(Reuters) – Italian great Valentino Rossi will race for the Petronas Yamaha MotoGP team next season after signing a one-year contract renewal, Yamaha said on Saturday.
Yamaha said the 41-year-old nine-time world champion would have the Japanese manufacturer’s full factory support at the satellite team.
“I thought a lot before taking this decision, because the challenge is getting hotter and hotter,” said Rossi in a statement ahead of the Catalan Grand Prix at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.
“To be at the top in MotoGP you have to work a lot and hard, to train every day and lead an ‘athlete’s life’, but I still like it and I still want to ride.”
Rossi will swap seats with French rider Fabio Quartararo, who is taking his place at the factory Yamaha team alongside Spaniard Maverick Vinales. That deal was announced in January.
The Italian had been expected to sign up for another year after this month dismissing speculation that he might retire at the end of the season.
Rossi, who has seven titles in the top class, is the only rider to have competed in more than 400 grands prix.
He also boasts the longest winning career, spanning more than 20 years between victories, with 89 wins in the top category.
“We are delighted that Valentino will be staying in MotoGP for another year, and we are sure the fans of the sport feel the same way,” said Yamaha Motor Racing managing director Lin Jarvis.
“This current and final season with the Factory Yamaha Team is his 25th in the motorcycle grand prix racing world championship and his 15th year with Yamaha.
“Early on we assured Valentino that, should he stay in MotoGP for 2021, Yamaha would continue to give him full support and a Factory YZR-M1. In the end, this is exactly what he decided to do.”
Jarvis added that it would not have been appropriate for a rider such as Rossi to call it a day at the end of such a COVID-19 ravaged season.
Rossi said Petronas Yamaha had shown themselves to be a top team and were serious and well organised. He will team up there with Italian Franco Morbidelli.
“It’ll be nice to have Franco as my team mate, as he’s an Academy rider, it‘s going to be cool. I think we can work together to make good things happen,” said Rossi.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Jason Neely and Clare Fallon)