Yamaha says it is poised to kick off detailed contract renewal discussions with Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo.
With Honda admitting last month that it plans fresh talks to lure Lorenzo off a YZR-M1 for 2015, Yamaha will act swiftly to ensure its most prized asset in MotoGP commits to a new two-year deal.
While Yamaha is also keen to offer a new contract to Italian veteran Rossi. The 35-year-old has insisted throughout the pre-season campaign that he will wait to see if he can regularly threaten Lorenzo, Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa for the rostrum before deciding whether he will race on into a 20th season.
Rossi’s quest to show he is a more competitive threat to the dominant Spanish trio got off to a fantastic start in Qatar last month. He stormed from a lowly 10th on the grid to finish a close second to reigning world champion Marquez under the Losail International Circuit floodlights, pushing the Spaniard right down to the final lap.
That sort of form certainly doesn’t suggest Rossi will be contemplating retirement until the end of the 2016 MotoGP campaign at least.
With every top rider on the grid out of contract at the end of 2014, Yamaha plans to move quick in the market to ensure it retains its current line-up, which would rule out a factory switch for Pol Espargaro or Bradley Smith next season.
Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis said: “It is a very important year with the renewal process and discussions with Jorge and Valentino. Our optimum scenario is to renew with both and that process will start soon.”
Lorenzo is sure to wait to see what proposal HRC can put on the table, having admitted during talks over his last contract in 2012 that he was too hasty in agreeing to stay with Yamaha.
Lorenzo committed to Yamaha until the end of 2014, apparently oblivious to a lucrative offer to replace Casey Stoner at Repsol Honda. The fallout from that saga saw him split with long-serving manager, Marcos Hirsch.
Yamaha’s new title sponsor Movistar will certainly be keen to see Lorenzo remain at Yamaha, where he has spent his entire MotoGP career since graduating as 250GP world champion in 2008.
Movistar has also declared its desire to see Rossi sign a new deal.
The Spanish telecommunications giant has clinched a five-year title sponsorship deal with Yamaha, and while admitting its preference is to back home grown talent from Spain, it would not interfere or try and influence rider selection.
And Movistar boss Luis Velo said he would be delighted if Yamaha agreed a new deals with Lorenzo and Rossi, despite having Spanish Moto2 world champion Espargaro waiting in the wings at Tech 3 for his big factory opportunity.
Velo’s admission that it is key to have at least one Spanish rider on a factory YZR-M1 ramps up the pressure on Yamaha management to fend of a rival bid from HRC for Lorenzo’s coveted signature.
“We would like always to have a Spanish rider in the team. Now we have one and we are happy to have Valentino in the team. It is very good news for us. Telefonica Movistar is a global company and most of the business is outside of Spain, so Valentino is a great brand for us and hopefully we can attract people of his level in the future, "said Velo.
Asked if Movistar would have a say on rider choice in the future, Velo added: “Obviously we would like to have an opinion. But this is a Yamaha decision and a very technical decision. Even now we are talking about that but at the end of the day it is a Yamaha decision.”