FEBRUARY 13, 2007

Rossi and FIAT - but is that really Ferrari?

A big announcement is expected in the motorcycle world in the next couple of days, with FIAT becoming the title sponsor of the Yamaha MotoGP team. The deal is believed to be for several years and is rumoured to be worth as much as $50m. The team has been looking for a title sponsor following the departure at the end of last year of Camel, whcih was forced to withdraw because of tobacco legislation. The idea that FIAT might support the team has been doing the rounds for some time and makes a great deal of sense as the Italian car company tries to spruce up its global image with a younger generation of car buyers. Rossi is the most marketable sports star in Italy and is a top name around the world, particularly with the younger generations who appreciate his unusual personality and amazing achievements on two wheels. FIAT is obviously hoping that some of this glitz will rub off on its products, which have been revamped in recent times. Sales have boomed with the Grande Punto and the firm is now aiming for another winner with the Bravo and a new small car which is aimed for the Mini market. The company wants to revive the idea of stylish Italian car design and believes that a relationship with Rossi will do exactly that.

It was perhaps inevitable that rumours of the FIAT-Yamaha link would lead to new rumours about Rossi trying to break into Formula 1 with FIAT's sister company Ferrari but that does not seem very likely. Rossi has recently signed to ride for Yamaha for another two years and so would be 29 before he could move into F1 and these days that is simply too late to start trying to master F1 cars.

Rossi did a capable job driving Ferrari F1 cars last year but did not do enough to convince the team that it needed him as Michael Schumacher's replacement.