Will Valentino Rossi move to Petronas SRT for 2021 MotoGP?

Valentino Rossi has revealed he may be willing to step aside to join the satellite Petronas SRT Yamaha team for the 2021 MotoGP World Championship

Valentino Rossi, Franco Morbidelli

Valentino Rossi has refused to rule out the possibility of switching to the satellite Petronas SRT Yamaha team for the 2021 MotoGP World Championship, which would effectively ensure the manufacturer retains Maverick Vinales and Fabio Quartararo.

Rossi is the key factor in a quandary facing Yamaha as it decides on its rider line-up for 2021 and beyond with the Italian, Vinales and Quartararo all out of contract at the end of this season.

Critically, Rossi – who remains hugely popular and is a significant brand ambassador - has been told by Yamaha he won’t be ‘pushed’ out of his factory Yamaha seat, which means Vinales and Quartararo would essentially go head-to-head for the 2021 works ride, despite both out-performing the seven-time premier class champion in 2019.

Indeed, Yamaha has stated it wants to keep all three on its books for 2021 but faces losing either Vinales or Quartararo – or both – if they aren’t assured of a factory ride, with both set to feature highly on rival teams’ target lists.

It’s a dilemma that Rossi himself may be willing to solve by instead stepping aside and joining the satellite Petronas SRT Yamaha team Quartararo currently competes with. Pointing out that the team’s competitiveness in its rookie season encourages him to consider it has a strong option.

“I don’t see that big of a difference. I would rather stay where I am, but as I said, we are three and the seats are two, so you have to think of a third,” Rossi told Gazetta dello Sport.

“And even if it’s Petronas, the team doesn’t seem bad to me. But maybe Vinales will go away. Or Quartararo changes brands. Who knows what he’s thinking about.

“I would like to have a little more time, unfortunately everything in MotoGP is decided today at the beginning of the year.

“I will need a little bit, maybe halfway through the season. I will speak to Lin and Yamaha to understand how they see it.”

Could Valentino Rossi step aside to help Yamaha secure future?

It’s an option few thought was even on the table but Rossi removing himself out of the equation in favour of a switch to the satellite Yamaha team could be a bold but workable move.

Rossi has been a pivotal part of Yamaha’s success over the years but even if he continues for another two seasons in MotoGP, he isn’t ultimately its long-term future and the manufacturer risks losing one or more of the sport’s brightest talents if it sacrifices its future in favour of squeezing the most from the VR46 brand while they still have it.

By making way for a fresh, young pairing in the factory team in order to assure their future would be quite the gift. Like he says, Petronas SRT isn’t necessarily a bad alternative for him.

He would still be involved in development of the M1 – even if he probably won’t be a driving force behind significant changes – and Petronas would almost certainly be thrilled to have such an iconic name in its colours having had a hint of the brand exposure he gave when he swapped seats with Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes F1 car.

A move to Petronas SRT may mark a nostalgic ‘beginning of the end’ for Rossi that would have to come at some point… and besides, the Italian may well just get more of a kick out of being the underdog for once.

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