Quartararo In, Rossi Out: What This Means For Yamaha, And For The MotoGP Silly Season

After Tuesday's announcement that Yamaha had signed Maverick Viñales, the Japanese factory today issued two more press releases. In the first, they announced they had signed Fabio Quartararo to a two-year deal to race in the factory Monster Energy Yamaha team. In the second, they announced that Yamaha would be giving Valentino Rossi all the time he needed to make up his mind about his future.

In these notes:

  • What Yamaha's decision means for their future
  • Valentino Rossi's options for the future
  • Whether this brings a VR46 MotoGP team closer
  • Who the next hot property in MotoGP is
  • Which signings to expect next

Leave your questions in the comments, and I will answer questions for Subscribers on Thursday.

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1st question is about Yamaha. Does Franco Morbidelli have a contract with Petronas past 2020?

2nd question. Realizing that this is highly unlikely and has nothing to do with Yamaha; however, I'll ask anyway.
Ducati has thrown a lot resources to win the World Superbike title and Johnny Rea stands in their way, year after year. Is it possible that Ducati could sign Johnny Rea away from Kawasaki, and give him a one-year contrate to race in MotoGP, on a factory Ducati?


has a contract beyond 2020, except the two that have just signed for Factory Yamaha, sure some more contacts are being prepared in the very near future..!

Great article, as always. This may be a bit premature, but are there any rumors regarding Dovi's future? At 33 he's reaching retirement age for many riders (though Rossi, and Bayliss, may beg to differ). Will Ducati continue to back him through the next contract cycle?

Also, any news regarding Ianone and his place at Aprilia?


Good writeup and a good set of decisions by Yamaha.  Given that the record of riders that move from the M1 to the Ducati is not all that stellar, Yamaha had a built-in safety valve in its negotiations with Maverick and Fabio despite Ducati applying pressure.

What if Rossi, Dovisioso and Crutchlow (and Iannone, if he even manages to make it to the grid at all  this year) go at the end of 2020? Seems not inconceivable. 

Is it possible that Rossi will get an exclusive one-rider quasi-factory team to ride for in 21?

I mean Carmelo Ezpeleta can move mountains when it suits him (look at Zarco case when everyone said there's no place for him), for Rossi he can build a mountain grain by grain I suspect.

Didn't Honda have to have a three bike team a few years ago when they signed Casey to replace Dovi, and Dovi came 4th in the championship which meant they had to honour his contract?

A three bike Yamaha factory team for one year would be an interesting option. 

I'm pretty sure Dorna changed the rules to specifically prohibit three rider teams. Now a team is only allowed a maximum of two official riders.


Rossi either ramps up a new and better merger Jr Team into Aqua, or runs a 5th Yellow bike. Or, goes and seriously races rally. I want to see the Aqua-Yellow merger, but it sounds difficult for 2021. Easier for a 5th yellow bike?

All eyes on Duc and KTM riders, Suzuki riders. Dovi gets to stay, or he and Jack battle for a Red seat. Zarco will be eager indeed. None of these are what Ducati leadership hoped.

Silly season may slow down briefly until Europe where we have seen the goods from our various riders, now that those two signed Blue.

As a subscriber, a question - shall I stop mentioning the moving of the "save button?" It has only been ~two years. And, how does that compare to what you hear/think about the possibility of a forthcoming Suzuki Jr Team?
Thanks David!
Great work of late.

Looking at the Rossi situation and a possible Endurance entry, and I'm seeing some parallels with Fernando Alonso targeting the F1/IndyCar/LMP Triple Crown (and apparently the Dakar too). The issue with that though is that I can't think of an event which would be the third leg for a motorcycling version to go with the MotoGP Championship and Le Mans 24hr (or less likely, the Endurance Championship). I think I'm right in assuming the TT is off the cards from the visit a few years, so what else would fit?

WSBK in a one man factory Yamaha team, would pull massive crowds into Imola, Donington etc and leave Rossi retiring from two wheels with a unique legacy. Max & Checa Kocinski etc won WSBK but not MotoGP, Hayden vice versa, I think that's the sort of challenge that would appeal to Vale. 

But I think this is wishful thinking. Please don't shoot me down (too much anyway) for saying it but I don't think WSBK has the cachet for Rossi. It's been the poor relation for too long and, other than those of us who still find it interesting on some level or other, I can't help feeling hardly anyone cares very much who wins that title?

