MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi has spoken about his near switch to Formula 1 15 years ago.
Rossi did a series of tests with Ferrari and held discussions with the Italian team about a possible transfer from two to four wheels.
The Italian first tested Ferrari’s F1 car in 2004 at his Fiorano track, which Rossi describes as one of the highlights of his career.
“It was a really good moment in my life,” Rossi said in an interview with Graham Bensinger. “Stefano Domenicali, then at Ferrari, called me and said: ‘Why don’t we try the car’?”
“They have a track in Fiorano where they test the Formula 1 cars, it’s a one-minute track, but it’s fast. We arranged it, I arrived in secret the day before. We had to try to keep it a secret, but it wasn’t in the end. We stayed in Enzo Ferrari’s office, alone, me and Uccio (Salucci). It was an unforgettable moment,” he said.
A few years later, a plan was formed that would potentially take Rossi from MotoGP to F1.
However, Rossi said that on the plane ride home after a test at Valencia in 2006 with several other F1 drivers, he chose to remain in MotoGP.
“I was very close to switching to F1,” he said. “In 2006, I did a test, a real test together with real drivers in Valencia. It was a good test, I was quite fast.”
“But I remember it was on the trip home on the plane when I decided to stay in MotoGP. For Formula 1, I had a plan, but it wasn’t straight forward with Ferrari. It was starting with a small team, trying to gain experience and then, if I was fast enough, getting to Ferrari.”
“There were a lot of question marks. I think with the car I didn’t feel so bad, but I wanted to stay in MotoGP. It was not easy. I also had a lot of pressure on my side. People were saying, ‘Go to the cars, go to the Ferrari, it’s a big deal.
“Everyone, when I tried to explain, would say, ‘No, no, you have to go to F1!’ Even my mother, for example. But I think I have to decide for myself, and in my heart I thought I had to stay in MotoGP,” added Rossi, who retired from MotoGP racing at the end of 2021.
At the end of 2021, Valentino Rossi left the MotoGP World Championship after 25 years. The Italian veteran, owner of several titles at the event, was close to leaving MotoGP much sooner than expected. In 2006, an unassuming test with Ferrari almost turned into a major career change.
At the end of 2006, Rossi participated in a test with Ferrari in Valencia. At the time, the team was experiencing moments of uncertainty with the departure of Michael Schumacher and the arrival of young Kimi Räikkönen. Before, however, there were some laps in Fiorano. The activity would be private and discreet, but it was quickly discovered and turned into a major event.
“It was a great moment of my life. Stefano Domenicali [former Ferrari boss] called me and asked if I wanted to test the car in Fiorano. I said yes and we arranged. I arrived in secret on the day, but it wasn’t a big secret,” the Italian told journalist Graham Bensinger.
“In 2006, I did a test with real drivers in Valencia. It was good, I was fast. But I remember coming home and deciding to stay in MotoGP,” he continued.
In the interview, Valentino explained the reasons that made him continue in MotoGP, where he would still win two more titles, and revealed that he suffered enormous pressure, including from his family.
“For F1, I had a plan, but it wasn’t straight forward with Ferrari. I would start with a small team to gain experience and then, if I was fast, I would arrive at Ferrari. But I had a lot of doubts, as well as a lot of internal pressure. Everyone tries to help me with the decision, saying that I should go to F1. Even my mother, for example. I decided, with my heart, that I should stay in MotoGP,” he concluded.