Petronas Yamaha cools Rossi speculation again, wants to develop youth

Petronas SRT Yamaha boss Razlan Razali again cools speculation on Valentino Rossi for 2021, hints it could be able to retain Fabio Quartararo instead

Fabio Quartararo - Petronas SRT Yamaha, Valentino Rossi - Yamaha Factory

Petronas Yamaha SRT director Razlan Razali has once again cooled the prospect of taking on Valentino Rossi or Jorge Lorenzo for the 2021 MotoGP World Championship, saying its ‘principle’ remains to focus on nurturing young talents.

The all-new Malaysian-backed team burst onto the MotoGP scene in 2019 with rookie Fabio Quartararo powering to six pole positions and seven podiums en route to fifth overall.

That performance has earned him a promotion to the Factory Yamaha team for 2021, displacing Rossi who declared he would take in a few events to decide whether he felt he was competitive enough to continue for another season or hang up his helmet.

With Yamaha confirming it will still provide Rossi with a full factory M1 should he choose to continue, it’s raised speculation he’d be in line for a swap to Petronas SRT in 2021. 

However, after Razali claimed last month that no discussions have taken place about the prospect of taking on Rossi next year, he’s gone further now by saying such a move – together with Lorenzo - would go against its motivation to focus on bringing talent up through the ranks.

“Our principle still remains that we want young, talented riders," Razali told the TMCBlog. "We all know about Valentino Rossi, Lorenzo who want to join the team without formally discussing with us...

"But for us our principle is that we want to develop young riders. We have a couple in mind, including Xavi Vierge."

Spanish rider Vierge currently competes with the Petronas Sprinta team in Moto2, alongside Jake Dixon, and is being lined up for a 2021 ride should Franco Morbidelli not renew his deal for next season.

“We have a few riders we are eyeing right now," he said. "If Franco Morbidelli does well he could stay with us. If not, we are looking at Xavi Vierge from our Moto2 team to do something special to get himself into our MotoGP team. We also have two-three riders we are monitoring in Moto2."

Could Fabio Quartararo remain with PSRT in 2021?

Razali also raised the prospect of Quartararo staying with the team in 2021 should the ‘worst case scenario’ of the 2020 MotoGP World Championship not get a full season in the wake of the coronavirus.

With several rounds postponed now – and the most recent French round indefinitely as Dorna struggles to find room to rearrange it – there is increasing concern the season will not run to the 13 required races to be classified as a World Championship.

With this in mind it could throw contracts into the air if this season doesn’t meet criteria, with Razali suggesting 2020 deals could end up reverting to be honoured in 2021 instead.

“The worst-case scenario is no championship [in which case] I would assume that in 2021 everyone will revert to the 2020 arrangement, because we will insist and we will fight for Fabio to be with us in his final year [with the team].

“We are really looking forward to this year - because of what Fabio did last year, we've got him the full spec factory bike like Rossi and Vinales and he's done really well in testing.”

What is happening behind the scenes?

The unprecedented situation posed the coronavirus is likely to create headaches behind the scenes as rider managers discuss the terms of contracts currently in place.

It’s not clear if riders are still being paid despite not competing, while there is a fear many sponsors and endorsers will walk away from the sport if they aren’t getting exposure at a time when the economy has taken a major hit.

Only four riders – Quartararo, Maverick Vinales, Marc Marquez and Tito Rabat – have confirmed deals for 2021 and it’s likely those yet to sign will need to take a pay cut to reflect the financial burdens being placed on the teams during this period.