You’d have got better odds on Valentino Rossi coming round to your house for Christmas dinner than you would have got on the Italian completing a shock return to Yamaha in 2013.
Had Casey Stoner not fallen out of love with racing and retired and had Ben Spies not surrendered one of the most coveted seats on the grid at Yamaha, the chances are Rossi would have little option to quit or toil again on Ducati’s troublesome Desmosedici.
But after scoring just three podium finishes in 35 races, Rossi penned a two-year deal to return to Yamaha where he won four world titles and 46 races in a success laden seven-year spell between 2004 and 2010.
Rossi admitted that his shock return to Yamaha in 2013 will answer a question that he and millions of MotoGP fans have been pondering and debating for more than 18 months.
Is he a rider still capable of winning in the face of fast and fierce opposition from a new younger generation led by Jorge Lorenzo?
Or is his return to a YZR-M1 the last act of a man desperate to convince the world that age and an abysmal spell with Ducati won’t hinder his bid to recapture the form that carried him to nine world titles and 105 Grand Prix victories?
By ditching to Ducati nobody could accuse Rossi of taking the easy option to enter the twilight of an illustrious career.
By re-joining Yamaha and putting himself in the firing line on identical machinery to bitter foe Lorenzo, Rossi has not shied away from what is undoubtedly a high-risk strategy.
Advisor and former factory Yamaha manager Davide Brivio tokd MCN, said: “To choose Yamaha was the most difficult choice that Valentino at this stage of his career could have done. He decided to take the most difficult challenge because at 33 to go on the same bike as one of the best riders of the moment and to challenge him he has everything to lose. He has a lot to gain also if he is successful but this decision is very brave.”
Rossi himself said: “I made a very brave choice. More than prove to the other guys I want to understand if I am still a top rider. I had a safe position if I stayed in Ducati. I could take a lot of money and I can stay but if I ride the M1 together with Lorenzo I have to train the maximum and concentrate at the maximum and put all the things together to understand if I am still at the top.
I think it will be difficult because Lorenzo is very strong. First I have to understand if I can be competitive and be fast. I have no idea if I can be at the front, take some podiums or even some front rows. It will be hard but for me the most important thing is to try and go into the races knowing that I can fight and enjoy.”
Rossi’s return to Yamaha will see him renew his rivalry with Lorenzo, which became one of the most intense and hostile of the modern era when paired together between 2008 and 2010.
But Lorenzo told MCN recently that he believes the return of the nine-times world champion will help him become even stronger after he captured his second world title last season.
The double MotoGP world champion said: “All the riders wants things to come as easy as we can make it. This is a natural feeling. Everyone wants to win easy and get success without so many difficulties. But I think that the arrival of Valentino is a good thing for me. I think it is a good thing for Yamaha too as they have a lot of strong riders.
It is a good opportunity for Valentino as well to show what he can do on the track and I guess he will feel much more comfortable on the track with a much easier bike. I think honestly it will be good for me and help make me stronger to have the opportunity to once again have the chance to beat one of the greatest riders in history. And I think he has a great opportunity to show that he can still win.”