Fabio Quartararo to replace Rossi at Yamaha factory team in 2021


Quartararo will graduate to the Yamaha factory team in 2021, with Valentino Rossi not ready to commit to future

Valentino Rossi and Fabio Quartararo in a 2019 press conference

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Fabio Quartararo has signed a two-year deal to replace Valentino Rossi at Yamaha’s factory team in 2021.

The Japanese manufacturer moved early to prevent last season’s rookie of the year being poached by a rival, after Rossi said he wasn’t ready to commit to racing in 2021.

It follows the announcement of Maverick Viñales’ contract extension, meaning that Yamaha has finalised its top-tier line-up for next year before the first race of the current season.

Quartararo will continue riding for Petronas this year, with a factory-spec YZR-M1, looking to build on his fifth place championship finish in his first MotoGP season.

Rossi: “My first goal is to be competitive this year”

“His results in his MotoGP debut year were sensational,” said Lin Jarvis, managing director of Yamaha Racing. “His six pole positions and the seven podiums in the 2019 season were a clear sign of his brilliance and exceptional riding skills. Inviting him to move up to Yamaha Factory Racing was a logical next step.”

It leaves Rossi undecided about his future, although Yamaha has committed to supplying him with a factory-spec bike and engineering support — likely as part of the Petronas team — if he continues riding.

The nine-time world champion has postponed a decision on his future until mid-way through the 2020 season. Yamaha said that it was forced to act amid a competitive riders’ market.

“The totally understandable decision of Valentino to assess his competitiveness in 2020 before making any decision about 2021 was something that Yamaha respects,” said Jarvis.

“While we have total respect for and confidence in Valentino’s abilities and speed for the 2020 championship – at the same time Yamaha also have to plan for the future. These days, with six motorcycle manufacturers in the MotoGP class, fast young talents are greatly in demand, and consequently the riders’ market begins ever earlier.”

“If he feels confident and continues to race, we will provide a Factory-spec YZR-M1 bike and full engineering support. If he decides to retire, we will continue and expand our collaborations off track with the young riders’ training programmes of the Riders Academy and the Yamaha VR46 Master Camp, and with him as a Yamaha brand ambassador.”

Fabio Quartararo ahead of Valentino Rossi on track in 2019

Quartararo finished ahead of Rossi in the 2019 championship

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Quartararo is a rider in demand, as reported by Mat Oxley last October. His results – which almost included a debut win last season – suggest that he is second only to Marc Márquez in terms of talent, and his manager said that all the factories were interested in signing him up.

“I’m delighted about what my management has achieved in the last few months together with [Yamaha],” said Quartararo. “It was not simple to establish, but now I have a clear plan for the next three years and I’m really happy.

“I will work hard, like I did last year, and I’m extremely motivated to achieve great performances.”

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The competition to sign Quaratararo
Should Rossi retire?

Rossi, who turns 41 next month, said that he remained undecided about his future, and would assess his speed after several races.

“It is clear that after the last technical changes and with the arrival of my new crew chief, my first goal is to be competitive this year and to continue my career as a MotoGP rider also in 2021,” he said.

“Before doing so, I need to have some answers that only the track and the first few races can give me. I’m happy that, should I decide to continue, Yamaha is ready to support me in all respects, giving me a factory-spec bike and a factory contract.”