This weekend, Fiat and Yamaha unsurprisingly and officially ended their four-year relationship. The first non-tobacco title sponsor in the four-stroke MotoGP category, Fiat joined up with Yamaha in 2007, when MotoGP switched to the 800cc format. Originally justifying the sponsorship as a way to reach a car-buying audience that was younger than Formula 1 fans, Fiat has always had its eye on the Italian rider. That relationship has manifested itself in Rossi testing with Ferrari on numerous occasions, and prompted the nine-time World Champion to consider kart racing after his motorcycling career is over.
This announcement isn’t a surprise to anyone in the MotoGP camp, as with Rossi vacating Yamaha for the 2011 season, Fiat was expected to pull the plug on its support for the company’s MotoGP efforts. Announcing on its webpage and twitter account that it would be leaving the current Rider, Team, and Manufacturer Championship team (for the third year in a row we might add), Fiat seems equally unimpressed with current Champion Jorge Lorenzo staying on with the squad, and Rookie of the Year Ben Spies joining him for the first time on a factory bike.
While Yamaha Racing is reportedly still in talks with sponsors like Telefonica and AirAsia, it’s looking increasingly likely that the team will run corporate colors at the season opener in Qatar. The debate that will carry on to the beginning of the season will be whether this is a sign of the economic climate in MotoGP, or the a testament to the star power of Valentino Rossi. Leave your thoughts in the comments.