also have to plan for the future. These days, with six motorcycle manufacturers in the MotoGP class, fast young talents are greatly in demand and, consequently, the riders’ market begins ever earlier.”
“So, it’s a weird sensation to start a season knowing that Vale will not be in the Factory Team in 2021,” Jarvis continued, “but Yamaha will still be there for Valentino, whatever he may decide for the future. If he feels confident and continues to race, we will provide a Factory-spec YZR-M1 bike and full engineering support. If he decides to retire, we will continue and expand our collaborations off track with the young riders’ training programs of the Riders Academy and the Yamaha VR46 Master Camp, and with him as a Yamaha brand ambassador.”
Showing youthful exuberance, Quartararo is unsurprisingly enthusiastic about the arrangement, which has him remaining on the Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team for 2020. Although on a satellite team, Quartararo will be riding a factory-spec M1, and Yamaha promises “full support.”
“I’m delighted about what my management has achieved in the last few months together with YMC,” Quartararo said. “It was not simple to establish, but now I have a clear plan for the next three years, and I’m really happy. I will work hard, like I did last year, and I’m extremely motivated to achieve great performances. I feel like the winter period is too long. I’m really excited to go to the Sepang test next week to ride my new YZR-M1 and meet and work with my crew again.”
For 2021 and 2022, the Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP Team will be Quartararo with Maverick Viñales, who has extended his contract by two years.
“This will be the second year with my current crew and, after this, I have two more years to look forward to,” Viñales said after his contract extension was announced. “I’m so excited! I think that if we keep working really hard, we are heading the right way. For me, it was very important to make this announcement before the season started, because I’m highly motivated and want to be able to fully concentrate on the 2020 season. I don’t want to spend too much time thinking about the future. There were no reasons not to stay with Yamaha, because they feel like family…Our main objective is, as always, to be World Champion and try to bring Yamaha the number one honor again.”
Photography by Gold and Goose, and FAlePhoto.