Rivals pay tribute to Rossi as nine-time champion announces MotoGP retirement


Rival MotoGP riders have had their say on Valentino Rossi's decision to retire at the end of the 2021 season

Valentino Rossi, 2021

Rossi's rivals have paid their tribute to the nine-time champion following his retirement announcement

Steve Wobser/Getty Images

The MotoGP and motor sport world has been paying tribute to Valentino Rossi after The Doctor announced he will be retiring from motorcycle racing at the end of the 2021 season.

Plenty of riders were in attendance as the 42-year-old announced that the ’21 season would be his last racing in the premier category after a storied 26-year career.

Rivals including world championship leader Fabio Quartararo, 2020 champion Joan Mir spoke of their admiration for Rossi while Suzuki team-mate Alex Rins posted to social media wishing him the best of luck for the future.

“A lot of people followed motorcycles because of me. I entertained a lot of people on Sunday afternoon, a lot of people enjoyed,” Rossi said at the announcement. “One or two hours during Sunday when they don’t think about anything, just enjoying my races.

“It’s a very sad moment. It’s difficult to know that next year I will not race with a motorcycle. It was a long journey that I enjoyed very much. Next year, my life will change.”

“He was already a two-time world champion when I wasn’t even born,” Quartararo said ahead of the Styrian race. “To imagine him not racing us next year is kind of sad. He’s the guy that made me want to be a MotoGP rider when I was a kid watching him, waiting hours in front of the hospitality to get a picture.

“He’s a legend of the sport and had an amazing career. He’s still my idol.”

Reigning world champion Joan Mir summursied that there will never be another rider quite like The Doctor.

“There was a question that one journalist was asking earlier if he was like Michael Jordan. He is the Michael Jordan of motorbikes. It will be difficult to repeat another Valentino Rossi in history.”

“I will miss the life of an athlete, to wake up and train for a win,” Rossi added. “I will miss a lot of things about this life. Number one, I will miss riding a MotoGP bike. When you’re on track with a MotoGP bike, it’s a great emotion.

“The second, I will miss working with my team. Starting from Thursday, trying to fix all the small details to be stronger and stronger and work with a top level engineer, chief mechanic, data analysis and everything.

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“I will miss a lot of the feeling of Sunday mornings, two hours before the race. Where is something that you didn’t feel comfortable, because you are scared, [there’s] a lot is an emotion, because you know that race is at two o’clock, the race. I think that these things will be hard to fix.”

Ex-Yamaha team-mate Maverick Viñales said that racing alongside Rossi gave him a chance to learn and have a reference to a top-level rider.

“Sharing a team with Rossi gave me the opportunity to learn, he has been a reference point for me since I was four years old, but we have to thank him for what he has done for being an inspiration and a motivation to continue. It has been a good fortune to share a team and fight with him.

“Off the track he is a great person, he is at the top and he is the greatest of all time. It’s sad, but he has won a lot and we have to be grateful to him.”

“I was able to bring a lot of people close to motorcycle racing,” Rossi added in his conference. “Without me, they don’t know MotoGP, 125 or 250, especially in Italy.

“So I did something in the first part of my career to switch on the emotions of normal people. I’m very proud because it’s something really special.

“I have to say to my fans that I always gave everything for a long long time, more than 25 years. I always try my maximum to stay in the game for stay at the top.

“It’s [been] a long trip together. I have incredible support from the fans. This makes me very very proud and I have to say thank you.”