Valentino Rossi announced on August 5th that he will retire from MotoGP at the end of this season. The player from Pesaro will therefore put an end to his career after 26 seasons in the World Championship made up mainly of lights, but also with some shadows. And in sporting terms most of these have come just in the last year.
The “Doctor” started to lose strokes in the final part of 2019 and Yamaha, in agreement with him, decided to send him to race in Petronas SRT in 2021 to give his place in the works team to Fabio Quartararo. A choice that proved the Iwata manufacturer right, given that the Frenchman is about to give it back a title that has been missing since 2015, the last one won with Jorge Lorenzo.
Returning to Rossi, the rider from Tavullia had a strong start in 2020. In the second race of the year, in Jerez, he was on the podium (his last to date) and up to the middle of the championship he was traveling in the positions around the top 5. In Barcelona , for example, he fell while fighting for victory.
That incident, however, marked the beginning of the ordeal that marked the final part of the championship and from which he never seems to have recovered. Valentino also crashed in the next race, in France, on the first lap. Then he contracted COVID-19 and therefore was forced to miss Aragon’s double. The # 46 reappeared in Valencia, where he was forced to retire, and then finished 12th in the last two races of the season.
The adventure with the new Petronas colors had started promisingly. In the opening race of the 2021 season, in Qatar, he had achieved an excellent fourth time in qualifying, which at the moment however remains the only flash. In 15 Grands Prix, he hit Q2 only on five occasions, but in four he started from the 20th position. In the race he then scored points less than half of the Grand Prix (7), with the eighth place conquered in Austria thanks to the arrival of the rain as the best result.
Beyond his obvious loss of speed (he is 21st in the standings, last among the drivers who have raced all season), another factor confirms the decline of the nine-time world champion: the number of accidents. If there is one thing that has characterized the Rossi rider for more than two decades, it was his ability not to make mistakes. His weapon compared to the younger opponents was that constancy that allowed him to almost always finish on the podium at the end of the season.
With his last crash in qualifying for the Grand Prix of the Americas, Rossi added nine, the highest figure since returning to Yamaha in 2013. The numbers don’t deceive: Rossi is no longer either as fast or invulnerable as a time.