Do you remember racing before Valentino Rossi?
Simply because of his lengthy career (he turns 40 next month) there are a great many current enthusiasts who know only of the Rossi era—the era of packed parking lots, shoulder-to-shoulder yellow grandstands, near NASCAR levels of fan merchandise, massive track invasions, and a Beatles-like devotion from his fans.
It wasn’t always this way. Before Rossi, motorcycle GP racing never saw anything like Rossi-mania on a consistent level. Sure, there were strong events and sometimes dramatic seasons but nothing like the bedrock of drawing power that the Rossi era has brought to GP racing.
This is the impact that Rossi has had on racing: it’s not insane question–is MotoGP bigger than Valentino Rossi or is Rossi bigger than MotoGP?
How this translates to Rossi’s value and financial compensation is an interesting topic. Like any mainstream sporting superstar, Rossi could basically ask for any semi-reasonable salary in the tens of millions and Yamaha would have to find the money and pay him. F1 drivers make $20-60 million dollars a season and there is little doubt Rossi has, at least, that same level of drawing power. But he only gets paid about six million Euro per season from Yamaha.
First, don’t look for a Rossi salary discrepancy Gofundme account any time soon. Rossi does make an estimates $25-40 million dollars per season but the majority of that income comes from his own company VR46. The merchandising, licensing and personal sponsorship dollars he earns there make up the vast amount of his yearly income.
After his 2002-2008 tax troubles, which left the Italian racer with a $25-51 million Euro tax bill, he’s become much more financially astute. The current sponsorship deals which do not flow through VR46 are said to be written in “other” Rossi family member names so as to lessen his tax bill and also shield him from liability.
And Rossi and Yamaha? How is it that Rossi doesn’t put Yamaha in a financial press and squeeze out every Yama-penny he can? Basically, Rossi knows that if Yamaha had to pay him his true value per season, the competitiveness of the team could be adversely impacted and might hinder their ability to do development and testing and to supply the team with top level logistics and technical personnel.
So Rossi settles for a $6-7 million Euro/dollar salary from Yamaha. That’s about $1.5 million Euro/dollar more than Yamaha is paying Maverick Vinales, hence Valentino is said to be fine with it.