Valentino Rossi has been officially presented as a Petronas Yamaha rider, appearing with team-mate and reigning MotoGP title runner-up Franco Morbidelli at the team's online launch.

The only rider on the older A-Spec Yamaha, Morbidelli enjoyed a breakthrough 2020 season with his first MotoGP podiums, pole positions and race wins (three) on the way to second overall behind Suzuki's Joan Mir.

With Morbidelli's former team-mate Fabio Quartararo taking over Rossi's place at the Factory Yamaha team for 2021, the nine-time world champion has effectively swapped places with the Frenchman.

It's the first time since returning to Yamaha from Ducati in 2013 that Rossi has changed teams and he hasn't been a satellite rider since 2001.

"It's a new experience and I cannot wait!" said Rossi. "I like the new livery of the bike, my helmet and leathers. I want to be competitive, fight for the podium, fight to win races and also fight for a good position in the World Championship standings.

"We are all very focused on our targets to make the best we can. I think that with Franco we are a very interesting couple of riders as we know each other really well. The whole team has a lot of motivation and I will give my maximum to achieve together the best possible results. We are ready to start."

Rossi took his 199th MotoGP podium at Jerez last season and came within a lap of his 200th at Misano, before a nightmare run of accidents and a Covid diagnosis (which forced him out of two events) dropped him to 15th in the world championship.

Coming into the 2020 season a satellite Yamaha team had never won a MotoGP race, but the Sepang squad (in only its second season) went on to take six victories with Morbidelli and Quartararo, more than any other team over the 14 rounds.

The Frenchman also led for much of the world championship, before the performance of the Factory-Spec bike crumbled in the closing rounds, with not a single podium for Quartararo, Maverick Vinales or Rossi in the last six races.

Morbidelli and the A-Spec bike took two wins and three podiums during those same six events, as the former Moto2 champion swept up the standings to finish just 13 points from Mir.

While Rossi will continue to race the Factory-Spec bike at Petronas this year, the same as Quartararo and Vinales with have at Monster Yamaha, Morbidelli will remain on the A-Spec machine.

Only time will tell if Yamaha has solved last year's inconsistency with the Factory-Spec bike, or if Morbidelli will again be better off on the more proven A-Spec.

"The 2021 YZR-M1 livery is similar to the last two years, but still changed; It’s the same but different so I like it," Morbidelli said. "What is different from the last years is my team-mate; I expect and hope it will be a great season for Vale and me. We have had a strong relationship for many years and we will learn a lot from each other.

"My personal target for 2021 is to get better; improve myself as a person, rider and athlete. I know it’s hard and difficult because last year we were quite fast and we made great races and achieved great results. Nevertheless, we will have to try to improve compared with 2020, so that’s my aim, try to be better year after year."

"We are looking forward to the season ahead, eager to give Franco and Valentino the best opportunity," said team principal Razlan Razali. "For Franco, it’s a fabulous opportunity to achieve even better things than his stellar season in 2020 and for Valentino we’re hoping a new team will give him the best opportunities to harness his talent and expertise."

Rossi will make his Petronas Yamaha track debut during the start of Official testing in Qatar on March 6, followed by a race debut at the same Losail circuit on March 28.

 

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