Factory Honda or Yamaha return unlikely for Valentino Rossi

Published: 18 April 2012

Honda has joined Yamaha in distancing themselves from the possibility of signing Valentino Rossi in a shock deal for the 2013 MotoGP world championship.

The Italian’s future is already the subject of intense speculation after his disappointing and frustrating start to the new 1000cc era in Qatar earlier this month.

The 33-year-old struggled home in 10th place and expressed frustration after the race at a lack of progress made by Ducati with the new factory GP12 machine.

The new Desmosedici is still plagued by an understeer issue and an aggressive power delivery and Rossi was unhappy that significant improvements had not been made in the winter.

His discontent with the Ducati being so uncompetitive in Doha led to a flurry of rumours about his future, though he has since vowed to honour the second year of his contract during an interview on Italian TV last week.

Speculation though has also concentrated on Rossi’s plans for 2013 and beyond. Unless there is a sudden and dramatic turnaround in fortunes at Ducati, it is hard to imagine him wanting to remain with the Bologna factory.

But the prospect of a return to Honda or Yamaha's official factory team is unlikely.
With Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa already at Repsol Honda and teenage Moto2 star Marc Marquez a certainty to be a factory rider in the future, HRC has an embarrassment of riches.

And Yamaha’s determination to sign a new deal with 2010 MotoGP world champion Jorge Lorenzo effectively slams the door shut on a YZR-M1 return.

The pair enjoyed a frosty relationship when together between 2008 and ’10 and Rossi’s decision to quit having been offered a new two-year deal undermines his bargaining power at Yamaha.

HRC boss Livio Suppo told MCN recently: “It is difficult to see a situation where Valentino will be back. In the factory team, we already have two very fast and strong riders and I don’t see any reason why with all respect to Valentino, we should change one of them with him.”

In an interview with MCN at the end of 2011, Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis said: “I think it is not an option to consider having Valentino and Jorge together for the future of the Yamaha team.”

That stance is unlikely to have changed with Yamaha channelling its energy into ensuring Lorenzo remains on board a YZR-M1 until the end of 2014 at least.
The situation leaves Rossi with the prospect of negotiating with a satellite team like Tech 3 Yamaha, Gresini Honda or LCR Honda.

That too presents a potential minefield for Rossi. His wages will easily exceed the entire budget for a two-rider independent team like Tech 3, while he would need to bring his own financial backing to secure factory spec machinery, if a factory was willing to support him with works material.

Unless Rossi can finance his own satellite effort, which has already been rumoured with Coca Cola backing, another stumbling block could be his insistence of moving en masse with his entire crew, headed by Australian Jeremy Burgess.

Tech 3, Gresini and LCR all have long-serving crews who they would be reluctant to axe.

Add in the fact that Dorna wants to limit factories to a maximum of four entries from 2013 onwards, then the issue of a Yamaha return becomes even more complicated with Tech 3 already having a contract with Yamaha to lease two YZR-M1 machines next season.