MotoGP Feature Article: Could 2021 be Valentino Rossi’s last year?
There are plenty of rumours and much talk of Rossi’s 2021 season being his last year.
After 15 years with the Factory Yamaha MotoGP team with a 2-year stay in red in 2011 and 2012, Valentino Rossi has moved to the satellite Petronas MotoGP team for 2021, a move which could be considered a step up by many given how impressive the team have been, taking more wins as a team than any other team in 2020 with their riders winning more races than anyone else (3 wins each).
This compares to the 0 wins for Rossi in 2020 and 1 win for Maverick Vinales on Italian soil, clearly showing which team have been more impressive with Rossi and Fabio Quartararo swapping places for 2021. It took Rossi and Petronas a long time to iron out a deal, 8 months to be exact, in this time Rossi confirmed he pondered retirement after enjoying his life at home with his partner and dogs, but eventually opted to continue racing, choosing a 1-year deal and not 2 years which is the standard practice, he has left room to add another year to the contract dependant on performance and his feelings.
Petronas will be a different ball game for Valentino who is very used to how the factory team work, the Petronas squad have been fairly open in regards to their thoughts on hiring Valentino, wanting to hire a younger rider, but nevertheless happy to have a rider of Valentino Rossi’s status in their team. Rossi will not have an easy ride, the team are giving up a chance to hire another Quartararo to give Rossi another shot at a ride at 42 years old, therefore the team are expecting performances from the MotoGP veteran, they managed 6 wins in 2020 and will expect more in 2021 with Franco Morbidelli gearing up for a title challenge.
Rossi’s last win, Assen 2017
This poses a threat to Rossi who has not won a race since 2017, Morbidelli and Quartararo are both race winners in the Petronas colours and the team will not expect any less than some race wins, yes they are a satellite team, but they have proven to be so much more than that with their incredibly impressive performances and are arguably one of the best teams on the grid, ranking higher than factory teams, finishing second overall in the 2020 team standings behind champions Suzuki.
Petronas have also made it very clear that they are not going to give Rossi his own way; what they say will go with Rossi having to give up some of his long term mechanics such as Alex Briggs and Brent Stephens in favour of Mechanics already within the ranks of the team which are proud of their ‘family’ set up, not wanting to ruin that for the new rider. He has his work cut out in 2021 that’s a fact.
This is where a major rumour ties into this, there has been talk for months of a VR46 MotoGP team with news of 2 grid slots being opened up for the 2022 season, the VR46 race set up have been vocal about being interested in these slots and will run a MotoGP team in 2021 as part of the Avintia set up with Luca Marini riding a Ducati. The best part of this entire thing is that Suzuki are also looking to run a satellite team in 2022 which has been confirmed by Davide Brivio.
The Sky VR46 Moto2 Team were the 2018 champions
Assuming things can get tied up, we may see a 2 rider Suzuki VR46 MotoGP Team lining up on the MotoGP grid, now, assuming the hired riders are Luca Marini and Marco Bezzecchi, this will make it 4 x VR46 riders on the MotoGP grid with Bagnaia and Morbidelli also being a part of the academy, this could be a fantastic opportunity for a then 43-year-old Valentino Rossi to hang up his boots and step into a team manager role, overseeing the running of the MotoGP and Moto2 teams, the same way riders like Jorge Martinez “Aspar”, Fausto Gresini, Lucio Cecchinello, Sito Pons, Max Biaggi and various other riders have done.
The 9 x Champion is not getting any younger and it may be time for him to strengthen his legacy in other areas, he has already brought riders into the world championship who have gone on to be world champions, why not continue to do this without the added stress of racing?
2021 looks to be a decisive season for The Doctor, if he doesn’t gel with Petronas and an option for his team comes available, there is no reason why he cannot become a team manager.
Featured images – www.motogp.com