Much of the talk about Valentino Rossi and his injuries have centered on the Italian’s leg, which was broken with a compound fracture at Mugello earlier this year. Despite causing Rossi to miss several races, the Italian’s biggest physical concern hasn’t been his leg, but instead his shoulder, which he injured in April while motocross training. The shoulder has been a lingering issue for Rossi ever since his return at Brno, which culminated this weekend with the Fiat-Yamaha team actually having to setup the M1 at Aragon to work around the injury.

With a lackluster performance this weekend, not to mention a disappointing return to GP racing in general, Rossi announced after Sunday’s race that he was considering having his shoulder operated on after the three fly-away races (Motegi, Sepang, and Phillip Island), which would effectively mean that the nine-time World Champion would miss MotoGP’s last two stops at Estoril and Valencia. MotoMatters has once again done a superb job of transcribing Rossi’s interaction with the media on the subject, which adds some context to this development (read the transcript here)

This announcement is a big bombshell for the Yamaha camp, which could see its star rider, if we can still say that, again vacating from the team to heal his injuries. However again reading between the lines of the Italian, Rossi’s revelation this weekend has about as much to do with an injured shoulder as it does with putting pressure on Yamaha to release him from his contract in time to test the Ducati Desmosedici GP11 at Valencia.

Come September in MotoGP, few riders are riding at 100%, and it’s not uncommon to see the walking wounded take to the starting grid on any given Sunday. Rossi’s injuries don’t separate him from the norm in MotoGP, although they certainly are holding him back from his normal routine of seriously contending for the top podium step on race day. Perhaps the most interesting thing to come from Rossi’s announcement is not the fact that he wants to have his shoulder operated on, but that he is considering doing it before the last two races of the season, which also happen to take place in one of MotoGP’s largest backyards.

Make no mistake that Rossi is a clever man, a clever man with a problem. Yamaha has been dangling its decision about letting Rossi test with Ducati at Valencia in front of the Italian, like a carrot to a horse, ever since his announcement that he was jumping ship for the 2011 & 2012 seasons. While no one can fault Rossi for his accident at Mugello, Yamaha has certainly been short-changed on its star power from the Italian. What everyone is thinking, but no one is saying, is that Yamaha is keeping Rossi’s contract obligations in its back pocket in order to ensure its ability to keep Rossi under control the rest of the season.

Responding at Indianapolis that he thought Yamaha needed to “think some more” about its decision to release the Italian for testing at Valencia, it seems Rossi has done some thinking himself. The peculiar thing about Rossi’s announcement is that it really isn’t an announcement at all. Instead of saying he would be missing the certain races due to an ongoing injury, he in fact has only said that he’s going to consider the possibility of missing Estoril and Valencia over the course of the next month. Putting the ball squarely in Yamaha’s court, Rossi is telling the Japanese company that its decision to hold the Italian until the rest of the year, could come with immediate consequences, and it has the next three races to reconsider its position.

Those consequences could mean leaving Yamaha to scramble once again for a replacement rider for the last two races of the MotoGP season, and of course put a blow financially on the company, as it would once again be letting down its sponsors who pay dearly to be on Rossi’s bike. The move would also be devastating to Dorna Sports, the media rights holder to MotoGP. As we already saw from Rossi’s absence earlier in the season, interest in MotoGP just isn’t the same when the Italian is missing. Not wishing to see its star rider absent while stopping in two of its largest markets, you can expect Carmelo Ezpeleta has more than a vested interest in seeing Rossi on a race bike every race Sunday until the GP season concludes, not to mention the Spanish media mogul wouldn’t mind cashing in this fiscal year on some of the Ducati/Rossi fortune that’s sure to come if the Valencia Ducati test comes through.

No one could accuse Rossi of holding back on race day, after all top-level athletes are competitors by their very definition, but it wouldn’t be beyond Rossi to be considering his long-term position. If Rossi “really doesn’t understand his relationship” with Yamaha, as he’s put it, then he likely has his future health and prospects with Ducati in mind.  Those interests are of course clearly served by Rossi attending to his personal needs, even if that means doing it on Yamaha’s time.

With Jeremy Burgess missing a deadline imposed by Yamaha to make a decision whether or not he’s staying or going next year, it is at least worth pausing a moment to consider how much of that issue is a part of Rossi exerting some leverage on Yamaha. With Ben Spies likely to enter the factory Yamaha garage with his pit box entourage, the issue is not necessarily critical for Yamaha, although they would like to retain the maestro Burgess, but it does complicate the factory’s ability to sure up its future team roster.

