Valentino Rossi responds to VR46 2022 MotoGP talk amid pleas from Saudi Prince

With VR46 Racing's place on the 2022 MotoGP grid formally confirmed, all eyes are on Valentino Rossi amid speculation he could fill one of its seats

Valentino Rossi - Petronas SRT VR46 2021.jpg

Valentino Rossi has moved to play down growing speculation he will compete for his own VR46 Racing in the 2022 MotoGP World Championship, revealing he is even being petitioned by royalty to do so.

After months of speculation it was finally confirmed the Rossi-founded VR46 Racing team will make its MotoGP debut in 2022 with significant title-backing from Saudi Arabia state sponsored oil firm Aramco and using Ducati machinery.

No riders have been confirmed as yet but Luca Marini - currently racing the VR46-liveried Avintia  Ducati - is considered a shoo-in, with Moto2 front runner Marco Bezzecchi touted for the second seat… provided a certain ‘Doctor’ doesn’t need it first.

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Indeed, ahead of the Dutch TT this weekend, there is mounting speculation Rossi may fill his own ride amid a slump of form with Yamaha that could motivate him to leave the manufacturer he has spent much of his successful career with.

He certainly has some notable advocates enticing him, including royalty in the form of Prince HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al Saud. However, Rossi was refusing to give anything away except to admit it would be ‘difficult’ to suit up in his own colours.

"Always the Prince pushes on me to race next year with my team and Ducati… but at the moment I think it will be very difficult. We spoke sometimes and he always push me for ride next year. 

"I don’t expect that he says (that) in the press release sincerely, but I know that he wants to try this with me and my brother,” Rossi added in response to the Prince pointedly name-checking both himself and Marini in the announcement press release.

"But I use the same idea and the same word for the chance to not only race with Ducati, but in general to race next year with my team; I think it will be very, very difficult."

Valentino Rossi, Luca Marini - VR46 Ducati, Petronas SRT Yamaha.jpg

Is Valentino Rossi racing for VR46 really on the cards?

While Rossi’s future has largely been centred around a question of Yamaha or retirement, the VR46 project with its substantial backing and apparent close ties with Ducati presents a more attractive alternative than originally perceived.

Indeed, speculation over VR46’s MotoGP arrival have been rife for months but - perhaps surprisingly - there has been little suggestion Rossi could end up riding for his own team.

This can be explained by the legacy of Rossi’s notorious stint at Ducati in 2012 and 2013, during which he struggled for form in what was a wilting two years that fell well short of its billing as the Italian dream team.

However, times have changed and Rossi is now experiencing the same slump with Yamaha, with whom he hasn’t won a MotoGP race since 2018. 

Having moved from the Factory set up to join Petronas SRT in 2021, Rossi has struggled to make an impression on proceedings, sparking talk of retirement in part because the Malaysian-backed squad - having already been reluctant to take him on at Yamaha’s insistence - is keen to use the seat to nurture fresh talent.

While Yamaha (and thus by extension Petronas SRT) has repeatedly said it wouldn’t axe Rossi from its line-up out of loyalty, the Italian is aware he is - and has been for some time - the weak link in the manufacturer’s line-up. 

Meanwhile Ducati is on the upswing and while details, such as specification of machinery, are still be to communicated, it appears the relationship between the firm and VR46 is more ‘official’ than initially expected.

For now, he says he is committed to rediscovering his form before taking the summer to decide what he will do next.

"I still haven’t decided. I will think more deeply in this break. I also have to speak with Yamaha and the team. We want try for better performance and better result for sure.

"The start of the season until this moment was not fantastic under this point of view. I think it will be very difficult also that I race next year.”