WithU RNF Yamaha boss Razlan Razali has hinted at what his new team’s future might hold after only seven races in MotoGP, as he prepares a back-up plan for 2023 and beyond that could involve a dramatic switch of manufacturer.
Razali’s new team, born out of the ashes of the Petronas SRT Yamaha squad after the withdrawal of its title sponsor at the end of 2021, was initially only given a one-year deal by the Iwata factory, which cited corporate governance rules that prevented it from committing to a longer-term partnership with the Malaysian’s brand new entity.
A decision on whether to extend that deal is set to be made by Yamaha at the Italian Grand Prix in two weeks’ time, but, with no firm commitment yet, Razali has confirmed to the race that he’s been looking elsewhere – with talks believed to now be underway with Argentine Grand Prix race winners Aprilia.
Coming at just the right time for the Italian marque as Aleix Espargaro establishes its RS-GP machine as a genuine title contender, it means that the team principal has another competitive option to explore.
“For us, as a new team,” Razali said, “of course we want to continue with Yamaha. It was never in our mind to change manufacturers in a year, but unfortunately that’s the deal that was given to us.
“We want to continue, but we have to wait for Yamaha’s decision. Whether they want to continue with us or not, by Mugello.
“At the end of the day, I have to look for options and a backup plan. That backup plan, that option, is attractive this year compared to last year. It’s also attractive.
“We’re not worried if Yamaha comes back with a proposal that we’re not entirely happy with, because there’s an [alternative] option.”
Should Aprilia come back to Razali with a competitive offer (something unlikely to happen until after its home race in Mugello next week at the earliest, according to The Race’s sources) then it could well place Yamaha in an unusual situation where it would enter the 2023 championship without a satellite team, a first for the marque in the modern four-stroke era of the sport.
That’s not something that 2021 world champion Fabio Quartararo believes would be a problem, though, with the French racer already admitting this weekend at his home race that the data coming from Razali’s squad of Andrea Dovizioso and Darryn Binder hasn’t been terribly useful for him this season.
“Well, if I remain there for next year,” he said (a reminder that his own Yamaha future also isn’t yet secure), “then at the moment having two bikes isn’t really a problem. At the moment we struggled a bit to compare data with the second team, so for me it wouldn’t be a problem.”
There are rumours, however, that should Yamaha and RNF fail to agree terms for next year that the Iwata factory will try a different route to ensure that it retains a four-bike line-up: potentially attempting to lure its former champion Valentino Rossi’s VR46 Squad away from Ducati.
This would likely be supported by series bosses Dorna, unhappy with a full one third of the 2022 grid being composed of the Italian brand’s bikes, and Rossi already has a current partnership of sorts with Yamaha.
Yamaha’s new semi-official Moto2 team for this season, something becoming increasingly common among manufacturers, is run under Rossi’s name as part of the VR46 Master Camp program they partner up on.
There is one thing about the situation that does play into Razali’s hands, however: the fact that Suzuki’s unexpected departure from the series at the end of 2022 has thrown the rider market into turmoil.
Buying him time as the market recoils from the sudden removal of two seats coupled with the free agent status of Alex Rins and Joan Mir, it means that he’s at least under no pressure right now to announce his 2023 line-up.
“Right now, we do have in mind the kind of riders that we want, but it all depends on whether we continue with Yamaha or not,” Razali explained. “Right now, I think if you look at the whole situation the only place available in MotoGP for current riders and for young Moto2 riders is us. We have the luxury of being able to wait and see, if we continue with Yamaha or not.
“There are a lot of young riders even from Moto2 who want to jump from Moto2 to MotoGP, and there are a lot of riders circulating in MotoGP so we can afford to wait. Those riders who are in MotoGP are very good riders, so it’s a different situation.”