By the time Valentino Rossi was ushered off the track into a sea of yellow on Wednesday, he had simply become no longer the best MotoGP rider in the world. And even after his final season on the circuit, he was no longer a public figure in his own right. This was Valentino Rossi on a t-shirt, for the good of the sport and the young Japanese rider Yuki Aoyama, who had grown up idolising the Italian, becoming his great friend in Monte Carlo.
He also thanked the fans for their adoration, though he made no mention of the Ferrari star Alvaro Bautista who has overtaken him this season after winning two races. It was in the race in Al Dhabi three weeks ago, at which Bautista secured a track record, that Rossi had his moment of capitulation, disobeying team orders and overtaking to win.
Valentino Rossi out of MotoGP to finish his career on the outskirts of the sport Read more
Later, Rossi was at it again, taking issue with the riders who had taken his place in the podium, Sacha Modolo and Tomasz Cywka. “They were in the first row the last time and now they are here,” he said. “I cannot believe it. You ride and then you receive this email after the race from the team telling you you are no longer there.”
Robbi Rossi, the MotoGP director, had decided to make the call on Tuesday and told him in person in the paddock in Monte Carlo. “There is nothing you can do to break this news,” he was reported to have said, “There is nothing in the rules.”
For a long time the decision had no impact, Rossi refusing to accept it and focusing on trying to get to an unprecedented record of six world championships. But Wednesday it became clear that the cycle of his career was about to end. Rossi was asked if he was going to continue with the Tech 3 Yamaha team after this year, and said: “No.” He was then asked what he was going to do, and answered: “I don’t know.”
He had broken his silence two weeks ago, in a spirited press conference in front of his home crowd in Cragdon, but on Wednesday he was clearly disturbed by the question, which was in direct contrast to a statement from Yamaha two days earlier that stated he would be staying.
That prompted a moment of reflection from the rider, who said: “I don’t like talking about others when I don’t know what I am going to do. I think about everything, but tomorrow you have something different. I don’t know what I am going to do. Maybe in the future I won’t.”
Rossi had a contract until 2020 and his family had told him he should honour it. But when Rossi spoke to Maranello’s Yamaha officials on Wednesday afternoon, the decision was made and he returned home to catch the ferry back to Italy.
“I’m very sad,” he said. “I had to listen to the boys. On Tuesday I had time to think. Yesterday I had so much to think. There was a lot to find out. At least I had time to think yesterday because I always work and I work hard. It’s not like yesterday I woke up and was at a breaking point, it was a long process. I’m sad, it’s a painful day, but I’m also very happy to end the best season.”
He met the media at 4pm in Cragdon, where he lives, surrounded by photographers as he left his home after the ferry. His farewell was a relatively low-key affair, and when one of his dogs appeared through the gate he grew even more emotional. There were tears and embraces and he made no mention of a bitter finale to his career.
“I cannot continue my career,” he said. “I’m sad. I’m happy. I have the very best management. They gave me my best.”