until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Rossi’s welcome to Dovizioso hints at Yamaha’s MotoGP plan

by Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

While it still isn’t officially confirmed yet, it’s expected that from the San Marino Grand Prix later this month, Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso will become team-mates, as Dovi returns from his nine-month-long sabbatical to join the Petronas Yamaha team in place of Franco Morbidelli, who steps up to the factory squad to replace the now-departed Maverick Vinales.

And in many ways, it comes as something of a surprise that the two veteran Italians have taken so long to finally partner up, even if it is only for a few short months until Rossi retires at the end of the 2021 season.

That’s because they’ve spent much of their careers not quite in sync but seemingly just missing out on the chance to be team-mates at various teams and manufacturers, over the course of an impressive 36 seasons between them in MotoGP.

It was, after all, Dovizioso who replaced Rossi at Ducati in 2013, switching from the satellite Tech3 Yamaha team where he might well have had a shot at factory status for that season were it not for Rossi’s return from the Bologna team.

Valentino Rossi Andrea Dovizioso MotoGP 2013

They also both shared a seat at Repsol Honda, albeit a few years apart, with Rossi departing in 2003 for his Yamaha experiment and Dovi not arriving there until 2009, in his second season as a MotoGP rider.

Mar 31 : How Rossi and Yamaha defied the odds in 2004

The three-time runner-up was theoretically almost Rossi’s team-mate before at Petronas Yamaha, linked with the team for both its inaugural 2019 season and for 2021 already, before electing instead to take a sabbatical that has lasted slightly less than a year.

And while it might come only as a brief phase right at the end of Rossi’s time in the premier class (albeit as Dovizioso attempts to launch something of a renaissance of his own career in 2022 with the satellite Yamaha team), the nine-time world champion has been quick to extend a warm welcome to his compatriot ahead of the official confirmation that Dovi will join him.

“I’m happy to have Dovi,” Rossi said at the British Grand Prix, “because he has a lot of experience, he’s very fast and especially because we have a good relationship. We have fought together since 2008 and I’m very happy that he has come back.

“But also, I think that he can give something to Yamaha to improve the bike, and I’m happy that we will be team-mates.”

Valentino Rossi Petronas Yamaha MotoGP

And while many might have questioned why exactly the 35-year-old Dovizioso is being brought into a team originally set up to help develop young talent for Yamaha’s factory team, Rossi might have hit the nail on the head when he alluded to Dovizioso’s experience and his proven bike development skills.

For the past few seasons, much has been made of Yamaha’s underperforming M1 machine, with rear grip and acceleration issues of particular concern to Rossi and Vinales. Largely stemming back to the switch from Bridgestone to Michelin in 2016, the Iwata manufacturer has never quite come to grips with the new rubber despite periods of relative success.

That continues to be an issue in 2021 even as Fabio Quartararo leads the championship, with some suggesting that the Frenchman’s skills are enough (like Jorge Lorenzo’s before him) to extract the maximum from the bike even with whatever issues the M1 might face.

But, as Honda has learned in the recent past, relying on one exceptionally talented rider to work around your issues is no substitute for having a bike that is easy for most riders to go fast on – and it’s clear that Yamaha wants to address this flaw.

Starting with the hiring of Jorge Lorenzo on an eye-wateringly large salary for a test rider in 2020, Yamaha showed that it was finally getting serious about development, and even though the experiment with its former three-time world champion didn’t work out, bringing Cal Crutchlow back into the fold for 2021 has continued the trend of securing top level talent to develop the bike.

 Cal Crutchlow Yamaha MotoGP

And with rookie Darryn Binder looking set to make the jump from Moto3 directly to MotoGP for 2022 on the other side of the Petronas Yamaha garage, it’s fair to say that he won’t be of much help to the factory, at least initially, in helping them build a better bike.

But with a rider of Dovi’s experience on board, and with the skills he showed in doing what even Rossi couldn’t and turning Ducati’s Desmosedici into a race winner (even if it took him three seasons), he’s a valuable asset to Yamaha and its future plans.

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