Will Valentino Rossi or Fabio Quartararo be joining Vinales at Yamaha?

Valentino Rossi and Fabio Quartararo come under the spotlight as they fight it out for last remaining Yamaha Factory MotoGP seat for 2021/2022

Fabio Quartararo, Valentino Rossi - Yamaha

UPDATE: Yamaha has since confirmed Fabio Quartararo will join Maverick Vinales in Yamaha Factory team next season, prompting the departure of Valentino Rossi from the works team. CLICK HERE FOR FULL STORY

The pre-season bombshell that Yamaha has committed to Maverick Vinales for the 2021 and 2022 MotoGP World Championship seasons has sharpened the focus onto which rider will be joining him in the Factory team next year.

While the MotoGP silly seasons tend to blend into one another, Yamaha’s move for Vinales at this stage in the year is a clear statement of intent for the team… and takes one of the rider market’s most attractive (and attainable) figures off the table.

Indeed, it’s no secret Vinales had been casting his eye elsewhere on the grid amid uncertainty over where he stands in Yamaha’s future among the omnipresent Valentino Rossi and up-and-coming Fabio Quartararo within the fold.

Rossi and Quartararo may have commanded the lion’s share of the Yamaha headlines in 2019 but Vinales’ two (comprehensive) wins and run to third in the standings put him well clear of his stablemates. As the only Yamaha rider to win a race over the past two seasons, it would have been short-sighted for the team to allow him to join a rival, most likely Ducati.

But by answering one question in Vinales, Yamaha has opened itself up to many others regarding who could be joining him in the factory set up.

Will Valentino Rossi retire… or switch to Petronas SRT?

The chief question on everyone’s lips (as always around this time of year) is whether Rossi sees himself with a MotoGP future beyond 2020.

The Italian is coming off the back of arguably his worst season in MotoGP – on Yamaha machinery, at least – and while he has justified much of that indifferent form towards a Yamaha M1 that isn’t quite to his liking, it still doesn’t quite explain why he was out-scored and out-raced by Quartararo, let alone Vinales.

MotoGP has long feared the day when Rossi hangs up his helmet but the man himself is well aware he is now in the twilight of his career. So, what are his options?

If he is retiring we should expect an announcement soon. It’d be a chance for Rossi to complete a full swansong season with the pressure off his shoulders and celebrations at every turn on the calendar. It’d also be a fitting way to round off a spectacular career and give Yamaha the chance to really focus its attentions on developing tomorrow’s M1 around a young, future-forward line-up.

Alternatively, Rossi has intimated he could side-step into the factory Petronas SRT Yamaha team. Such a situation might have been considered unthinkable a couple of years ago, but Rossi is seeing the bigger picture of allowing his beloved Yamaha to get on without him.

Moreover, as Quartararo has already showed, he wouldn’t be receiving inferior machinery and it’s very possible Rossi may relish an underdog role.

Petronas is already pumping a sizeable amount of funding into its MotoGP effort and would no doubt salivate at the prospect of getting Rossi onto its books too. Looking further into the crystal ball, one wonders whether Rossi could amalgamate his VR46 junior team into the mix as a way of moving into a managerial role…

What happens to Fabio Quartararo?

The rise of Quartararo became a problem for Yamaha in 2019… a happy problem, but a problem nonetheless.

A rider that arrived in MotoGP with relatively little anticipated of him, he completely confounded expectations and Yamaha suddenly found in its possession a man dubbed as the next Marc Marquez.

Naturally, it is now keen to hold onto him because nearly every manufacturer will be keen to get a sniff of the Frenchman, especially if Yamaha cannot guarantee him the factory seat they could potentially offer.

It is worth noting however that Quartararo is still in something of a honeymoon period and comes in 2020 expected to be right up there with Rossi and Vinales from the off this time. Upgraded to the A-spec M1, it will be a test of whether he can fine-tune his skills to a different machine, subtle though it may be.

While Yamaha won’t want to let Quartararo go, he still has something to prove if he is going to take the place of one of MotoGP’s greats and his army of followers.

Either way, Vinales’ commitment means rivals could take this as the hurry up to try and lure Quartararo away from the Yamaha fold…. and if Yamaha has already decided which way to lean on its Rossi-Quartararo conundrum, an announcement going either way is surely coming imminently.

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