Couple this with a rider who has a legitimate medical problem, along with sponsors and promoters who have a large vested financial interest in this team/rider tiff, throw in one of the worst financial periods for the sport and industry, and you have a recipe for a very interesting and cleverly put together bargaining position by the nine-time World Champion. Rossi has made his message clear to Yamaha, and with the next stop of the MotoGP Championship in the factory’s backyard of Motegi, you can be sure that the timing is more than apropos for the facilitation of future discussions.

  • Jake

    I think Yamaha should be applauded for not letting Rossi boss them around and not kissing Rossi’ but like everyone else (press especially included) does. Everyone acts like Yamaha treated Rossi wrong when the only thing they’ve done is make sure that their future was secure after Rossi. They continued to show Rossi respect appreciation , up until Rossi started making unreasonable demands (namely who his teammate is).

    The press were relentless with Stoner missing races last year, yet not one journo has called Rossi out on the BS. HE IS UNDER CONTRACT FOR YAMAHA and as such do the job that he is paid to do. If this whole testing at the end of the year thing is such a big deal, why is it that none of these guys change the dates on the contracts before they sign? I mean all the crap Rossi has pulled you mean to tell me couldn’t have had the date the contract end sync up with the end of the season?

    I use to be a BIG Rossi fan, but his ego and attitude over the past few years has made me quickly tire of him. I’m sick of his crybaby tatrums because they are not worthy of his past reputation. You journos won’t speak up because you are afraid of Rossi. I am not and glad Yamaha is standing their ground

  • Rob

    I think it’s hilarious that Rossi is able to play mind games of this caliber even off the track with his own employer. He is quite the clever man.

  • Dmoney

    Great move by Rossi. Lets face it, the man is bigger than MotoGP, and as such he can do things other riders cannot. He is merely using his star power and leverage to his advantage, same as Yamaha are trying to do to him. It is certainly not unheard of to let the rider test for his next team before the season ends, didn’t Ducati already give the go ahead for Stoner to test at Honda after the last race?

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  • Rexr

    I don’t think it’s “monkey boy” who comes up with these ideas I think it’s his management team who then have to break it down into simple mans term for him to understand…..he’s not the brightest…..

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  • DarmaBum

    @rexr : You suggesting Valentino Rossi (“monkey boy”) isn’t bright is the dumbest comment I’ve ever read on a M/C forum. You can disagree with his business tactics and strategy but the man isnt stupid; nor are his advisors. Far from it. It’s called leverage and it is commonly used in business negotiations by savvy businessmen. We all should be not as bright as Valentino. Your comment is foolish.

  • Rexr

    Pretty much standard answer from a #46 fan it looks like he’s losing his edge…..

  • BRobinson

    i suppose no forum is without its trolls. i don’t think that rossi’s intelligence is assailable here he’s about as savvy as they come, both on the track and off. whether one approves of the application of that intelligence is an entirely different matter.

    i negotiate contracts all the time, albeit not for world class motorcycle racers, and this is simply an example of each party maneuvering within the confines of their agreement to manipulate the terms of the termination of the relationship. but pay attention here, he hasn’t committed to anything, yet. he’s not screwing over sponsors, fans, or his employer. what he’s doing is putting all the stakeholders here in a position to desire an outcome that suits him, and they’ll put pressure on his employer to make sure that he’s on that ducati at valencia.

    it also places yamaha in a position that they look childish if they refuse to let him out early, because they don’t have any compelling reason to disallow it, in the big picture, and letting a rider out early can actually generate goodwill and make the company look good in the press. it’s too early to tell if rossi’s lost his edge, though if he has, yamaha has even less to lose by being gracious here, and if rossi has lost his edge, they’re getting the better part of the deal in retaining the racing platform he (and his team) developed.

    while some of us mortals may relish seeing a relative immortal taken down a peg like yamaha seems to be trying to do, it doesn’t make much business sense for yamaha. other top riders will see this, and consider it when negotiating with yamaha, and when your rider is as keenly aware of his value like rossi, you’re hard pressed to win in this power struggle.

  • Rossi is the most rider motogp.

  • Keith

    You know, it’s rather amusing watching all this. IF it were any other rider guys like Rexr would be declaiming how it was a about time he got it fixed instead of riding more races in the season. His is the typical reaction of either 1) Dovioso ‘I’m not winning so I’ll pitch it and whine to the press” or 2) your typical troll who just wants to look intelligent when they are patently not. Either way it’s pathetick.

  • roki

    @DarmaBum. Yeah, Rossi is a real genius, evidenced by how he shrewdly got himself the persona non grata legal status from his own country due to his well thought out plan of not reporting 60 million euros in income. 20 million euros is a big price to pay for re-entry into your own country…………but he’s smart that way.

  • m a big fan of valentino rossi he is the best rider in motogp and ya he is a smart and clever guy and he knowz his way very well