After 26 seasons, 432 grands prix, nine world titles and 115 victories, Rossi’s glittering MotoGP career came to an end on Sunday at the final round of the 2021 season.
The Petronas SRT rider qualified 10th and held onto that position in what he described as “the best race” of his campaign, before enjoying rapturous celebrations after the chequered flag.
Rossi’s farewell weekend began with him ending Friday practice last on the combined times, but says the fact he ends his career with a top 10 “is important” as he is able to say he ended his time “with the top 10 riders in the world”.
“[It] was a really, really special weekend,” Rossi said in his final debrief as a MotoGP rider on Sunday evening.
“I didn’t expect it like this. I was a bit worried about the last weekend of my career because you always think on this moment for a long time and you don’t know how you will feel, or if you are able to stay concentrated on the race, and also if you are sad.
“But it was a great weekend from Thursday. I received a lot of surprises, from the bikes of the [past] championships [I won], and also my riders using my helmets.
“It was very emotional. Also, great support and great respect from all the people in the paddock and all the MotoGP riders.
“Especially it was a great weekend already from yesterday, I rode well and today in the race I was able to arrive in the top 10. So, it means I close my long career with the top 10 riders in the world.
“This is so important for me, it means a lot, and I can use this result for a long time because I can say in my last race I finished in the top 10.”
Valentino Rossi, Petronas Yamaha SRT
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
Rossi says he approached his final race as if he was fighting for the world championship, but notes it was difficult to have that mindset given the “pressure” he was under.
“First of all we worked well with my team,” he added.
“And yesterday already from the morning, the bike really improved from Friday and I start to feel good from FP3.
“This is very important. Also, from Saturday to Sunday we improved, also Pecco [Bagnaia] helped me to stay in the top 10 [in FP3] and go directly to the Q2 and start in the top 10.
“You can do really another race [starting from the top 10]. Also, today I feel the motivation and the concentration like if I had to play for the championship because the last race is the last race, it’s very important.
“It’s not easy because already from Monday I have a lot of pressure, a lot of things to do. But for me the most important thing was to try to be competitive in the race because I’m still a rider, and it’s a great emotion.
“Today I rode very well, I never made any mistakes, and I gave my maximum from the beginning to the end.”