PETALING JAYA: Italian legend Valentino Rossi (pic) is definitely not in the Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team for a joyride.
As team principal Datuk Razlan Razali puts it, the challenge is to make Rossi competitive although the 42-year-old will start as the oldest rider on the grid when the 2021 season begins in Qatar this month.
All eyes will be on Rossi and Italian teammate Franco Morbidelli when Petronas SRT unveil their 2021 challenges in a virtual launch at 5.30pm Malaysian time today.
With an incredible 89 wins and 199 podiums in his premier class career, Rossi brings no shortage of experience to the Malaysian team as they look to increase their standing in MotoGP.
It will be the first time in eight years that Rossi rides for a new team and will continue to enjoy full factory support from Yamaha.
Rossi left Yamaha this year to make way for rising French star Fabio Quartararo.
“Our challenge is to get him back on the podium. We hope with the new environment where it’s a bit more relaxed and with a really great atmosphere present, he can settle down fast, ” said Razlan, who like many Malaysians, admitted to being a big Rossi fan.
“He has this certain aura around him. The first time when I met him, I got goosebumps. I was starstruck when we sat down (to discuss his contract).
“He is a nice guy although he is a legend.”
The Malaysian squad have shown that they are a force to be reckoned with in the MotoGP paddock just two years into the premier class. Last season, they frequently challenged the established order to secure back-to-back independent team and rider titles.