Valentino Rossi will line up on the MotoGP grid this weekend in Jerez hunting his 200th podium.
After a less than favourable 2020 season which has seemed to have continued into 2021, Valentino Rossi is desperate to get back on track literally and figuratively at Jerez, it is a track he has many fond memories of including many 125cc, 250cc, 500cc and MotoGP class wins at the track, most famously taking the win at the last corner against Sete Gibernau, bashing the Spanish rider aside to take the victory.
2020 was an unfortunate year for the seven-time 500cc/MotoGP champion who suffered 5 DNF’s in the 12 races he entered, missing out on both Aragon rounds due to positive COVID-19 tests. He finished the season in a lowly P15 overall with just 66 points to his name, his worst season ever in his Grand Prix career dating back to 1996.
Moving to 2021 he has changed to the Petronas Yamaha team after it was announced at the start of the 2020 season that he would be replaced by young star Fabio Quartararo. The hiring of the young Frenchman was a decision made by Yamaha for two reasons, firstly because they wanted to sort both riders contracts out before the season had started. With Rossi once again saying he will take 7-8 races to decide if he will continue to race or not they had to look elsewhere to achieve their goal of signing up two riders for 2021 and 2022. Secondly, Quartararo was coming off the back of an insanely impressive rookie season taking 7 podiums and P5 overall in the championship, Yamaha had to ensure they retained the rider beyond 2020 as there is no doubt other manufacturers would be sniffing around.
This means that for 2021 Rossi is donning the iconic turquoise Petronas colours alongside his young prodigy Franco Morbidelli who is part of Rossi’s incredible successful VR46 Riders Academy team. The team took 6 wins between Morbidelli and Quartararo in 2020, yet in 2021 after three races have struggled with Rossi scoring just 4 points in three rounds, crashing out of Portimao and struggling with rear grip in Qatar.
It is clear to see that the veteran has struggled in his time in the Petronas team but it’s not all doom and gloom with some positives to take from his season so far, he started the race in Qatar from P4 as the lead privateer rider and was also making up some good ground in Portimao edging his way towards the top 10 before his crash.
Historically Rossi has always performed at Jerez winning there as recently as 2016, this is not forgetting his podium at the circuit just last year during his torrid season, finishing in P3 in the Spanish soil proving to everyone that the Doctor still has something up his sleeve even if he is in his 40s.
Rossi is desperately chasing his 200th podium, race by race last year it was a question of ‘when‘ he would get it, not ‘if‘, however in 2021 he faces an even bigger uphill battle to try and get into the top 10 and register his first top 10 finish since San Marino last year in September, finishing 9 consecutive races outside of the top 10.
It has been a really tough time for the nine-time champion these past few months and he will be desperately putting his all into making sure he can start moving in the right direction on Spanish soil, otherwise, he could be looking at this being a sign to hang up his boots for good…
Featured images – Petronas Yamaha