Valentino Rossi: Yamaha needed a decision, but I don’t want to rush

Valentino Rossi explains why he will step down from the Yamaha Factory MotoGP team at the end of 2020 while delaying his decision on whether to retire

Valentino Rossi - Yamaha MotoGP

Valentino Rossi says it was ‘reasons dictated by the riders’ market’ that have led to the decision for him to leave the Yamaha Factory team at the conclusion of the 2020 MotoGP World Championship season, revealing he wants time to make a call on his own future.

Following Tuesday’s confirmation that Maverick Vinales will remain with Yamaha for 2021, the manufacturer has since gone on to reveal Fabio Quartararo will be promoted from the Petronas SRT team to Rossi’s Factory seat next season too.

The decision leaves Rossi frozen out as the victim of a rider market that often moves quickly at the beginning of the year.

Indeed, Rossi has often said he wanted to gauge his competitiveness in 2020 before coming to a decision over whether he will remain in MotoGP for another season, but with both Vinales and Quartararo being targeted by rival teams it appears Yamaha has been pushing for a commitment.

As a compromise, Yamaha will allow Rossi to make a decision on his future in the run up to the summer break, leaving the door open for a move into the Petronas SRT satellite team should he choose to continue. Yamaha confirms it will continue to give him full factory support if he opts for that.

“For reasons dictated by the riders‘ market, Yamaha asked me at the beginning of the year to make a decision regarding my future,” he said. “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.

“I‘m happy that, should I decide to continue, Yamaha is ready to support me in all respects, giving me a factory-spec bike and a factory contract. In the first tests I will do my best to do a good job together with my team and be ready for the start of the season.”

Rossi has won four of his seven premier class world titles on Yamaha machinery - in 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009.

The beginning of the end for Valentino Rossi?

It’s been a conundrum facing Yamaha for some months. While it would never want to ‘push’ Rossi before he ‘jumped’, the looming threat of rival teams eyeing up one or both of their proteges meant the clock was ultimately ticking quicker than the Italian could commit to.

As such, this is an open compromise - or gentle nudge - that assures Yamaha has a young, fresh rider line-up going forward without losing its superstar.

Indeed, while some may have wondered whether Rossi would be willing to trade in his blue leathers for Petronas SRT ones, Yamaha is at pains to point out he would remain a Factory rider in all but colours for 2021.

Of course, this is the first major shift in Rossi’s career – and one he hasn’t ultimately been in control of – but by putting in motion the catalyst for change, whatever it may be, he arguably heads into 2020 with the pressure fully off… even if it won’t change the angle of the questioning for the next few months!

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