Jorge Lorenzo's announcement at Valencia that he would be retiring at the end of the 2019 MotoGP season came as a shock to the paddock. In the immediate aftermath, attention focused on who would take his place in the Repsol Honda Team, speculation reaching a crescendo when HRC announced they had signed Alex Marquez to ride alongside brother Marc in the factory squad.
With MotoGP testing out of the way, and Jorge Lorenzo returned home to Switzerland after his hard-earned extended vacation in Bali, Indonesia, talk has now turned to Jorge Lorenzo's future. The Spaniard himself has already told Austrian TV that he expects to be back in the MotoGP paddock in 2020.
Although Lorenzo has not revealed what he expects to be doing when he returns to the paddock, there have been rumors for several weeks that the Spaniard is looking at getting into TV. Lorenzo speaks Italian and English fluently, as well as Spanish, and given his status as a former world champion, will command a sizable salary. That would rule out all but the biggest broadcasters of the MotoGP series.
Today, we also learned that Lorenzo could also be back on a bike in 2020. Motorsport.com journalist Oriol Puigdemont reported that Yamaha have offered Lorenzo a role as test rider for the Japanese manufacturer.
Yamaha have been without a European test rider since dropping Jonas Folger at the end of the 2019 season, though no clear reason was given. Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis explained at Valencia that Yamaha had wanted to streamline their testing program, as the European and Japanese test teams were often following different working programs and returning different feedback to the factory, making it hard for the factory to choose a direction and develop.
In the future, he explained, they would push forward with a single Japanese test team, which would test more often at European test tracks. Although that test program would focus mainly on Japanese test riders Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Kohta Nozane, Yamaha had not ruled out using a European test rider.
Initially, Johann Zarco had been offered the role of Yamaha test rider, but it was made clear to the Frenchman that if he took the role, he would have to turn down the opportunity to replace Takaaki Nakagami on the LCR Honda. Zarco elected to replace Nakagami, and find a seat in MotoGP for 2020, which he eventually landed with the Avintia Ducati squad.
With Zarco out of the frame, approaching Lorenzo makes a huge amount of sense. The Spaniard helped develop the Yamaha M1 throughout his time with the Japanese factory, providing valuable feedback alongside Valentino Rossi, and helping Yamaha to build a bike that won five championships during his stay there, three of which Lorenzo won.
Will this see Lorenzo make a return to racing full time at the end of 2021? That seems unlikely, given the severity of the spinal injury Lorenzo suffered in his crash at Barcelona and Assen. Lorenzo will be 33 next year, and was relieved to retire from racing in one piece. That injury still hangs over his head, and may yet prevent him from taking the testing role - the story on Motorsport.com says only that Lorenzo has been offered the job of test rider, not that Lorenzo has accepted it.
A job in television would not prevent Lorenzo from taking a role as test rider. Stefan Bradl, test rider for HRC, also works as a presenter and pitlane reporter for Servus TV, the broadcaster for Germany and Austria.
Whatever Lorenzo decides to do, the Spaniard looks certain to be present in the paddock in 2020.