2 years ago

RideFast May 2020

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PADDOCK NEWS Brought to you by PETRONAS WAITING ‘TO UNDERSTAND WHAT ROSSI WANTS’ Razlan Razali says Petronas Yamaha keeping a place ‘open’ for Valentino Rossi in 2021 but ‘we need to understand what he wants’. NAUGHTY JACK GOT FINED Jack Miller has given an insight into the fractious relationship he held with Honda during the early stages of his MotoGP career by revealing his famous ‘shoey’ celebration on the podium at Assen was an intentional ‘dig’ at the company after a fine. Miller made the leap from Moto3 to MotoGP in 2015 with a ride in the Open sub-category on a Honda-powered FTR chassis before spending two seasons with the Marc VDS outfit in 2016 and 2017. Though he suffered a troubled time during those three years managing only a handful of top ten finishes, he peaked with a shock victory in treacherous conditions at Assen in 2016. He subsequently toasted his success with the fabled ‘shoey’ celebration on the podium, an Australian custom of drinking an alcohol beverage out of a shoe. It became something of a legend with Australian F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo mirroring him when he clinched his first victory, while other drivers have also copied him in turn over time. However, Miller has now revealed the celebration was aimed as a ‘dig’ against Honda after he was fined for doing one at a party, a direct consequence of the company being unhappy with his ‘misbehaving’ lifestyle while he was racing for them. “[The shoey] was a slight dig, because I was having trouble in my first year in MotoGP with misbehaving and whatnot,” he told BT Sport. “I got a fine off Honda one night doing a shoey at one of the after parties. When I won, [I thought] ‘well, they can’t give me a fine for this!’.” Miller also revealed he didn’t want to restart the race he’d go on to win due to the poor weather conditions. He was running seventh when the red flag was thrown, a result he would have been happy with at the time. “When we got that rain in the centre part of the race, there was so much of it. I’ve never seen rain like it apart from maybe up here in tropical North Queensland where we get the proper rainforest rain. “But down the back straight at Assen, we probably had two inches of standing water on the track. Being on a GP bike with a heap of power, she was just spinning, you couldn’t open the gas. So that was pretty dodgy. “Honestly, I was stoked with the result when they threw the red flag. I was seventh or whatever and was like ‘yeah, I’ll take that, I’m happy as Larry’. Then they told me I had to go back out again, I was like ‘I don’t want to go back out again, I’m stoked with seventh, I’ll keep it’.” His win at Assen remains his only victory in MotoGP to date, though Miller enjoyed his best season overall in 2019 with five podiums on the satellite Pramac Ducati. He is one of the strong candidates to move up to the factory Ducati team in 2020. When the factory Yamaha team decided they couldn’t wait for Valentino Rossi to decide his MotoGP future and would sign Fabio Quartararo instead, they pledged to give the Italian a satellite seat should he race on in 2021. But that promise meant Yamaha passed the uncertainty over Rossi’s future onto the Petronas team, which cannot now complete its 2021 rider line-up until The Doctor makes his decision. It would have been a bigger problem had the season started on time, since many of the top riders might have signed before Rossi’s rough deadline of June. Rossi wanted to use the opening 6-7 races to judge his competitiveness. But had the nine-time world champion then elected to retire, Petronas could have faced a scramble to fill the seat Yamaha had been ‘reserving’ for him. Instead, the coronavirus-delay means waiting for Rossi probably won’t be much of an issue for Petronas, with most rider contract talks currently on hold. It also looks all-but-certain that the 41-year-old will now choose to continue in 2021, being naturally unwilling to end his illustrious career with a short ten-race season, at best. And potentially no 2020 season at all. But much is still to be discussed about Rossi’s potential Petronas deal. Indeed, Sepang team principal Razlan Razali said he is yet to have any direct contact with the Italian or his VR46 management. “I keep checking my phone every day and so far I haven’t seen anything! I’m hoping that at least Valentino will send a WhatsApp or something!” joked Razali, during an interview he did with “So far nothing, so we are keeping it open for him. “If it happens, it’s something that we will definitely look at. We will not shut it and ignore it. He is a nine-time world champion and carries a lot of weight in terms of marketing and exposure. “But we really need to understand the deal. What are the dos and don’ts? We need to understand what he wants.” What might the dos and don’ts be? It seems both Yamaha and Petronas must approve the satellite team’s rider line-up. Assuming both agree that Rossi at Petronas is the right move, there would still be other issues to resolve. It’s known that Rossi would be on a ‘Factory contract’ if he continues, which presumably means Yamaha will continue to pay his wages and machine lease costs. But will Rossi be on a simple one-year deal, or will there be options in place (on either rider or factory side) to stay for 2022? Will Rossi again want to bring his loyal team of mechanics (some of whom have been at his side since joining the premier-class in 2000) and newfor-2020 crew chief David Munoz over to Petronas? If so, Quartararo might be more than happy to take his present crew with him to the factory squad. But if Rossi only stays for one season and then retires, would his mechanics do the same, leaving a hole at the Sepang team? As an Independent team funded by title sponsor Petronas, Sepang needs its riders to perform the necessary PR duties. How many such activities would Rossi agree to? One thing that is clear is the machinery spec. If Rossi races in 2021 Yamaha has guaranteed ‘a Factoryspec YZR-M1 bike and full Yamaha engineering support’. At present, Quartararo has a factoryspec M1 at Petronas with team-mate Franco Morbidelli on an A-spec bike. Morbidelli, a member of the VR46 Academy, has a strong chance to remain for 2021 if he can convert his pre-season form into race results. 40 RIDEFAST MAGAZINE MAY 2020 RIDEFAST MAGAZINE MAY 2020 41