On the other hand, maybe this is the kind of move that Carmelo would support in order to bring WSBK back into the limelight. (But why would he, when MotoGP looks set to become even better over the next few years).

Plus, would Vale even want to take that risk? It would be a huge downer to end his two wheel career coming second to Rea, and it's not a given that this wouldn't happen. I'm certainly no expert on racing machines but it seems to me that it's no longer anywhere near enough to be a brilliant rider and racer, it's now as much about having a brilliant bike AND being able to extract the potential from that machine, which can take time and sometimes even prove impossible. Vale had his fingers badly burned by the Ducati mistake and moving across to a WSBK must represent a similar step into the unknown.

I'm surprised there's no word for Bagnaia. He was signed last year as a very good hope for Ducati. Surely he had a bad Rookie season but what are your thought about him ?  

Basically same question for Franco Morbidelli. Yes , Quartararo outperformed him in 2019 but it does not make Franco a bad rider. Not good enough to be interesting for factories like Ducati?

Thks for your work ! 

Given the relationship that Rossi has with Morbidelli, I wonder if the pull to the Petronas team is a little stronger.  Surely Rossi would be tempted to apply his branding to the Petronas team, keeping Morbidelli, and turning it into a real competitor to the factory teams.  It's been a long time since a satellite team was truly a threat to the title; I wonder if it could be done again.

Where would the resource for a new VR46 MotoGP team come from, should they secure sponsorship? As in terms of technicians etc, and if Petronas still existed, would they automatically get less favorable treatment from Yamaha?

Also with talk of Gresini having a team and Aprilia having a separate team, would the guaranteed slot for VR46 team still stand?

My fantasy scenario for 2021.

Suzuki satellite team with Rossi/Marini

They could easily find a sponsor to pay for factory-level bikes and support. How about Pepsi?

I'd just love to see that :)




Surely there's more for Rossi to gain as a continuing Yamaha partner and brand ambassador than switching to Suzuki.  He's essentially been a Yamaha rider since 2004.  Yes, he had those two years at Ducati, but I think his Ducati performance was a better marketing tool for Yamaha than it was for Ducati.

But then, we all thought the same thing about Pedrosa as well, he was a career Honda employee - and then went to a testing role for KTM.

Well done Yamaha for having so decisively addressed this rider market conundrum. I suspect though that the relatively rider friendly nature of the Yamaha was a factor in their favour. We all know how Lorenzo struggled to get to grips with the Ducati and how Zarco's Yamaha Tech 3 confidence deserted him at KTM. Surely the lesson here is that it is easier to get up to your potential on the Yamaha, and perhaps on the Suzuki, compared to any other bikes on the grid? 

Recent improvements on the Yamaha only seem to have promoted that perception. At the same time we have had a lot of discussion suggesting that Dovi and other Ducati pilots are a bit sick of a bike that doesn't turn very well and has now lost its straight line advantage over the Honda. The fact that the Ducati wunderkind engineering bloke seems rather more focussed on rider recruitment than anything much else doesn't seem particularly confidence inspiring either.

My questions are: 1. Can this run much longer into the season now that two of the prime candidates are off the market or should we expect more signings soon? and 2. Following on from question 1, wouldn't it be awkward for a rider for another team, for example Suzuki, to sign for (say Ducati), with a very large chunk of the season still to go? I appreciate there are precedents for this but they are pretty rare and they seemed to have resulted in 'awkward team dynamics'. Cheers!

Whilst most of the focus will be on the marquee (Marquez?) signings there will be a lot of second tier rider positions to be filled. Is it likely that Remy Gardner will get the call up to, say for example, a Pramac slot in preparation for a move to factory if he displays some decent talent. Will Tito Rabat be cleared out of MotoGP? Is it likely that some of the outgoing MGP riders will be targeted for WSBK?

Cry havoc and unleash the dogs of war!!!!!!!!!!!

Is there a very real possibility, considering the implications for Petronas re VR as a rider for 1 year and the subsequent staffing interruptions..AND the almost guaranteed entry of a VR46 team into Moto GP in the near future,  that we may see VR on a stand alone team, similar to when he entered the premier category? Or... is there scope within Yamaha to run a 3 rider factory squad? HRC did it with Dovi, Casey and Dani although for differring reasons. Would the special treatment upset Fab and Mav? Carmelo and DORNA wouldn't have an issue creating a space for their golden (Ok fluro yellow) cash cow. 

