Johan Stigefelt was a most welcome guest this afternoon in our usual Live GPOne session and obviously the key focus of our interview with him was whether or not he could give us some further information about the agreement between Valentino Rossi and the Yamaha Petronas Team. Stigefelt was kind enough to answer all the questions from fans and from our very own Paolo Scalera and Matteo Aglio, giving us a clear picture of the current situation.
The Swedish former Grand Prix motorcycle rider has been a fixed presence in top-level bike racing for a number of years now, and the man nicknamed ‘Stiggy’ is currently in the hot seat as team manager of the Petronas Yamaha team. Johan was born in Anderstorp, a very famous circuit in the ‘70s which as well as hosting the F1 Swedish Grand Prix, was also the scene for one of the great duels in 500 between Freddie Spencer and Kenny Roberts. Stiggy, who comes from a racing family and who was seven years old at the time, was there to see that race.
All the fans all over the world would like to make just one question to Johan, obviously regarding the situation with Valentino Rossi. Did he sign yet?
“Like you say, it’s a difficult question to answer. As everyone knows, we are in talks with him and talks take time. It’s not easy, there are many things to discuss and agree on. Hopefully in the near future, we will have a clear answer.”
Can we expect an announcement before the first round at Jerez?
“Before the start there will be no announcement, not because we don’t want to but because we are still talking. We are discussing many points and it takes time. It’s also difficult to discuss when we cannot see each other. There are many parties involved and we are all sitting at home in our offices, in Malaysia, in Sweden, in Holland, in Italy. Everybody tries to come together in a good way, it’s not a normal circumstance to discuss, especially with a rider like Valentino, and it is even more important for us. It’s definitely one of the highlights to discuss with him, it’s a kind of honour but it will take some time.”
Valentino has always had his team with him since he started off in 500. Is this one of the complicated points to sort out?
“Yes, for sure it’s one point and an important point. Of course, we need to find the best solution. Valentino has a big respect for our team and believes a lot in our work, in the people working, and in the set-up of the crew, we are particularly good. This is something Valentino respects and also something clear in the discussion. We will not change the whole group, we believe in our set-up group, it will be good for him, it’s a kind of compromise that we are discussing at the moment.”
Is the contract you are discussing a two-year deal or a sort of 1+1 with Valentino?
“This is something I cannot tell to anyone right now, it is something I would like to keep to ourselves, there is nothing I can reveal at the moment but people will understand when we announce something.”
In the rest of the interview, which you can follow in the video, Johan also spoke about the situation with Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli, who will be the Petronas Yamaha satellite team’s two riders this year, the difficulties of running teams in all three categories of world championship racing – MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 – his friendship with Wilco Zeelenberg, the unique opportunity to have both Rossi and Hamilton in Petronas colours, whether the possibility of seeing Jorge Lorenzo in the Petronas team was realistic or not and whether Quartararo can beat Marquez this season.