Clearly Valentino Rossi is not lacking in motivation, not even after 25 seasons in the world championship. His first words in Petronas colours confirm this, as he prepares for the first pre-season tests in Qatar.

“I’m not short on motivation - confirms Vale – starting with the fact I want to win and battle against the Academy guys. I don’t feel I have to demonstrate anything to Yamaha though. The title? It’s not an obsession, but like all riders I start out with the idea of being able to win, as we wait to understand various factors. In general, I want to demonstrate that you can still be fast when you grow up”.

Rossi categorically refuses to be labelled as a rider with no goals, believing he still has a lot to offer MotoGP and his fans.

“I don’t race to pass the time, and this season is definitely important for me, seeing as I haven’t achieved what I hoped to over the last two seasons. The results will be fundamental again this time and I want to fight for the podium and the win, trying to be competitive throughout the season. It’s only normal that some view my move to a satellite team as a positive, while others don’t, but I still feel I have a lot to give”.

Rossi: “With team Petronas, I can focus more on results than on development”

Valentino now returns to a satellite team for the first time in twenty years, but this doesn’t appear to be a problem. In fact, #46 is focusing solely on the positives.

“I’ve been a factory rider for many years, but my first two seasons in 500 were with a satellite team, so a similar situation to now. From what I’ve understood, I’ll have less people around the bike, but we can focus more on performance and less on development, which can definitely help. I’m pleased with my technical situation, also because team Petronas has already shown it can win”.

From a technical standpoint, Rossi will have a 2020 M1 like the other factory riders while Morbidelli will ride a 2019 M1. A factor that may slow the combined work of the Petronas team, although the squad also hopes to be able to count on the work of new test rider Crutchlow.

“Already last year, it was decided that me, Vinales and Quartararo would have the 2020 M1, while Franco would have the 2019 version, so I won’t test the other bike to have a comparison. It probably won’t be easy to collaborate with two different bikes in the garage, but we’ll try. Cal? We all expect him to be of real support, both because he only stopped riding last year and because he rode the Honda for many years. I’ll definitely speak with him after his first exit with the M1, I hope he has the right motivation because it’s not easy to push to the max when you don’t have the races to think about”.

The upcoming season will be an important one for Rossi, not only due to his move to team Petronas, but also due to the presence of three of his Academy pupils in the reigning class, namely Morbidelli, Bagnaia and half-brother Marini, a category rookie.

“Friendship is important to me, something to be cultivated over time. Franco and I have been friends for a long time, we worked to bring him to MotoGP, and now we’re in a great but unexpected situation. Your team-mate is always your first rival, but I know our friendship will survive the on-track battles. When I started the Academy, I never thought I’d end up racing against some of the guys, battling them will be special. I expect them all to be fast, we’re a good group”.

“This summer I’ll decide whether to continue or not”

It’s impossible not to talk about his next chapter, and whether or not we’ll see him on track again next season.

“I’ll decide whether to continue or not over the summer break, and it will all depend on my results. If I’m fast and able to fight at the front I might decide to continue, otherwise no. It won’t be an easy decision of course, maybe Yamaha will decide for me (he laughs)”.

It’s no secret that Rossi dreams of a career as a racing driver, and the chance to compete for Ferrari in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2023 might help him to come to a decision.

“When I stop with MotoGP, I’d like to race cars and do some endurance events like the Le Mans 24 Hours. Racing for Ferrari would be a dream, but I need to understand my level. I’m quick in a car, but maybe not quick enough; it would be great to try anyway”.

“Gresini was a reference point for us all, Marquez will come back as strong as before”

As he waits to see how his future will pan out, Valentino reflects on the present, and also on the return of Marc Marquez.

“We need to wait and see when he can return, but once he does I think he’ll be the same as before. So I’d say he can fight for the title if he doesn’t miss too many races. I think there are at least ten title contenders, with many fast bikes and riders. Oliveira can be a serious candidate for example, considering he was so fast last year and that he’s now on a factory team”.

His final words are for Fausto Gresini, a man Rossi remembers fondly.

“What has happened to Fausto is very sad for everyone, and it’s also a shock considering he was only 60 and in great shape. I knew Fausto for many years, since he was a rider in fact, as I used to follow my dad. Then as Team Manager he was my rival in both 250 and MotoGP, as well as a point of reference for all the Italians in the paddock. The Academy is trying to resemble his team, as both structures develop young riders from the junior classes, and so we often used to talk about this. His death marks a real loss for us all”.

Translated by Heather Watson

MotoGP: Will Franco Morbidelli ‘suffer' from Valentino Rossi's arrival?