Wherever VR rides he will take his entourage with him (mechanics et al) so are there logistical/partnership/sponsorship benefits to running a 3 rider factory team? Another year or two of sponsorship money rolling in AND it keeps Petronas happy.

Food for thought.

Following Lorenzo's frenzied training schedule on his social media feeds and regular updates about himself, he looks like a man who is preparing for not just the paddock, but some serious track time.

Lorenzo is seething with a desire to re-write everyone's farewell memories. If he is is indeed as good on the development side, could he be a joker in the pack? Test rider in 2020, almost certain. Ducati rider in 2021? Something tells me he might just spring a surprise and take Pirro's place in 2020 at Ducati. 

Lin Jarvis and Jeremy Burgess have both said Yamaha will supply Valentino Rossi with a factory bike & support for as long as Rossi wants to continue racing.

Would like David's input here. I'm thinking the factory team has Mav and Fab. Petronas will run their own race team. Valentino Rossi will keep most of his team when Fab Quarteraro moves across to the factory team.

Vale will have no problem finding sponsorship. He will have Galbusera as crew chief if he wants him. Vale could pay for a season or two out of his own pocket. Italian businesses would love to be associated with the goat. Dorna will bend the rules to suit their cashflow generating hero.

One mature rider and a young gun from the academy on yellow Yammies. You know it makes sense

I'm seeing five or six factory or near full fat Yamahas in 2021. If Ducati can do it why not Yamaha? More bikes, more data equals faster progress.

Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling.

Agreed mate!
But one bike to start, just Vale. He IS the financial backing/primary sponsor, eh? And more, the future looks bright. Yellow.

Then come the kids. Yamaha has done a HUGE turnaround, finally. Lorenzo Test plus offered Wildcards?! Spanish rounds will be too tempting, and he will DO THE BUSINESS. It will be a Yamaha swarm in the front three rows with 4 to 5 quick guys.

Poor Ducati. Ball is in your court for a response. Honda w their one ringer doesn't even have to...YET.

I can see why Ducati would be looking at Suzuki -- Rins and Mir are 2 of the rising stars I'd be eyeing if I were in Ducati's shoes. That being said though, the interview with Mir reported here seems to really solidify Mir's longing to be like Schwantz (going so far as to saying he'd like to stay with Suzuki for life, and be a brand rep), and he seems to quite adamant in his goal of winning on a Suzuki. Of course that all might be fluff, he is under contract after all, but I couldn't help but feel he was speaking from the heart. I don't know what Rins attitude is towards team loyalty, but he's currently the #1 rider in the team, and has beaten Marquez straight-up on the Suzuki already. In my mind, he'd be a bit mad to leave that behind. One look in his eyes though, and you can see he is a bit that! 

My question is of 2 parts, beginning with: where will Dovi go? The omission of "DesmoDovi" from his leathers appears a bit telling that staying onboard a Duc that doesn't turn is quite low on his priority list. Secondly, it's obvious that there is a crop of talent coming through the ranks -- with KTM holding a surplus of it. I can't imagine Olivera was too pleased being 'surpassed' by Binder, and Lecuona appearing to be a magnificent talent. With the likes of JM Waiting in the wings I can't help but think Ducati would be best off hunting for talent in Austria, luring riders who have been forced to tame a bull. From the outside looking in, a rider who is fast on the Bull would be better suited to a Duc than riders succeeding in i4's. Could you see anybody from KTM being a hot pick for Ducati this silly season?

Personally, I cannot see Ducati and Binder being an amicable relationship. Historically, Ducati is impatient with their riders (both in SBK and GP), and Binder takes his time to get up to speed. KTM are welcoming to Binder taking his time to learn -- I don't think Ducati would be. 

Olivera, however some to be much more prime for the picking, and could be a suitable replacement for Dovi, in terms of attitude and more cool headed riding style -- in my opinion.

Great points, appreciated. And, Binder looks to be Quartararo/Marquez caliber. The KTM has him "under-biked," and will continue to for the immediate term. Ducati may be perceived as a top notch bike "under-ridden?" The money avail at Duc for "that one rider we are going to #27 with" is HUGE.

