Valentino Rossi has sealed a new two-year extension to his Yamaha contract that will keep him racing until at least 2020 by taking an impressive podium finish at the opening race of the 2018 season.
Not quite able to deliver a challenge for the victory against rivals Andrea Dovizioso and Marc Marquez despite looking ultra-competitive all race long, the Movistar Yamaha racer was nonetheless able to come away from the race happy with his performance.
“It was a great fight and a great race. Compared to last year, last year was a bigger surprise because I didn’t expect to arrive on the podium then – but this time I was more competitive. But you never know if you’ve got enough in you for a podium. I was able to push and to overtake.”
Even more than setting him up for an attempt at title number ten, though, the podium also helped Rossi draw a line under doubts about his performance. Set to remain in the premier class until he is at least 41 years old, the Italian’s strong start to the season is a warning to his critics not to underestimate him just yet.
“in our sport like in all sports, just one thing is important – the result. You can speak a lot about things, but in the end the only thing that is important is the result. I don’t race to demonstrate to people that I am not too old – I race only to demonstrate to myself that I can remain at the top. It’s a good way to be!”
And while it might also help him to put his own feelings at rest, Rossi is also aware of the risks that his new contract brings to him. Keenly conscious of the potential to harm his own legacy by outstaying his welcome in MotoGP and fading into the mid-pack rather than going out at the top, Rossi told MCN that the benefits of extending his deal outweighs the risks.
“I saw a lot of great riders and drivers stop at the maximum of their career, like Max Biaggi or Troy Bayliss. They all come back on track, so I decided that I would race to the end instead! I don’t want to decide after I stop that maybe I could have done two more seasons after all. It can be a risk, but if that was the only worry then maybe I should have stopped six or seven years ago!”