MotoGP Mailbag: Is Rossi's team about to join the grid?

Our MotoGP editor Oriol Puigdemont is asked what the split between Tech 3 and Yamaha could mean for Valentino Rossi's team in the latest edition of Motorsport.com's MotoGP Mailbag.

MotoGP Mailbag: Is Rossi's team about to join the grid?
Francesco Bagnaia, Sky Racing Team VR46
Andrea Iannone, Team Suzuki MotoGP
Maverick Viñales, Yamaha Factory Racing
Alex Rins, Team Suzuki MotoGP
Maverick Viñales, Yamaha Factory Racing
Maverick Viñales, Yamaha Factory Racing
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team
Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing
Johann Zarco, Monster Yamaha Tech 3
Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing
Bike of Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing

@MonteverdiOnyx: After the Buriram test, do you see Suzuki threatening a struggling Yamaha at the start of the season?

From what we’ve season so far, 100 percent. We have to wait to see if Yamaha can deal with its issues, but a short-term fix looks unlikely. On the other hand, the 2018 Suzuki has looked very impressive so far.

Alex Rins was finally able to train properly over the winter, and with a year of experience under his belt he seems more mature and focussed. Suzuki expects him to be pushing and challenging teammate Andrea Iannone.

As for Yamaha, it only has one more chance in this week’s Qatar test to sort out its problems before the season starts. And neither Valentino Rossi nor Maverick Vinales seemed optimistic about addressing the M1’s problems in low-grip conditions before then.

Duell Sinclair (via email): Last year I came close to winning a bet that Vinales would win the first three races of the season. Do you think he’ll be even more competitive this year?

Judging by pre-season test form so far, I wouldn’t be betting any more money on Vinales winning races! He seemed very confused in Thailand, and the chances of Yamaha fixing its problems in two weeks are small if they haven’t solved them in three months.

The 2018 M1 is just as sensitive to changing conditions as its troublesome predecessor, which means Rossi and Vinales need to think about adapting their riding style – like Johann Zarco – as much as worrying about how to fix the bike.

CR (via email): Do you think Marc Marquez will stay at Honda until he matches Valentino Rossi’s seven titles in the premier class?

Marquez is still only 25 years old, and still has a long career ahead of him in MotoGP. It seems inevitable, however, at some point he will have to leave Honda in order to keep his motivation at the same level.

A new contract keeps him at Honda until the end of 2020, but after that you couldn’t rule out him joining a rival manufacturer. After all, he will want to show that, like Rossi or Casey Stoner, he can win titles with multiple manufacturers.

@nugiepratomo: Would Yamaha be at a disadvantage if it has no satellite team in 2019, following the news of its split with Tech 3?

Although Yamaha doesn’t have a satellite deal in place for 2019 right now, both the Angel Nieto teams and Avintia are very interested in taking over Tech 3’s deal, so don’t expect there to be only two M1s on the grid next season.

That said, Yamaha’s response to the rise of Zarco has been counterproductive. It still refuses to provide its satellites with up-to-date bikes, which is a disadvantage compared to Honda and Ducati when times are tough – as they are now.

@bertola_twit: Do you think the Yamaha-Tech 3 split is linked to a VR46 entry into MotoGP next year?

I don’t think the split is directly linked to VR46. The catalyst was that Tech 3 was made a more attractive offer by KTM.

Until now, Rossi has been adamant he doesn’t want to go into team management, at least in public, but the Italian is likely to be biding his time for the right moment for VR46 to make the step up to the premier class.

What’s more, Rossi would be the ideal team boss given the wealth of his experience both on and off the track, and the switch seems inevitable sooner or later. It’s impossible to see the 39-year-old staying away from the paddock that has been his life for over 20 years.

If you want a question answered by Oriol for the next edition, send a tweet using the hashtag #MotoGPMailbag or drop us an email at motogpmailbag@motorsport.com.

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