MotoGP: Petronas ends title sponsorship deal with the Sepang Racing Team
Petronas will end its title sponsorship of the Sepang Racing Team (SRT) at the conclusion of the 2021 MotoGP season.
The deal initially included sponsorship of the team's Moto3 and Moto2 efforts before the Malaysian oil and gas company gave substantial support in 2019 when SRT became Yamaha's official satellite squad - taking over from Tech3.
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The Petronas Yamaha team enjoyed instant success in the premier class, with rookie Fabio Quartararo taking his 'B-Spec' M1 to seven podiums and six pole positions in 2019. The following year both Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli won three races each, with the latter ending the season second overall behind Joan Mir. By this stage, Quartararo was on a full-spec M1, with Morbidelli on an 'A-Spec' machine.
2021 has been a tough year in comparison. Morbidelli was left with his 2019 M1 which was now nowhere near as competitive to its 2021 rivals, before being ruled out for several races with a knee injury. Meanwhile, Valentino Rossi, who replaced factory-bound Quartararo, is languishing towards the bottom of the standings.
“We entered into this partnership with SIC (Sepang International Circuit) to showcase our R&D capabilities, and we are proud that Petronas Fluid Technology Solutions have been instrumental towards establishing the team's status as a championship contender,” Petronas’ Head of Strategic Communications, Datin Anita Azrina Abdul Aziz said.
"Together, we have created some standout moments in the sport, serving as an indication that we have achieved what we set out to do and we feel it is the right time for us to conclude the partnership. On behalf of Petronas, we would like to express our gratitude to SIC for their commitment towards ensuring the success of the partnership.”
Maverick Vinales' impending departure from the Monster Energy Yamaha team means that Morbidelli will be promoted to the factory team for 2022. Meanwhile, Rossi has announced his MotoGP retirement and as a result both premier class seats are available at the team.
Several names have been linked with the vacancies but nothing has been confirmed yet. One name linked with a big promotion is SRT Moto3 rider Darryn Binder. As a result of Petronas' departure, SRT will no longer be able to fund its efforts in Moto2 or Moto3 - leaving Binder, John McPhee, Jake Dixon, and Xavi Vierge without rides.
Dixon may also have a chance of joining the MotoGP grid with SRT next year, but may also step in this season pending the decision by Yamaha on whether to allow Vinales back from his suspension.
"SIC wishes to thank Petronas for the unwavering support during the partnership and a remarkable journey together," Sepang International Circuit (SIC) Chief Executive Officer Azhan Shafriman Hanif added.
"We respect Petronas’ decision, and mutually agreed that this partnership has accomplished its purpose and objectives. We have enjoyed a meaningful partnership, with great achievements and memorable moments with the team. I believe this is not the end of our collaboration in motorsports as we continue our quest in nurturing Malaysia’s motorsports talents.
"SIC is proud to have been involved in the formation and early development of the team that had surpassed expectations in its performance. We wish the team all the best in the next phase of its evolution under a new entity.”
Given the financial impact of Petronas' departure, SRT may no longer be able to run full factory Yamaha M1 machinery next season either. Today's statement confirmed that the team is 'expected to make an announcement regarding its continuation in MotoGP from 2022 onwards under a new independent entity'.
The Petronas withdrawal has huge ramifications. Beyond Moto3 and Moto2 losing a team, the news means that Yamaha will lose the valuable data and success which comes from having four full-factory bikes on the grid. In comparison, Ducati will have at least four factory bikes, and this may extend to six depending on the details of its contract with Team VR46. Honda also have four factory bikes on the grid.