Valentino Rossi has increased the pressure on Yamaha to produce an instantly-competitive 2008 YZR-M1 by publicly pondering a future switch to Ducati.
Rossi's existing Yamaha contract expires at the end of next season and, having lost the MotoGP title for the past two years - most recently to Ducati's
new star Casey Stoner - the relationship between Rossi and Yamaha, which started so perfectly with world championship victories in 2004 and 2005, appears to have become more strained.
As part of his determination to win back the MotoGP
crown, Rossi has left Michelin to join Stoner on bridgestone tyres in 2008 - forcing the factory Yamaha team to be split in two for next season - and, in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport
, The Doctor hints that he is also be prepared to switch manufacturer if that's what it takes to return to the top.
"All the Japanese underestimated Ducati this season," said the former five times MotoGP world champion. "Ducati was intelligent and aggressive, and worked better. We were competitive with Honda
, but they had the money and people required to catch up [to Ducati] more quickly, this is where Yamaha has been lacking.
"Yamaha has never had the quickest motorcycle
but this year we were 15-20 km/h slower," continued Rossi, who lost second place in the 2007 world championship when his M1 suffered a technical problem at the Valencia season finale. "And every time we've tried something new it has broken. We need to make big changes to win the title again; we need more capable people and more money.
"I still have a lot of desire to fight, but I need tyres and a machine that are competitive."
But what if the 2008 Yamaha isn't competitive; could Rossi switch to Ducati or Honda?
"We will wait and see how the Yamaha, especially the engine, improves for next year. If it is not competitive then there is nothing more we can do... I have good relations with both Ducati and [former employer] Honda, but Ducati would be my preferred option because it is Italian."