Duncan Bishop

Rossi’s Yamaha return an astute move for everyone

Duncan Bishop

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He's back. Hello Mr. Rossi, we've been expecting you. Expecting you so much, in fact, that both Ducati and Yamaha could no longer keep the news under wraps and brought forward their carefully coordinated double announcement.

Originally scheduled to be confirmed on August 15th (two years to the day since the 2010 press release detailing his switch to Ducati), the deal to bring MotoGP's biggest ever star back to Iwata from Borgo Panigale was eventually made public via a coordinated press release at the end of last week. Now we can truly plan for a second Rossi-Yamaha era.

The Doctor's next move had kept everyone guessing right from the moment that the season started and little improvement had been made to his synergy with the Desmosedici. As the criticism got harsher towards Ducati and spaces were freed up, his Ducati departure became much more probable. Some said Yamaha, some said Honda. Fewer said Suzuki. The more romantic - and optimistic - erred towards Rossi staying with Ducati until he had achieved his goal.

Fairytale ending and stubbornness aside, Rossi had neither reason - nor obligation - to stick around. Just as any rider at the end of his contract is dispensable, likewise for a factory unable to produce a suitable machine for one of the hottest free agents for 2013.
For all the modifications, changes in strategy and concessions, Rossi holds just two podiums for Ducati in the past season and a half. Rare as dodo eggs are the examples of a rider suddenly winning races with a bike after such struggles, and I don't think it will happen before the end of 2012.

The second place at Le Mans was the turning point and the race at which the calls for a competitive ride gathered the most momentum. A podium return showed that the MotoGP legend could still come up with the goods and definitively painted Ducati as the weak link in the partnership. And it is they who will end up losing the most in the aftermath of the Rossi experiment.

The only way for Ducati to redeem themselves in what remains of their working relationship with Rossi is to get a win with him before the end of 2012. Even then, the rider would likely get the credit. Their situation now is a question of balancing their current riders' demands for wholesale changes to the GP12 and working for 2013.

More responsibility is going to rest on Nicky Hayden because, whilst he has passed his audition for a contract renewal, Ducati have to convince the sponsors to stay onboard with him as their lead rider. Some have suggested that Phillip Morris will jump ship with Rossi, which seems unlikely but would devastate the manufacturer's project, but certainly the entities with close ties to the Italian will be easily convinced to bankroll his Yamaha return - unless Ducati can sway them with results.

That is why Yamaha are the big winners from the deal. I imagine Rossi will be paid more than the departing Ben Spies, but he will bring in some of the outside investment that has been missing over the past two years - in which even when reigning champions, Yamaha had no title sponsor for their factory team.

The offer presented to him was inferior to his previous Yamaha contract, Jorge Lorenzo can be placated by his acknowledged role as number one rider and they retain a scenario of two racewinners in the team.

Is the title possible next year? Perhaps. Podiums? Definitely, if this season's variety (or lack of) is anything to go by. Whilst Lorenzo and Pedrosa have got better and Rossi has got older, you'd have to believe that he can still pull out some race wins with the M1, to which he penned MotoGP's most famous and bizarre breakup letter at the end of 2010.

And when he is on the top step of the rostrum, he will become the rider with the longest winning career in MotoGP history, the Ducati days will immediately become insignificant and his legacy will continue, untarnished. Then The Doctor will truly be back.

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