Five-times world champion Mick Doohan believes MotoGP will be a poorer place without Italian legend Valentino Rossi racing.
Huge question marks surround Rossi’s future in 2014, with the 34-year-old aiming to prove that he can still compete with super-fast Spanish trio Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa.
Rossi’s return to a factory YZR-M1 last season yielded only one victory in Assen and in eight races he finished in fourth position.
Rossi is one of several top riders in 2014 to be out of contract and it has been suggested that if he struggles to be more competitive next year then he will call time on a distinguished career that has seen him win nine world titles and 80 premier class races.
Rossi has just finished his 18th season in the MotoGP paddock and Aussie legend Doohan, who dominated the premier class between 1994 and ’98, believes it is long and illustrious career that could be holding Rossi back.
Doohan believes age and experience mean Rossi is no longer willing to take risks like raw rookie sensation Marquez, who claimed a historic first MotoGP crown aged just 20.
Doohan told MCN: "He can't like not winning although the sport needs him and he has still got as many fans as ever. The sport will be a poorer place without him. I'm sure fourth is not good enough in Valentino’s mind, but it is a hell of a lot better than where he was last year.
"I think his experience is against him in terms of how far he is prepared to push himself and how long he wants to stay in the sport. But you never doubt Valentino. I have no doubt if they could get the bike to exactly his liking he could push more but he knows if he pushes any further he will go down the road.
"Valentino’s experience though may mean he is not prepared to push as hard as those top three guys. They are still in the ‘want and need’ part of their careers rather than in the ‘it would be great to do that again’ part of their careers."