Valentino Rossi in F1: Did the MotoGP legend Drive a Formula 1 Ferrari?
(Assigned by MotoGP head Salman Shahid.)
Valentino Rossi, aged 40, is an Italian, professional motorcycle racer who is a multiple times MotoGP champion. He is the only rider in the history of the World Championship to have won the World Championship in four different classes:
Rossi had been flirting regularly with F1, testing for Ferrari a number of times between 2004 and 2010. Everyone was taken aback with the Doctor's speed when he tested the Formula 1 car in Valencia in 2006 with an amazing lap record. Even after leaving everyone open-mouthed everytime he tests a F1 car, Valentino has chosen not to chase career on four wheels, unlike John Surtees, Mike Hailwood and Johnny Cecotto who switched from MotoGP to F1, because he just loves motorcycles so much and can't seem to part with it.
Rossi first tested a Ferrari F1 car at Fiorano in April 2004. By then, he was already a four time MotoGP world champion. Despite a couple of spins, it is suggested that Rossi's best lap was just three-seconds slower than, the then world champion Michael Schumacher's record, taking the world by surprise.
“This was a very exciting day for me.”Rossi said, “Driving a Formula 1 car was an amazing experience and it was great to step into Schumacher’s shoes for a day. I want to thank Ferrari for having given me this opportunity.”
Valentino Rossi tested the Ferrari F2005 car for two complete days at Ferrari’s private test facility at Fiorano. As former Ferrari test-driver Jean Alesi called his test, “formidable”, one can say Rossi took it to some another level this time.
It was the second time that Rossi had driven a Formula 1 car. Two solid days in an F1 car meant that Ferrari was not only feeding Rossi's whims but also preparing him for something big, maybe a switch. This led to the amplified rumours that a deal has already been signed between Rossi and Ferrari.
Italy best-paid sportsperson almost switched to F1 this year but in the end, he just did not, as he said: “I wanted to get a better understanding of a Formula 1 car and I would like to thank Ferrari for giving me the opportunity to do so. The two days were intensive and interesting. I go back to the two wheels where there is still a long way to go to the end of the season.”
MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi had driven in a few private tests for Ferrari before but at Valencia in 2006, he took to the track with other F1 drivers and teams for the first time, driving a detuned V10-engined car. It ended up being a fruitful day though, with Rossi focusing on tyre testing as he completed 53 laps. At the end of the day he was 12th overall, 1.7 seconds slower than Schumacher and 2.1 seconds slower than Massa.
After this one, Luca Baldisseri believed that there is more to come from the eight-times MotoGP champion.
Valentino Rossi tested a Ferrari Formula One car at Mugello and drove the F2008, the car used by Ferrari drivers Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen in the recently concluded F1 season.
It was Rossi’s sixth test in a Ferrari Formula One car. He completed more than 600 km at the Circuit de Catalunya (Spain) and recorded his fastest lap time in the F2008 model he was testing with Ferrari, that was used to win the constructors’ title two years ago, though equipped with Bridgestone GP2 tires, per new Formula One regulations. He recorded a 1:21.9 on his lap, which is just off the lap record of 1:21:67 of set by Kimi Raikkonen.
As Stefano Domenicali, the team principal of the Ferrari Formula One team, reflected on after Rossi's last test run in 2010: “Vale would have been an excellent Formula 1 driver, but he chose a different road. He’s part of our family and that’s why we wanted to give him this opportunity.
Valentino Rossi, as dominant in MotoGP as Michael Schumacher was in Formula One, had been invited by Ferrari a number of times and gained it confidence.
"I always follow F1, I really like it," said Valentino Rossi. Though he has backed off from Formula One, he has decided to stay committed to his motorcycle. He said he always wanted to do try F1, but just for fun, not for career.
He also said that he continues to follow formula one religiously, and adores the prominent names of F1 world. The Italian's decision not to imitate the other motorcycle world champions who also won the Formula One crown, has left us hoping and fingers-crossed.