At the end of 2022, due to the economic instability that the RNF team was displaying, Yamaha did not renew its contract with Razlan Razali's squad, a circumstance that left the Iwata-based manufacturer with only two M1s on the 2023 grid. If we take into account the testimony of all the voices coming out of the Yamaha camp, there is not a single day in which neither the riders nor their bosses don't regret having taken a decision that they will try to rectify with the revival of the satellite team.

The best-placed candidate for the two M1s is, for obvious reasons, Valentino Rossi's team, as the Italian legend continues to be Yamaha's biggest attraction, despite having been retired for two years: during the last Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez, the nine-time world champion signed his contract as the company's main ambassador, which runs until the end of 2024.

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The link between Rossi and the Japanese manufacturer survived the departure of the #46 rider to Ducati in 2011 during his racing career, at the height of Jorge Lorenzo's popularity; his definitive farewell at the end of 2021, and the agreement between the team that bears his name and Ducati in 2022, which expires at the end of next year.

There is still time to finalise the supplier of the bikes that now belong to Marco Bezzecchi and Fabio Di Giannantonio, but the coming months will be crucial to determine the equipment available to VR46, which will have to define its priorities among the options on the table. There are not two, but three, given the pressure from the group led by Stefan Pierer to reintroduce MV Agusta into MotoGP. Despite the momentum of the Pierer Mobility Group, the two most logical alternatives are to extend the alliance with Ducati or to join forces with Yamaha. Both have pros and cons.

Extending the partnership with Ducati would guarantee two competitive bikes with which to be in a position to fight for podiums, victories and possibly even titles.

The downside of signing with the Borgo Panigale company is economic, because Yamaha's position allows it to offer more attractive conditions from a monetary point of view. Dorna, the promoter of the series, gives each brand that supplies an independent team with three million euros. This amount does not increase according to the number of customers, so Ducati - which distributes its Desmosedici to Pramac, Gresini and VR46 - earns the same as Aprilia, Honda and KTM, who only supply one satellite team each. At the moment, Yamaha is the only factory that does not receive such a bonus from Dorna.

Between the sporting interest in rescuing those two M1s, which are so valuable for development, and the possibility of applying a discount to their rental price by having that three million euro cash injection, there is no doubt that this formula is the most attractive from a financial point of view.

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Ducati offers guaranteed competitiveness for VR46, but the financial incentive behind switching to Yamaha is equally enticing

"We will do everything we can to get back to having a satellite team in 2025. But first, we need to improve our package on a technical level. We need to develop our bike to make it more competitive," Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis confirmed some time ago in an interview with Autosport. "Obviously, because of our proximity and our past, VR46 is in a better position to be a satellite team than the other teams."

While most of the paddock tends to take the latter for granted, not even VR46 officials are clear. "Although nobody believes it, our priority at the moment is to renew with Ducati. We have an offer on the table and we have to finish studying it," VR46 team manager Pablo Nieto told Autosport.

In fact, a meeting between the top management of the Bolognese corporation and Rossi's team is scheduled for this week. That meeting will also be attended by the nine-time world champion.

It is expected that the Italian, along with Uccio Salucci, his right-hand man, and Nieto, will convey to Ducati their desire to gain weight within the red-bike ecosystem, with the intention of moving closer to Pramac, who enjoys preferential treatment in terms of equipment and coverage. At this point, VR46 will have to decide to which element it gives more relevance. On a sporting level, there is no doubt that Ducati's guarantees are superior. But money is not something that can just be forgotten about.

Extending the partnership with Ducati would guarantee two competitive bikes with which to be in a position to fight for podiums, victories and possibly even titles

With the Desmosedici, Bezzecchi and Luca Marini have enjoyed a season that was unimaginable just a year ago, with three GP wins for Bezzecchi and nine podiums, as well as another victory in a sprint race for him. As well as celebrating its second consecutive title in the hands of Pecco Bagnaia, Ducati has broken almost every record, including that of the absolute number of victories (17). These brutal records coincide with the hardships experienced by Yamaha, who in 2023 has dug itself into the deepest hole of all.

Fabio Quartararo's podiums in Austin, India and Indonesia, where he finished third, do not even justify the investment made in MotoGP. While Ducati took the top three positions in the overall standings and placed four of its eight riders in the top five, the 2021 champion struggled to finish in the top 10, while his garage neighbour Franco Morbidelli finished 13th, 70 points down and with a fourth place (Argentina) as his best result.

After the test day following the final event of the calendar in Valencia, Quartararo made it clear that the base of the 2024 M1 he tested did not change the resigned expression that has accompanied him throughout the year. "The reality is that this bike [2024] is as far away from the others as the previous one. We need to do more testing, and I'll be happy to contribute to that," said Quartararo, who has already confirmed his attendance at the shakedown ahead of the first Sepang test in February.

With that scenario and all the cards already laid out on the table, VR46's options for its future are very clear. Depending on which direction it takes, its priorities will also be very clear.

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

VR46 has all cards on the table for 2025

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