Andrea Dovizioso could make an incredible cameo in the MotoGP world championship with the Petronas Yamaha before the end of the 2021 season, ahead of a full-time season return to racing in 2022 with the squad.
According to The Race’s sources in the MotoGP paddock, the Italian is believed to be in talks with the satellite Yamaha team that could lead to the end of his premier-class sabbatical.
The outfit’s 2022 plans have been thrown into turmoil recently with the news that not only was title sponsor Petronas withdrawing but also that the squad was for sale, with team principal Razlan Razali and team director Johan Stigefelt launching a management takeover for next year.
Shuttering its successful Moto2 and Moto3 squads in the process as budgets are cut, the operation will instead partner up with Italian energy supplier WithU as its new title sponsor.
Already the team’s named partner in its MotoE team (a squad that is already run directly by former grand prix racer Stigefelt rather than with his Malaysian partners), WithU is widely believed to be preparing to take over from Petronas for next year.
And with a new Italian sponsor has come pressure to have an Italian rider in the team’s line-up, opening the door for Dovizioso to join South African Darryn Binder, whose promotion directly from Moto3 to MotoGP has still to be officially announced but should be confirmed in the coming days.
With the step up of the 23-year-old directly from lightweight bikes to the premier class, it’s also believed that the team wants to bring onboard a more experienced racer to act as a mentor-esque figure for Binder, who has something of a wild reputation stemming from his aggressive riding.
WithU’s investment in the team also means that there is an opportunity to offer Dovizioso a more competitive seven-figure salary rather than the substantially smaller amounts that the team is believed to have offered other potential riders like World Superbike duo Toprak Razgatlıoğlu and Garrett Gerloff, both of whom rejected the chance to join the squad earlier this year.
Dovizioso took a sabbatical from racing at the end of the 2020 season after splitting with Ducati, announcing his intentions to return to the grid should he find a fitting opportunity – a chance that looked all but lost to him until the chaos surrounding Maverick Vinales’ departure from the factory team opened a door.
Vinales, who today was announced as having left Yamaha effective immediately, is now bound for Aprilia, a squad that had originally attempted to add Dovizioso to its race line-up – even going as far as signing him as its 2021 test rider in a deal that will under its current guise expire on September 1.
The Spaniard’s immediate departure could significantly advance Dovizioso’s return, though, potentially meaning that he could join the team as soon as the currently-injured Franco Morbidelli is fit enough to return to racing next month.
Morbidelli is slated to depart the Petronas Yamaha team next season for the factory Monster Energy-backed squad to replace Vinales – but the move could go ahead as soon as his home race at Misano in September, as Yamaha attempts to get a headstart on its plans for next year by making Morbidelli’s promotion effective as soon as his rehabilitation from extensive knee surgery is completed.
Should that happen, Dovizoso – who campaigned a satellite Yamaha in MotoGP back in 2012 with Tech3 (pictured below) – is believed to be ready to ride for the Petronas team right away, which would mean joining Valentino Rossi for the remaining races of the 2021 season in preparation for next year.
Dovizioso has already hinted this year at being keen to make a return to racing as early as possible under the right circumstances – but has been adamant that it would only happen should it be part of a path that leads him back to full-time race action for the following year.
Morbidelli was replaced for the previous two races by Yamaha test rider Cal Crutchlow, who will step up to the factory team for next weekend’s British Grand Prix to take Vinales’ space, as fellow Brit Jake Dixon in turn gets a promotion from Moto2 to MotoGP for his home race.