Binder over-rides and rides around what he has adaptively. Starting big bikes on a V4 bronco. He isn't Austrian, nor Japanese, the S African is an ingenius and flexible sort with little inherent alignment now that he is here (outside of Red Bull, where they put his face on a can). He just went from Bell to HJC. He was running weird Ixon and TCX gear. Pole Position Travel - "hey, I can go anywhere w a smile and Red Bull!"

Duc just had Bagnaia rip at a test, then non-start. The next stop may be Binder's to lose.

Agreed that Oliveira is on the go and may emerge soon, could win the seat. Not likely Iker. But now? It has to look like Binder. The KTM bike can't keep him settled. Water just flows as it does, path made via its nature. And, both he and Gigi are VERY THIRSTY.

There will be no hate towards Fabio by normal VR|46 fans.  Fabio has earned it and Yamaha have to prepare for the future.  If anything, Yamaha have set a model on how to handle all this.  Jarvis and the heads in Iwata, have handled this....well I don't think it could have been done better. 

I've seen rabid fans of most every competitive rider in the paddock.  Valentino will still be around once he hangs the leathers up.  He'll be running his team(s) in the paddock, and be around because he truly loves the sport.  Dislike him, hate him, but there is no question as to his love for the sport.  He's earned it and he will decide when it's time to go, not a fan and certainly not a hater.  Every time I have gone to a MotoGP event, and I've been to almost as many as my hands and toes, there are still fans of Schwantz, Rainey, Spencer, King Kenny, name it.  Yellow will be in the paddock until most of us are in the ground or burnt up in the oven.  

Can't help but miss #58 reading this news, this week.  I miss the Lion and he was the heir to carry on the Italian torch.  Still miss him as much as I did in 2011.  Since 2011 I have waited for a VR|46 win and a big fat #58 flag being carried on the cool down lap.  I hope I get to see that, I will be in tears.  

I'm at a quarter century of watching this sport and it's absolutely crazy....the rider's market.  The 2020 season hasn't even begun and riders are signing contracts that sew it up for the next 3 years and they haven't even turned a wheel in testing in 2020.  Bound to be some real sour faces over the next few years if their 3 year deal doesn't provide competitive machinery.  This early is just insane.  I can remember when it was Brno when this stuff got inked.  Now it's in January before testing has begun.  1 week to testing and 5 weeks to race.  Let's get on with it!

I logged on to check of news of testing coming, and make sure there has been no winter injuries on the Mx or road bikes only to read Vale is 50/50, and the factory Yamaha squad is all sewn up for the next 3 years. The winter is too damn long when you are a motorcycle racing fan. 

I'm as cynical as the next man or woman, and have rooted against Vale most of his career, but I will be very sad indeed when the Rossi Era is done. 

My one European GP was Mugello 2017. To be in that crazy crowd as Rossi led early, to walk the miles back to our rental car shoulder to shoulder with tens of thousands his passionate yellow fans, was truely incredible, a day I will never forget. 


And the bombs keep dropping with news of Lorenzo to head up the Yamaha testing team. Now that they have declared war on Marc Marquez, my question is will Yamaha do anything about their engine? As things stand it's rifles versus the V4 machine guns.

David, are there any rumours of something radical in the pipeline?

Would make some sense. Potential for a long term deal with performance options. Good basis for the team to develop talent through all classes and VR can leave much of the work to established management. A good blend of East and West. Ducati with Dovi as mentor/developer and Miller or Zarco sounds good. Petrucci might go to the tall team in WSBK. Iannone has several problems and most of the factory doors are likely to be closed unless he achieves some sort of epiphany. Is a satellite Suzuki team likely, and when? Rins and Mir seem a good match for Suzuki. A bit of disharmony seems to help in this sport.

Sponsorship.....how will that change the face of MGP? Is HRC losing the Repsol $$$/changing sponsorship, as it's been rumored, and if so, where would those petro-$$$ go? It would make sense that Repsol would want Marc on their bike, so.....

Speculation is that Shell will take over for Repsol as they have serious ties to Honda, with Repsol maintaining their own Honda ties by moving to the HRC SBK team

I'm glad this has finally been done. From the outside it looks like a thoughtful, highly respectful way of moving Vale onwards in life, for the benefit of all immediately concerned. Maybe Vale will surprise us all yet again by having a storming 2020, or 2021 on a Petronas, but personally I think that's not very likely. And it's good too that he has a whole farewell year with, implicitly, little or no pressure or expectations. That has to be better than having the pressure to announce a retirement building and building in the course of this year (if it doesn't go so well).