MotoGP

What next for Valentino Rossi’s future amid the coronavirus?

Will the persistent delays to the 2020 MotoGP World Championship prompt Valentino Rossi to extend his career into next season?

When it was revealed Valentino Rossi would no longer be a Yamaha Factory rider come the conclusion of the 2020 MotoGP World Championship, it seemed the big story arc for the season – will he retire, won’t he retire? - had already been set in motion.

That all seems a long time ago now as the onset of the coronavirus means motorsport remains on pause for the foreseeable future and seems very secondary to the health crisis’ spreading across the globe.

However, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t ultimately complicated matters when it comes to him making a decision on his future since Yamaha – unlike most of its rivals – has already nailed down its Factory line-up for 2021 with Fabio Quartararo and Maverick Vinales. That will be its rider line-up whether we start 19 races or none at all this year.

Indeed, at this stage in the season we should be two rounds in and that would have meant furious negotiations going on behind the scenes to weigh up new contracts and offers. By Jerez last year, only four seats on the 2020 grid were left available.

For Rossi’s part he’d already warned he wouldn’t be making a decision until fairly deep into the season, though many expected him to prepare announcement for round seven on home soil at Mugello whether that be hanging up his helmet, or sidestepping to Petronas SRT Yamaha.

Now all bets are off as the 2020 MotoGP opener keeps being pushed back while the dire situation in Italy makes it difficult to imagine any event at Mugello would be able to take place, even if it was delayed.

Where does this leave Valentino Rossi?

Indeed, Rossi admits the situation has ‘messed up his plans’ for making a call on his career, not least because when the season does eventually start it could be later than when he’d planned to decide.

“This has messed up my plans, we will have to understand when we will be able to run. Things seem to go long, they have cancelled the European Championship in football,” Rossi told Sky Sports Italia.

“As for my choice, I was hoping to decide whether to continue after the first part of the season, but now everything slips. I would like a few races to understand how competitive I can be, that would be important.”

Though Yamaha is unlikely to hurry him into a decision, the longer he leaves it, the more difficult it will be for Petronas SRT to start planning for the future. For instance, if he does retire it could leave scant options on the table for a top team that has shown can challenge for victories in the right hands.

One can imagine Rossi, in the context of his magnificent career, may feel this isn’t a fitting time to walk away from MotoGP given everything that is happening around him.

As it stands, MotoGP will be cramming as many races as possible into the second-half of the year, itself a challenge for any rider let alone one that would end up sprinting to the end of his career without a chance to take stock of the momentous occasion.

From a purely selfish standpoint, Dorna might hope Rossi does continue – perhaps referring to 2021 from the start as a farewell tour – to drum up some ticket buying interest after what is set to be a dire year on that front.

Suffice to say no-one could have predicted the unprecedented situation that has been presented and while his 2021 decision isn’t likely to be at the forefront of his mind right now, it’s still there. A difficult decision has been made so much trickier…

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