Petronas SRT Yamaha looks set to need an all-new rider line-up for the 2022 MotoGP season, a task team principal Razlan Razali insists there is no rush over.
The team is likely to lose both Valentino Rossi and Franco Morbidelli, as one retires and the other looks set to replace Maverick Vinales in the factory team.
All but confirming the news that Rossi will step down at the end of the season by opening up about the search for his replacement in an interview released by the team during MotoGP’s summer break, Razali believes time is on his side.
But the most significant thing Razali revealed, in light of the latest rumours, is the age profile of who he’s looking for.
“We have been receiving interest from a lot of riders,” said the former boss of the Sepang International Circuit, “and even riders that are currently outside the MotoGP championship who want to join our team.
“We believe that we have time and are in a position where we have the luxury to choose; everybody knows of the package that Yamaha can offer and what a young rider can potentially do as part of our team.
“We have the structure and the package to offer young riders the opportunity to achieve their dreams.
“We have seen it with both Franco Morbidelli and Fabio Quartararo, so with all this interest we will take our time to evaluate every rider who we would like.
“There won’t be any potential line-up announcement until after the next couple of races.”
One of those riders “currently outside the MotoGP championship” is believed to be six-time World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea, with rumours linking him to talks with the Malaysian team emanating from the Donington Park paddock during last week’s race there.
However, at 34 years old and with only two races’ worth of grand prix experience from when he deputised for Casey Stoner at Repsol Honda in 2012, it’s hard to see how the Northern Irishman fits with the team’s stated goals of offering opportunities to young riders.
Instead, it’s believed that if anyone from outside the MotoGP paddock is going to get the nod, it’ll still be American Garrett Gerloff, who deputised for the injured Morbidelli on the team’s M1 at the last round of the championship at Assen.
That’s if Petronas does elect to look outside the MotoGP paddock, though.
Current Moto2 rider Jake Dixon is still believed to be its first choice to take one of the 2022 seats – and if the latest gossip is to be believed, he could be one part of an all-British team, with fellow Moto2 rider Sam Lowes believed to also be under consideration.
Lowes brings previous MotoGP experience due to his unhappy season with the Aprilia team, and is close to team manager Wilco Zeelenberg thanks to their time together in the World Supersport championship, potentially opening up a way for the middleweight series frontrunner to return to the premier class.
However, for now the search for a replacement, at least publicly, remains on the back burner while the team awaits final confirmation about Rossi’s future and Morbidelli’s move to the factory team.
Rossi is contracted not to Petronas but directly to Yamaha. The future of the nine-time world champion is expected to be announced before the season resumes following its five-week hiatus in early August – and Razali says nothing will be confirmed before then.
“It’s important to remember that we’re still waiting to hear Valentino and Yamaha’s decision about next year,” he stressed.
“Anyway, and as is normal in this period of the year, the latest news regarding the MotoGP riders’ market has certainly opened up all possibilities!
“It’s an ongoing discussion between Yamaha, ourselves and our current MotoGP riders, and we’re not in a rush to announce anything.”