At 42 years, Rossi's desire to compete stronger than ever

Lifelong friendships, retirement plans and Crutchlow’s importance to Yamaha were all on the agenda as the Italian sat down with the media

Moving teams can bring a unique set of challenges to any rider. Doing it at 42 years of age even more so, however, that hasn't quenched Valentino Rossi's thirst for racing with 'The Doctor' confident the move to Petronas Yamaha SRT is the right one given their track record in the premier class.

The nine-time World Champion is determined to continue battling for honours on the track with the satellite side as he steps away from a factory team for the first time since 2002. Despite this, he remains confident he can deal with the change of scenery without too many complications and is even looking forward to the fact can focus his attentions on race performances rather than the development of YZR-M1.

"I was a factory rider for a long time. 19 seasons in MotoGP™. In my first two seasons in 500 cc, I was in a similar situation. It’s true it was 20 years ago, and the 500 class was a different world, but at the time I felt very comfortable. From what I understand I have fewer people working on the bike but also in the satellite team the way to work is different. You can think more about race performance rather than the development of the bike."

"I am happy about the technical situation I have full support from Yamaha. This team has shown that they can win races and bring their rider to the top so I expect a very high level and I cannot wait to start the season."

"I don’t race to just pass the time. This is an important season as the last two seasons have been less than I expected in terms of results. The results are key. I want to be competitive, to be stronger, and fight for podiums and wins."

Rossi’s new Petronas SRT teammate and former VR46 Academy graduate Franco Morbidelli recently stated that the friendship between the pair “was more important than MotoGP™,” and that is a sentiment which he echoed, but signalled there may be some rocky waters down the line as the competition will test their relationship off-track.  

"I agree with Franco and for sure the real friendship between people is important. It is also important for me in my life. It is because I spend my time and power to have a good friend. If you have a real friendship, you have to work for it, which is not easy. Franco and I are friends for a long time. We worked together to bring him to MotoGP™."

"It will be hard to manage as the teammate is your first rival, so to fight and still be friends we will need to have a real friendship. It won’t be easy, but I think we can do it. I hope we can both be competitive to win races."

Cal Crutchlow, LCR Honda Castrol, Grande Prémio MEO de Portugal

Another new face who will be seen riding the YZR-M1 in 2021 is the recently retired Cal Crutchlow, who has signed on as a test rider for Yamaha. It’s news that has been welcomed by both teams in the Iwate factory’s garages, and Rossi in particular feels his experience can prove invaluable.

"We expect strong support from Cal, because he is a MotoGP™ rider. He only stopped last year so he’s in good shape. He rode with Honda for a long time and can give Yamaha some advice and I want to speak with him after his first day with the M1."

"Cal can make the difference and can help Yamaha a lot. It depends on motivation, to be a test rider is not easy. You have to find the motivation to push to the limit to understand the bike. It won’t be easy for Cal and I hope he arrives with good motivation because this can make the difference."

Entering into his 26th season on the Grand Prix circuit, Rossi’s storied career is closer to the end than ever, and The Doctor himself addressed any potential retirement plans, stating that it is likely he will make a decision during the summer break with much of it weighing heavily on his on-track performances over the next few months.

"It is not an easy decision. I will decide during the summer break, in the middle of the season. My decision will be based on results. If I am strong can fight for podiums and victories, I will continue another year."

"This is my idea. I haven’t spoken with the team, maybe they’ll say I don’t have a decision to make! My life will change but I’m not worried. I have had a long career and I’m happy. When you stop after 26 years of this life, it can change, but I want to continue with racing."

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