Valentino Rossi’s deal to join the Petronas SRT Yamaha squad in 2021 and extend his MotoGP career has been made official after months of discussions.
The nine-time grand prix world champion was moved out of the factory Yamaha squad for 2021 at the start of the year to make way for Fabio Quartararo to join Maverick Vinales.
Rossi originally wanted the first six or seven races of the 2020 season to determine whether he was competitive enough to continue, but the coronavirus pandemic scuppered this plan.
He confirmed at the start of the season at Jerez in July that he was “99%” to sign for Petronas, but discussions carried on for months afterwards as both parties looked to finalise certain elements – the key sticking point being what crew moves with Rossi to Petronas.
On Thursday Rossi announced the deal would likely be signed this weekend in Barcelona, and confirmed crew chief David Munoz, data engineer Matteo Flamigni and rider coach Idalio Gavira would be the only members from his current team joining him.
On Saturday, Petronas and Yamaha confirmed Rossi had signed a one-year contract to ensure his grand prix career extends to a 26th season.
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“I am very happy to continue riding in 2021 and to do it with the PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team,” said Rossi. “I thought a lot before taking this decision, because the challenge is getting hotter and hotter. To be at the top in MotoGP you have to work a lot and hard, to train every day and lead an ’athlete’s life‘, but I still like it and I still want to ride.
“In the first half of the year I made my choice and I talked with Yamaha, who agreed with me. They told me even if there was no place for me in the Factory Team, the factory bike and the factory support were guaranteed.
“I am very happy to move to PETRONAS Yamaha SRT. They are young, but they‘ve shown to be a top team. They are very serious and very well organised. For this year I also changed my crew chief. I‘m very happy with David, and I think we haven‘t reached our best yet. This was one of the reasons why I chose to continue, because the atmosphere in the team is something I like a lot.
“It‘ll be nice to have Franco as my team-mate, as he‘s an Academy rider, it‘s going to be cool. I think we can work together to make good things happen.”
Rossi had been expected to sign a 1+1 deal, though any additional contracts after 2021 will only be tabled if all parties are happy to continue together.
Next year will also be Rossi’s 16th as a Yamaha rider, having joined the Japanese marque from Honda as a three-time MotoGP world champion, and returned in 2013 after a difficult two-year stint at Ducati between 2011 and 2012.
Rossi has scored 65 of his 89 premier class victories with Yamaha and four of his seven top tier titles. A podium this weekend in the Catalan GP would mark his 200th in the premier class.
He will partner his protege Franco Morbidelli at Petronas next year, who penned a new two-year deal several months ago.