MotoGP: Valentino Rossi unveiled as a Petronas Yamaha rider
Petronas Yamaha has unveiled the livery which Valentino Rossi and Franco Morbidelli will use throughout the 2021 MotoGP season.
The team's launch, presented by Team Principal Razlan Razali, was held virtually due to Covid-19 restrictions and was streamed via social media and the official MotoGP website.
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Alongside the riders from all three classes (Jake Dixon and Xavi Vierge in Moto2 and John McPhee and Darryn Binder in Moto3), Team Director Johan Stigefelt shared his 2021 expectations. Sepang International Circuit President Tan Sri Azman Yahya and Petronas general manager Anita Azrina Abdul Aziz also shared their thoughts ahead of the new campaign.
The 2021 livery is almost identical to last year's design. Of course, the big difference for MotoGP fans is Rossi's number 46 and various logos and stickers that come with having The Doctor as one of your riders. Rossi's fluorescent yellow can also be seen on his leathers alongside the traditional colours of Petronas.
Rossi joins the satellite squad after spending the last eight years as a factory Yamaha rider. The Italian also spent seven seasons as a factory Yamaha rider between 2004 and 2010. It's the first time Rossi hasn't been in a factory team since his title-winning 2001 campaign on the Nastro Azzurro Honda.
Despite losing his factory ride to Fabio Quartararo, who departs the Petronas Yamaha team, Rossi will still be using a factory-spec 2021 Yamaha M1.
“I’m very proud to be part of Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team,” Rossi said. “It’s a new challenge for me. This is a very young team, but in the last two years they have already been really competitive. I’m happy to see my new bike for this year and I really like the colours of the livery, leathers, helmet, etc. It looks awesome!
“My targets for 2021 is to be competitive, fight to win races, fight to achieve podiums and also fight for a good position in the World Championship standings at the end of the season. We are all very focused on our targets to make the best we can. I think that with Franco we are a very interesting couple of riders as we know each other really well.
“All the whole team has a lot of motivation and I will give my maximum to achieve together the best possible result at the end of the calendar. We are ready to start.”
The nine-time world champion will line-up alongside close friend and VR46 Academy member Morbidelli, who remains with Petronas for a third consecutive campaign.
Morbidelli was one of the breakout stars of 2020 on his A-Spec 2019 Yamaha M1, securing three victories and finishing runner-up to Joan Mir. Morbidelli's victories were reminiscent of those taken by Jorge Lorenzo during his time with Yamaha; setting quick consistent lap-times to pull away from the field and leading every lap.
Despite his success in 2020 Morbidelli will remain on the A-Spec M1, however given that he often outperformed the up-to-date M1s last year, the 2017 Moto2 champion may not be too disappointed about this.
“This will be my third year with the team and there are many things I like about Petronas Yamaha SRT,” Morbidelli commented. “The 2021 YZR-M1 livery is similar to the last two years, but still changed; It’s the same but different so I like it.
“What is different from last years is my teammate; I expect and hope it will be a great season for Vale [Valentino Rossi] and me. We have had a strong relationship for many years, and we will learn a lot from each other.
“My personal target for 2021 is to get better; improve myself as a person, rider and athlete. I know it’s hard and difficult because last year we were quite fast, and we made great races and achieved great results. Nevertheless, we will have to try to improve compared with 2020, so that’s my aim, try to be better year after year.”
As things stand the 2021 season will begin at the Losail International Circuit, Qatar, on March 28, followed by round two at the same circuit the following weekend (April 4).