Valentino Rossi to Petronas - One last stand or the Re-invigoration of a legend
With 'The Doctor' making his move across to the Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team here is what could happen to Rossi during his time at the Team
For the 2021 MotoGP season the 42 year old Italian rider, who is also a 7 time Premier Class World Champion, is moving across from the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Team to the Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Satellite Team. This will be the fifth team that Valentino Rossi has rode for in the Premier Class after previously racing for: Nastro Azzurro Honda, Repsol Honda, Yamaha Factory Team and the Ducati Team. This team move for Rossi does not involve a change of equipment as he is jumping off his Monster Energy Factory spec Yamaha YZR-M1 straight onto a Petronas SRT Factory spec Yamaha YZR-M1, but Rossi's team will see a shake up for 2021 as important members of Rossi's team such as Alex Briggs and Brent Stephens will no longer be a part of Valentino's team in 2021.
Will this be 'The Doctors' last rodeo in MotoGP?
Since joining the Premier Class Valentino Rossi has won 7 World Championships, 3 with Honda and 4 with Yamaha. Rossi has raced in the Premier Class for 21 years and this will be his 22nd year in the class. Rossi is not getting any younger and is now 42 and by the time the 2022 season rolls round he will be 43. The next oldest rider in MotoGP is the 31 year old Aprilia rider, Aleix Espargaro. This means there is still over a decade between Rossi and the next oldest rider in MotoGP. The average age of the 2021 MotoGP grid is 26 years old, this puts Valentino 16 years older than the average age of a MotoGP rider going into 2021, age really is not on Valentino's side.
With Rossi's age going up, his results are going down. In 2018 Rossi finished 3rd in the World Championship, in 2019 Rossi finished 7th in the World Championship and in 2020 Rossi finished a career low of 15th with a career high of 5 DNF's in a 14 round MotoGP season! However, two of Rossi's DNF's were mechanical problems and he also missed 2 rounds of the MotoGP season due to contracting the Covid-19 virus.
Without a win in MotoGP since 2017, this may cause Rossi to lose motivation to race as he seems to not be able to win anymore. If Rossi's results take another step down in MotoGP for 2021 we could see the departure of the famous yellow 46 from the MotoGP grid.
Petronas is exactly the move that the 'Old Man' of MotoGP needs
Arguably the greatest rider of all time in terms of statistics and records, but also in terms of a loyal fan base who have supported him from the very beginning. The charismatic Italian, who resembles the personality of Peter Pan, has single handedly carried MotoGP to where it is today. This alone should warrant Rossi a place on the MotoGP grid for as long as he wants due to being a living legend of the sport.
Rossi's move to Petronas is the first time that he has moved team in 8 years, before this move he had become almost part of the furniture in the Factory Yamaha squad. Being demoted down to the satellite squad could be a blessing for Valentino as there will be less pressure on the 42 year old Italian to get high end results, with this pressure off Rossi will have more time to have fun and enjoy his racing in MotoGP once again.
The other side of the Petronas garage will not be a problem for Rossi as it is the VR46 Academy rider, Franco Morbidelli. This man has grown up around Rossi and treats him as a father figure. With Rossi's wealth of Yamaha knowledge and Morbidelli's 2020 Championship form these two could really aid each other in 2021, possibly pushing each other to the next level.
Rossi's Championship position may have plummeted over the last 3 years, but when Rossi is racing fully fit and without mechanical trouble he is still able to deliver decent results for a 42 year old. During the 2020 season there was a five race slot where Rossi was able to deliver significant results of a ninth place, two fifth places, a fourth place and even a third place at the Andalucian Grand Prix. This podium at the Jerez circuit shows that on his day Rossi can still deliver a podium and take the young riders back to school.
My Personal Opinion
I believe that Rossi deserves a slot on the MotoGP grid for as long as he wants due to the fact that he has carried the sport on his back to where it is today. However, the step down from the Factory squad is warranted due to his poor Championship position in 2020. But, when racing in a less pressured environment, with new surroundings and a teammate that he actually likes, who knows Rossi might be able to find a way to prove us all wrong once again.