Why wouldn’t Petronas SRT Yamaha want to sign Valentino Rossi?

Petronas SRT Yamaha boss Razlan Razali says taking on Valentino Rossi in 2021 is far from a done deal... but why is the team so hesitant to sign him?

Valentino Rossi - Yamaha MotoGP

Petronas SRT Yamaha boss Razlan Razali created a minor stir this week by reiterating for a second time that Valentino Rossi’s arrival in 2021 (or beyond) isn’t quite as much of a done deal as many have anticipated.

In fact, having admitted last month that talks between his team and the Yamaha Factory have yet to take place, he went further this week by telling TMCBlog that Rossi doesn’t necessarily align with its modus operandi of promoting young talent in MotoGP.

So, what does Petronas SRT have to gain – or lose – by having one of the most marketable and successful MotoGP riders representing its colours?

When Rossi confirmed he would be taking a few rounds to decide whether he wanted to continue racing beyond 2020 or hang up his leathers, it was immediately assumed the satellite Petronas SRT Yamaha outfit would be his destination if he continued.

Either way, if Rossi does race on in 2021, Yamaha has confirmed he will get full Factory support akin to that of Fabio Quartararo and Maverick Vinales. This could come in the form of a de facto third Yamaha Factory entry or with Petronas SRT.

A third bike – which would need to be a separate entity (VR46?) – appears complicated as it would require a whole new team set up to happen. This seems a lot of effort for just one or two years, while it could be seen as a destabilising distraction for Vinales and Quartararo if Rossi is still very much involved at nothing more than an arm’s length.

As such, Petronas SRT seems more likely, not least because the team has shown it can challenge for wins with Quartararo and certainly has the resources and team personnel needed to be more competitive than its satellite status may have you believe.

However, just because Yamaha wants him there doesn’t mean Petronas SRT is willing to take him – though given the support it receives, it may not be in a position to say no.

But why wouldn’t they want a seven-time premier class world champion on its books? On paper, Rossi to Petronas SRT makes a compelling case. He’ll always be immensely successful and while 2019 (and 2018) was a somewhat lacklustre year for ‘The Doctor’, he’d still be hot property as a free agent – and not just for his performances.

Rossi carries huge commercial clout in MotoGP, perhaps more than the other riders put together. For a satellite team with more sponsors on its books than a Factory one, it’s a tantalising thought to be aligning with a figure like Rossi and while Petronas’ involvement means it doesn’t necessarily ‘need’ Rossi to make money, it certainly won’t hamper it.

Should Petronas SRT Yamaha stand on its own?

However, Yamaha’s supply chain aside, it’s clear Razali wants Petronas SRT to standalone as a successful entity in itself.

He genuinely believes Quartararo has a shot at the 2020 title, which is both ambitious and perhaps a little unnerving for the Factory team if it finds itself being outperformed by a private (albeit well sorted) project. While we certainly aren’t in the days of privateer teams being kept at such a length they had no hope of getting on the podium, one winning the title would be unprecedented…

With this in mind, taking Rossi on at Yamaha’s direction flies against this, not least because – if Franco Morbidelli stays – it will have two riders contracted to the manufacturer, rather than the team as Quartararo was in 2019.

Moreover, Petronas SRT has been fired up by what it achieved with Quartararo last season and wants to use that as a platform for keeping at least one spot free for burgeoning talent. Razali has already highlighted his desire to nurture new Moto2 signing Xavi Vierge this year with a view to getting him in MotoGP soon, while Dorna may be keen to promote his team-mate Jake Dixon as a British representative if Cal Crutchlow retires too.

This could spell bad news for Morbidelli if Yamaha wants Rossi at Petronas SRT and Razali – who has given up his position at Sepang to focus on MotoGP – is similarly determined to keep at least one of the seats free for young talent.

While Petronas SRT might be hard pressed to say no to Yamaha or frankly ignore the benefits just having Rossi in its colours would bring, his words are a clear sign he wants authority when it comes to who and who doesn’t get to ride his bikes.

Then again, if we don’t get to race at all in 2020 – as has been intimated by Carmelo Ezpeleta – it could all be pointless conjecture anyway.

Indeed, Razali believes he should get to keep hold of Quartararo next year anyway, so Rossi could find himself in Factory seat in 2021 after all… if he wants it, of course.

The silly seasons just get sillier and sillier…