Valentino Rossi is still fast enough to challenge Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo’s recent domination of the MotoGP world championship.
That’s the view of Rossi’s fellow Italian Loris Capirossi, who quit MotoGP after a record-breaking career at the end of 2011.
Rossi is currently facing the biggest crisis of his illustrious career having admitted that he can’t get close to even challenging for the podium on the current factory Ducati GP12 Desmosedici.
The 33-year-old was left languishing over 30 seconds behind race winner Lorenzo in 10th place in last weekend’s Qatar round and after a dismal start to the 1000cc era he was heavily critical of the performance of the new Ducati.
A raft of radical changes to the bike, including the introduction of a conventional twin spar aluminium frame to cure a front-end issue and understeer, have not been the improvement Rossi had anticipated.
Rossi’s frustration with the situation has led to a flurry of rumour and speculation that he will not even finish the season with Ducati and that he is already seriously exploring his options for 2013 at Honda or Yamaha.
But Capirossi still believes the nine-times world champion has the pace to fight with Lorenzo and Stoner, who have dominated MotoGP since Rossi captured his last premier class crown in 2009.
In the 36 races since, Lorenzo and Stoner have won 26 of them while Rossi has only scored one podium in the last 18 races since he joined Ducati.
Speaking exclusively to MCN just before the first race in Qatar, Capirossi said: “In my opinion, if Valentino had a good bike again he can fight for the victory and be there with Casey and Jorge.
"But sadly for him the Ducati is not ready to fight for victories yet. The problem is that when the bike is not right and you have to ride at 100% to finish nowhere, it makes it difficult.
"I’m not saying his motivation has gone down but we are talking about a nine-times world champion here who has enjoyed an amazing amount of success. I think when he sees an opportunity it will be bang and he will suddenly be there.
"But it is not an easy situation and it will be difficult for him. Ducati is behind but the sport needs to have Ducati and Valentino back at the front.”