What can Valentino Rossi expect as he makes the transition from Factory to Satellite MotoGP rider in 2021?
The Italian’s new Petronas Yamaha team manager Wilco Zeelenberg has a good idea of the differences, having made the same Factory Yamaha-to-Sepang team switch in 2019.
The first thing the Dutchman points out is that the biggest shock will probably be for Petronas, rather than Rossi.
“I don’t think the team knows yet what is coming, because Vale has a lot of attention worldwide,” Zeelenberg said. “Especially when the paddock opens up again, as you know there is always a queue in front of Vale’s box.
“This is also something that we have to learn. I’ve been there a couple of years with Jorge and Vale [at the Factory team] and it’s not always easy to work in that way.”
Dealing with such outside attention will be normal for Rossi but Zeelenberg also hopes the 42-year-old will enjoy the ‘different atmosphere’ at Petronas.
“I think it’s a nice step for Vale to come into a different atmosphere, “he said. “Not that the Factory team gives him a lot of pressure because Vale likes that attention as well. He’s mature enough and his backpack is big enough to control that. But, also to see a different atmosphere with our team.
“The way we are working is a bit different than the Factory team because there’s less pressure, also there are less Japanese people involved so there are less people that decide what the setting of the bike is.
“I think this only helps in our team that only one guy is finally responsible for that.
“In the Factory team it is not like that. Many people are specialised and they have to say something about the bike and they feel responsible. That’s not always the easiest way to work because you have many voices and sometimes you lose time and you lose also the direction.
“It doesn’t get always easier when you bring more stuff, more people. It’s very important to bring what you need and focus on the time that you are able to change things on the bike and on the rider. This is when you can really make a difference.
“In our team this is a little more straightforward and we manage the team in a little bit different way because also we don’t have so many protocols.”
Having observed Rossi from close quarters while running Jorge Lorenzo‘s side of the Factory Yamaha garage, Zeelenberg also hopes that the nine time world champion will avoid diverting too much of his energy into data analysis and save as much as possible for the race.
“Of course, we have been talking and one of the things Vale loves to do is sit behind the computer, look through the data from the riders, from himself. But spend maybe too much time on it, because the bottom line is he loves to do it but he spends a lot of energy to do that,” Zeelenberg explained.
“So I think we should try to avoid that, because then you go sometimes very close and detailed in very [small] things and you are better off spending one hour discussing what you problems are, try to find a way and go from there. Then make bigger steps instead of going into small details and you lose also a lot of energy.
“We also know that energy in MotoGP is very important because the race is 45-minutes and the guys don’t start slow anymore, it’s directly from the first lap on you need all the energy that you have to perform and be sharp and precise.
“The more energy you can save during the weekend and relax to prepare your body, that is also very important.”
Another new situation for Petronas to manage is that Rossi remains a Yamaha contracted rider, while team-mate Franco Morbidelli is contracted to the Sepang team.
“Vale is coming on board our team with a contract from Yamaha, so that also gives us a little bit different situation than with our riders before. Because we were paying our riders ourselves in the past and his year Yamaha is paying for Valentino basically,” Zeelenberg said.
“This is another story but we said as well, okay we accept this, but we also want to protect Franco, especially with the results he did last year. It’s clear that he’s the guy who is in charge at the moment for our results.”
Joining Rossi in making the switch to Petronas will be crew chief David Munoz and data engineer Matteo Flamigni and rider coach Idalio Gavira.