“I shouldn’t have taken Valentino Rossi”, admits MotoGP team boss Razali

Razlan Razali admits he wouldn't have signed Valentino Rossi for the 2021 MotoGP season if he could do it again, but denied he was forced by Yamaha to do so

Valentino Rossi - Petronas SRT Yamaha, MotoGP

RNF Racing Yamaha (nee Petronas SRT Yamaha) boss Razlan Razali has revealed he ‘shouldn’t have signed’ Valentino Rossi for his swansong 2021 MotoGP World Championship campaign because the ‘young riders are much faster’.

The nine-time World Championship winning Italian switched from the Yamaha Factory squad to the sister satellite set-up for what would become his final season in the top flight, swapping positions with eventual 2021 MotoGP World Championship Fabio Quartararo.

While Quartararo’s arrival for 2021 was confirmed in January 2020, Rossi stalled on making a formal decision on whether to retire or join Petronas SRT for several months, before eventually signing on the dotted line.

At the time Razali aired scepticism over signing Rossi, largely because it was at odds with his vision to utilise Petronas SRT Yamaha as a proving ground for up and coming riders, as it had with Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli.

Indeed, he goes on to admit he wishes he hadn’t hired Rossi, even if he played down talk that he was pressured to do so by Yamaha itself.

“If I could turn back the clock, I would have decided in June 2021 to accept the first new contract offer from Petronas,” he told Speedweek. “But I wanted to negotiate for more money. And to be honest: I shouldn't have taken Valentino!"

“There was always the assumption that we would have had no choice but to sign Valentino in 2021. The assumption was that we were under pressure from Yamaha, but no, there was no pressure.

“Personally, I was sceptical until Valentino was third on the podium alongside Fabio and Viñales at the second Jerez GP in July 2020.

“When I was standing next to the three drivers on the podium, my mind went: 'Okay, maybe this guy can do it.'"

Despite the publicity gained from hiring Rossi, it was a trying season for Petronas SRT Yamaha all round with Rossi off the pace all year, while lead rider Morbidelli first suffered from his ageing bike being hampered by the development freeze before he picked up a knee injury and was then poached by the Yamaha Factory to replace Maverick Vinales.

Looking back at Rossi’s valiant efforts to go out on a high, Razali believes the Italian put himself under pressure but didn’t have the fitness to rival a grid of talented, younger rivals.

“After he was ill [COVID], the results turned out to be bad. But at this point the decision for Valentino had already been made

“I think Valentino put himself under pressure. The young riders are much faster. Valentino set better lap times than in the past. But that wasn't enough. He wanted success, his heart and mind were ready for it - but the body didn't go along with it.”

Petronas SRT Yamaha will morph into RNF Yamaha for the 2022 MotoGP World Championship season with experienced Andrea Dovizioso joined by Moto3 graduate and rookie Darryn Binder.