Seven-time MotoGP world champion and Petronas Yamaha SRT rider Valentino Rossi announced his intention to retire at the end of the current season during a press conference Thursday.
Rossi said he came to this decision over the monthlong summer break that concludes this week, as the series returns to the Red Bull Ring for the Styrian Grand Prix.
“Unfortunately this will be the last season as a MotoGP rider. It’s difficult, it’s a very sad moment because — it’s difficult to say and to know that next year I won’t race motorcycles. [I’ve done] this thing for more or less 30 years. Next year my life will change, after some point of view. But anyway, [it] was great, I enjoyed it very much. It’s a long, long journey and was really, really fun and was 25, 26 years in the world championship, so it was great and I had unforgettable moments with all my team, with all the guys that work for me. So, I don’t have a lot to say. Just this.
As it stands, Rossi has recorded 363 premier class starts with 89 wins, 199 podiums and 55 poles. Coupled with his ascent up the ladder in the 125cc and 250cc classes, Rossi has spent 25 years in world championship motorcycle racing.
This year hasn’t been kind to The Doctor — it will end as his first and only with the satellite Petronas Yamaha team, after the previous eight years with the factory Yamaha squad. He currently sits 19th in the rider standings, with 17 points, and half of the season’s 18 races left to go. His highest finishing position so far in 2021 was 10th at one of his home races at Mugello.
Ultimately, Rossi said his decision was motivated by his recent performances, and that they haven’t matched his expectations. “It’s difficult, it’s a difficult decision,” he said during the press conference. “But you know, you need to understand that I think that, at the end, in this sport — in all the sports — the results make the difference.”
As for what’s next, Rossi says he enjoys racing cars (“a little bit less than motorcycles,” for what it’s worth) and plans to participate in auto racing once his MotoGP career is over. Rossi has flirted with rallying and GT racing on a number of occasions over the last decade, with a fairly successful resume in the latter category. In June an Italian paper reported he was considering a full season in the World Endurance Championship, via The Race.
During the announcement, The Doctor said he had an offer to ride for his own team — the Sky VR46 squad that participates in Moto2 and Moto3 — but ultimately decided against it.
It’ll be difficult to imagine MotoGP without Valentino Rossi. All things must come to an end, of course, but given’s Rossi’s age, it started to feel like he’d never hang up the suit. Here’s to a rewarding and enjoyable final nine races, Vale, and good luck with whatever you drive next.