With the MotoGP season on hold because of the Coronavirus CIVID-19 pandemic, most of the action back and forth has been off-track as riders either prepare for racing to begin or make other plans for their futures.
Following Valentino Rossi’s admission that he will need to settle his racing future before any MotoGP events are held this year, Yamaha Racing managing director Lin Jarvis believes Rossi will decide by June to either race on in 2021 or retire.
Of course, either choice will have a major impact too on the career of Rossi’s long-time Kiwi mechanic, Brent Stephens.
That fits with the original date for the Italian’s home round at Mugello, which had been scheduled as round seven of this season but is now postponed indefinitely due to the deadly virus.
Already replaced by Fabio Quartararo at the factory Yamaha team for 2021, but guaranteed a satellite M1 place should he continue, Rossi planned to use the opening races to judge his competitiveness after being absent from the podium for most of last season.
“The idea was to do five or six races to understand if he was feeling good and competitive. This cannot be done anymore, so [now] we are talking [about next year],” Jarvis told Italian television.
“I think the timing [of the decision] can be the same, so within two months, let’s say by June.”
It seems unimaginable that Rossi would choose to end his illustrious career with what could be, at best, a ten-race 2020 season, thus missing out on a farewell appearance at some of his favourite tracks.
“It is not the best way to stop as the situation is, [where] maybe we don’t race in 2020. It is fairer to make another championship and maybe stop at the end of the next year. I hope to continue in 2021,” Rossi confirmed.
The most likely outcome is therefore that the nine-time world champion switches to Petronas Yamaha for 2021.
“Since it is not a normal season, I think there is no hurry, I think Petronas can wait a moment,” Jarvis said. “We have an agreement with Razlan Razali who is waiting for us and does not decide anything else without having fully understood what Valentino and Yamaha want to do.
“They [Sepang] own the team and as such they have the final word, but it is written in the contract that we must accept the rider they would eventually choose.”
As such, a swap with Quartararo seems likely.
“I really like Franco [Morbidelli] and I would like him to stay with the Petronas team,” Jarvis said. “If Valentino were to decide to continue, it would be very nice to have a team with the two of them together.”
Meanwhile, Jarvis revealed that the minimal paddock staff planned for MotoGP’s closed-door events looks to have ended Jorge Lorenzo’s chances of a wild-card return for Yamaha this year.
“It is difficult because we are reducing the number of people in the paddock to the bare minimum and it would mean bringing eight-nine more people dedicated to the wild-card, so I don’t know if we will see him on the grid,” he said.
“We wanted to put him on track in Barcelona and then we had expected Motegi.”
Photo courtesy MotoGP
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