It looks like an announcement on Valentino Rossi’s future as a MotoGP racer could come as soon as next week’s Qatar race, with the nine-time world champion all but confirming that he has signed a two-year extension to his deal with Yamaha.
Rumoured by some to be in the running to be set to move his Team Sky VR46 team into the premier class to take over the satellite Yamahas from Tech 3, he conclusively ruled that out in Qatar – and hinted at his own future plans in the process.
“The situation is quite clear for me. I didn’t expect Poncharal to leave Yamaha, and we did think about running a team because it would have been a great opportunity for VR46. But we won’t make a MotoGP team with Yamaha in the next two years. I’m probably going to race for the next two years, so hopefully we’ll talk about the team moving up later when I stop – but not in 2019 or 2020.”
However, one side of the garage is already set in stone at the factory team, with Maverick Viñales already announcing six weeks’ ago at the squad’s official launch that he would be remaining with them for two more years. Perhaps a hasty decision by the factory given the Spaniard’s performance so far in testing, they’re nonetheless aware that they need to keep fast young talent onboard as they plan for the eventual retirement of Valentino Rossi.
There’s also speculation about who will take on the satellite Yamaha deal now that they’ve been dumped by Tech 3 in favour of KTM machinery and with Rossi ruling himself out of the mix. The favourite so far looks like the Aspar squad, and while there’s been no talk of rider line-up just yet, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Yamaha moves to retain Malaysian racer Hafizh Syahrin after an impressive debut.