The brutal last-lap battle between Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo - two riders who are reportedly teammates for the Fiat Yamaha squad - may end up having far-reaching consequences. Lorenzo complained about Rossi's riding after the race, and Yamaha management spoke to Rossi about the incident, pointing out that having two teammates take each other out while one of them is so close to wrapping up a world championship for the factory is not a desirable state of affairs.
Yamaha's reprimand may be the penultimate chapter in the long history between Rossi and the Japanese factory. The ever well-informed Mela Chercoles of Spanish sports daily AS.com quotes "sources close to Valentino Rossi" as saying that the Malaysian MotoGP round at Sepang will be the nine-time world champion's last race on a Yamaha, and that he will return to Italy for surgery on his injured shoulder immediately after the race.
According to AS.com's sources, the reprimand issued by Yamaha was the final straw that convinced Rossi that Yamaha will not allow him to test the Ducati at Valencia after the final MotoGP race of the year. Yamaha have been deliberately vague over whether they would allow Rossi to test the Ducati at Valencia, Yamaha Racing boss Lin Jarvis telling MotoMatters.com at Brno that it was "too early to make a decision." It was widely believed that Yamaha's policy of not announcing whether they would allow Rossi to test was the only leverage the factory still had over the Italian, and the only way of ensuring he refrained from public criticism of the factory until the end of the season.
Rossi had hinted that he may not finish the season after Aragon, telling the press that he was considering surgery after the Phillip Island round of MotoGP, and skipping the last two races of the year. The warning he received after Motegi appears to have hastened that decision. With little chance of testing the Ducati, Rossi may believe his best option is to have surgery as soon as possible, to allow himself the maximum recovery time to be fit for the next series of MotoGP tests at Sepang in February.
Those tests - and the tests earlier this year - are the only reason the Italian will be racing in Malaysia. Speaking at Aragon in mid-September, Rossi emphasized the importance of comparing data from riding with his injured shoulder to the data from the tests from February this year, when the Italian was incredibly fast. Comparing that data will allow Rossi and his crew - who will be joining him at Ducati - to see how his shoulder injury has affected his riding, and to find ways to get around it. This data will also be crucial for February 2011, when the Italian returns to Sepang to test the Ducati for the first time.
Though the warning given to Rossi by Yamaha has been met with general dismay by MotoGP fans, who were thrilled by the spectacle of some of the best racing in the class since Rossi and Lorenzo's last clash, at Barcelona in 2009, it is entirely unsurprising from Yamaha's perspective. For Yamaha, it was crucial that Lorenzo wrapped up the title as soon as possible, especially while his main rival was out with an injured collarbone. The one thing Yamaha did not need was for their two riders to run each other off the track, potentially injuring the man who has his name already penciled on the 2010 MotoGP trophy. Rossi's decision to engage Lorenzo so forcefully was most likely made on the spur of the moment, driven in part by his anger at having been displaced from Yamaha by Lorenzo, and in part as a lesson to Lorenzo for next year. If Rossi believes that lesson - reminiscent of the ones dished out to Casey Stoner and Sete Gibernau in the past - will have a long-term effect, then he may feel the loss of the Valencia test may be worth it.