It has been a long, long time since Valentino Rossi found himself outside of a factory team in grand prix racing, but the 2021 season sees The Doctor in the Petronas Sepang Racing Team, alongside Franco Morbidelli.
Rossi’s long racing career has bore championship fruit nine times, and while no one expects the Italian to add to that tally in the coming season, the 42-year-old can certainly surprise on race day, and certainly has some race wins still in his future.
Around this time in a normal year, we would be back from the launch of a couple of the MotoGP manufacturers, and looking forward to a couple more as we prepared to travel to Sepang for the first test of the year. But this is not a normal year, of course. Nor was last year, for that matter.
So instead of packing my bags in preparation of the test at Sepang – originally scheduled for February 19th-21st – I, like the rest of the media, are checking our microphones and internet connections to get ready to do the MotoGP launch season from home.
And not just the launch season: in all probability, the media won’t be allowed to physically attend a MotoGP race for the first half of the 2021 season at the very least. But at least we will have a 2021 MotoGP season.
It is no secret that motorcycle racers at the top of the sport use flat track as a way to hone their skills during the season. The practice dates all the way back to Kenny Roberts Sr., and has stayed in the grand prix paddock ever since.
Like all great champions though, Valentino Rossi has taken things to the next level, building his own private flat track course near his home in Tavullia, Italy.
Valentino Rossi had a narrow escape this week, after initially failing another COVID-19 test. The Italian produced two more negative tests, and has been cleared to race at the Valencia round of MotoGP.
The Italian had flown back to Italy on Sunday night, and on Tuesday had a PCR test. That test came back positive with a very low viral load, a result which can occur with people who have had COVID-19 and have had symptoms.
It has been such a bad day for Yamaha that I feel bound to start this report off with the highlight for the Japanese factory: Franco Morbidelli finished in the top three for both sessions of free practice on Friday at Valencia.
He and Petronas teammate Fabio Quartararo are directly through to Q2, at least provisionally, dependent on the weather on Saturday morning.
Garrett Gerloff, replacing Valentino Rossi in the Monster Energy Yamaha team on Friday, was very impressive, getting up to speed quickly in very difficult conditions, despite not having any experience of either MotoGP bikes, Michelin MotoGP tires, or the Ricardo Tormo Circuit at Valencia.
And Valentino Rossi’s second PCR test came back negative, meaning he can take over from Gerloff again from Saturday morning.
That was the good news. The bad news was pretty terrible, however, bad enough that it made even a cynical old hack like me feel sorry for Yamaha’s PR staff.
Yamaha has been punished for an infringement of the MotoGP technical rules at the opening race of the 2020 MotoGP season at Jerez, and at the same time, their riders have dodged a bullet.
After the infringement was finally uncovered, the FIM Stewards decided to deduct points from Yamaha in the manufacturers championship, and the Monster Energy Yamaha and Petronas Yamaha SRT teams have had points taken away in the teams championship.
But crucially for the 2020 MotoGP riders championship, no penalty was given to Fabio Quartararo, Maverick Viñales, or Franco Morbidelli. That means that the standings in what everyone regards as the most important championship, the riders championship, are unchanged.
Valentino Rossi may yet be forced to miss his third race of the 2020 season, after still being unable to provide a negative PCR test for Covid-19.
The Italian tested positive for the coronavirus ahead of first round in Aragon, and was forced to miss the two races at the Motorland Aragon circuit.
The second wave of the coronavirus outbreak is underway worldwide right now, with increases in COVID-19 cases being counted in Europe, North America, and other continents.
Even the MotoGP paddock isn’t immune to this trend, with news and rumors of positive tests occurring within its ranks in the past several days and weeks.
And now today we get news from Valentino Rossi himself that he has tested positive with COVID-19, after experiencing symptoms of the disease this morning.
The deal is done at last. Today, the Petronas Yamaha SRT team has announced that Valentino Rossi will partner Franco Morbidelli in 2021.
Rossi has signed a one-year extension of his contract with Yamaha, to race in the Petronas Yamaha SRT team.
It was a busy day for MotoGP rider announcements, this Monday. Three riders were confirmed in teams, with a fourth confirmed as leaving. The announcements were hardly a shock, but there was room for the odd raised eyebrow or two.
At Honda, there was the expected reshuffling to make room for Pol Espargaro in the Repsol Honda squad, the Spaniard offered a two-year deal alongside Marc Marquez. This bumped Alex Márquez down to the LCR Honda team, with a two-year contract as compensation.
Alex Márquez may have lost his ride in the factory team before a wheel has turned in the 2020 MotoGP season, but at least he is now assured of three seasons in the premier class to prove himself.
If there was a surprise in the announcements, it was that Cal Crutchlow was being released to make room for Alex Márquez.
The Englishman has been a valuable asset in the development of the Honda RC213V, his feedback highly rated, and he is a firm favorite in the LCR squad, bringing a lot of media exposure to the satellite team.
66 million years ago, an object somewhere between the size of Mt. Everest and the country of Luxembourg (or the island of Puerto Rico) slammed into what would become the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico at a speed of 20 kilometers per second, or 72,000 km/h.
The impact that an asteroid of that size moving at that speed made was unimaginably vast: scientists estimate that the energy released was around 100 million times that produced by Tsar Bomba, the most powerful hydrogen bomb ever built.
The devastation that impact caused, helped along by wide-scale volcanic eruptions and climate change, killed a large percentage of life on earth, wiping out virtually all land and amphibian species larger than 25kg in body weight.
It could happen again. Objects from outer space hit the earth with alarming regularity. 50,000 years ago, a nickel-iron meteorite 50 meters across struck Arizona, creating the aptly named Meteor Crater.