Jorge Lorenzo unfazed by Valentino Rossi’s potential Yamaha return

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Jorge Lorenzo wouldn’t be fazed by Valentino Rossi’s potential return to Yamaha’s factory MotoGP squad next season.

Rossi is being strongly linked to return to the Yamaha factory squad he quit at the end of 2010 having won four world titles and 46 races in a seven-year period that was the most successful in the Japanese factory’s history.

After a disastrous spell with Ducati, speculation that Rossi has the option to make a shock return to Yamaha in 2013 intensified during last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix at Mugello.

The 33-year-old has also been locked in talks with Ducati’s new owners Audi about thrashing out a new deal but as yet he is adamant he’s not reached a final decision on his future plans.

If the nine-times world champion does complete a sensational return to Yamaha as replacement for struggling Texan Ben Spies, it would pitch him next to bitter Spanish rival Lorenzo again.

The pair were team-mates at Yamaha between 2008 and 2010 where their relationship could be described as frosty and tense at best.

Rossi banned Yamaha from sharing any of his data with Lorenzo in the latter stages of their partnership.

And a dividing wall that split the pair in 2008 while Rossi ran Bridgestone tyres and Lorenzo Michelin rubber was never axed even when both ran the same tyres in ’09 and ’10.

Rossi too was influential in that move.

Some felt Yamaha wouldn’t contemplate hiring Rossi again, despite his unrivalled success on a YZR-M1 990 and 800cc machine between 2004 and ’10.

Lorenzo is now clearly the number one rider at Yamaha and management are not going to willingly do anything that could infuriate the 25-year-old, who is dominating the 2012 campaign with five wins in nine races.

Yamaha though has self-financed its factory team ever since Rossi walked away at the end of 2010 when title sponsor Fiat left. Rossi results might have been on the slide at Ducati with only two podiums in 26 races but his popularity remains undisputed and a return of its former golden boy would add immense commercial and marketing value to Yamaha.

Just what impact a potential return would have on Lorenzo though has also been the subject of much debate in the MotoGP paddock.

Publicly at least Lorenzo has said he isn’t bothered by the prospect of Rossi returning.

And his Dutch team boss Wilco Zeelenberg says Lorenzo will have no problems in dealing with Rossi being back on the opposite side of Yamaha’s factory garage.
Zeelenberg told MCN: “I don’t think it would worry Jorge at all. They aren’t friend’s that’s for sure but also Jorge is not in charge of fixing the second rider. He is a professional motorcycle rider and he only has one thing in mind and that’s to win. And it doesn’t matter who the other guy is. He has proven in the past that he is not afraid to have the best guy next to him. He is quite strong in that regard and I’m not afraid if the scenario happens. The second rider doesn’t really impact the total performance that Jorge can deliver and that’s why we are waiting to nominate the second rider because the main guy is already on a Yamaha.  Jorge is our champion rider for the next two years.”

Zeelenberg said that a Rossi return to Yamaha would be a decision that would only have been reached after consultations between senior management figures like Masahiko Nakajima and Lin Jarvis and Lorenzo.

He added: “Of course you need to discuss all the matters if Valentino is coming back and if the strategies will change. In the past Valentino was the hero here and it was a completely different situation. If he comes back now it will not be the same. That is quite clear. Jorge is not the final decision maker but he is our number one rider and that’s what Yamaha has already decided, that is clear. Jorge is our future so to not discuss this matter with him would not be clever and that’s the reality. Yamaha will decide on the second rider and then we will manage the situation but we won’t go blindly into it.”


Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt