(Reuters) - Valentino Rossi's new Saudi-backed Aramco VR46 team will compete in MotoGP next year in a three-year deal with Ducati, both parties announced on Thursday, but the Italian great looks unlikely to be racing.
The team have yet to announce their riders, with 42-year-old nine-times world champion Rossi saying on Thursday it would be "very difficult" for him to ride for them despite the hopes of the title sponsor.
Rossi's half-brother Luca Marini looks to be in the frame, however.
Saudi Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al Saud said in a statement ahead of the Dutch TT that a five-year deal had been agreed to sponsor the team.
"It would be great for me that Valentino Rossi can compete in the next few years as a pilot of our Aramco Racing Team VR46 together with his brother Luca Marini," he added.
Rossi is racing for Petronas Yamaha but mulling his future beyond this year.
"I have still not decided because I will think more deeply during this break," he said.
"I also have to speak with Yamaha and the team...the start of this season until now under this point of view was not fantastic, so I think it will be very difficult that I will race also next year.
"Always the prince pushes on me to race in my team next year with the Ducati, but at the moment I think it will be very difficult."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ed Osmond)