Valentino Rossi has stated he will bring an end to his MotoGP career when he turns 39, but before then he is keen to lay claim to another world title.
The Italian came close to adding a 10th championship last season, only to see his hopes vanish at the final race in Valencia after starting from the back of the grid.
Despite the setback, Rossi is raring to go ahead of the start of the new campaign on March 20, as he is keen to carry on for two more years before finally bringing an end to his illustrious career.
What do you say to yourself when you wake and look in the mirror everyday?
“It’s important to know how I wake up every morning. Let’s just say the I don’t think about a lot for the first half hour as I try to collect myself.”
You are mentioned with the likes of Diego Maradona, Carl Lewis, Muhammad Ali, Ayrton Senna, Michael Jordan, Usain Bolt and Roger Federer. What is that like?
“It’s a huge honour. I watched many of them when I was young and to think that I’ve reached the top of my discipline. Being compared to other stars makes me smile.”
Looking at you it’s incredible that you’ve been able to maintain your youth. Do you at least think like someone who has aged?
“The fact that I look younger than my age is down to two things. One is genetics and the other is my mentality and what I do. I run a lot and still speak with young riders. I think I will age a bit once I retire.”
When you raced for Ducati your mum Stefania wanted Brad Pitt to play you in a movie.
“I know they are making a movie on Barry Sheene and I’d like to see it. If Brad Pitt was in the movie that means it would be a quality film as he is a great actor. However he is too handsome so somebody else should play me.”
Lewis Hamilton travels to Los Angeles from party to party, while other stars visit Monte Carlo or Dubai, but you’ve remained in Tavullia.
“It’s all because of my affection for the place. I’m lucky because I have several real friends that I’ve grown up with. I know I can trust them. Sometimes I would also like to travel like Lewis Hamilton who goes to the Super Bowl or to the Carnival with Rihanna but the truth is I don’t want to do anything because I am happy here.”
So without friends like Uccio, Albi and others you wouldn’t be the same Valentino?
“Probably not. They are a safety net for me, and they provide me great support.”
VR46 is a great company that employs around 90 people. Did you ever think you would be a great businessman?
“My life changed in 2007. I understood it, but I decided I didn’t want to stay in London. It’s tough to say, but looking back my tax issues proved to be a good thing. I thought it would be a great idea to do something for the town and from there we came up with several ideas. Today I’m happy and my life is great. More than being a great businessman, I’ve been lucky to have great people around me.”
The only thing missing from Tavullia is a museum dedicated to you.
“We’re thinking about building one. We have a lot of material and something good could come from it. However there is still time to think about that.”
People say you don’t change your opinion on someone once they do you wrong.
“I am relentless.”
So you exclude the possibility of you and Marc Marquez rebuilding your relationship?
“Yes. After what happened we can no longer have a relationship. However we must be opponents on the track, for some years I hope, and we have to respect each other. That is important.”
Did you overestimate his capabilities?
“More than anything I allowed myself to be tricked by Marquez. He really betrayed me. He said he was a fan but those were all lies. I almost believed him and I was ready to have a rivalry with him, giving 100 percent on the track, but those were all lies on his end. At Assen I realised he was only my friend when he beats me.”
You regularly post pictures of Alain Prost and Senna on Twitter. Which one are you more like?
“When Senna raced I didn’t like him. I cheered for Nigel Mansell, and when he joined Ferrari, I cheered for Prost. But I really liked what Senna did at Suzuka in 1990. He was worked over the year before and then he did what he had to. He showed some balls.”
If you had joined Formula 1 would you still be the same person you are today?
“I think so. I never regretted not joining. It would have been a great dream but one that would have been difficult. I didn’t feel like leaving MotoGP. I made the right decision.”
Which rider would you have loved to race again?
“Naturally Kevin Schwantz because he was my favourite rider. However I would have loved to race against Giacomo Agostini and Mike Hailwood.”
Compared to last season how do you feel entering the new season?
“Similar. Testing went well and last season started great thanks to one of the best races of my career. It will be difficult to repeat that, but I at least want to make it on the podium.”
Changes have been made to the penalty system.
“I haven’t really understood what they’ve changed. However people have said that they never penalise me but that clearly isn’t the case. It would have been better to have been penalised in Malaysia than to have my chances ended in Valencia.”
Is Jorge Lorenzo the man to beat?
“Him and Marquez. At this time I would say Lorenzo more so.”
Are you going to renew your contract?
“I’ll take part in five or six races but I’m fairly convinced I’ll spend the next few years with Yamaha. Then that will be enough as I am getting white hair. However at 39 I could take part in a few auto races like the 24 Hours of Le Mans or the Dakar Rally.”
Have you given any thought to creating your own MotoGP team?
“I’m not really interested in it. Things would be more enjoyable in Moto 2 or 3. I would want to help youngsters develop.”
What are you like at home?
“I’m a pain as I can’t cook. I would like to learn one day. I do keep things tidy though.”
Why do you get along with Linda [your girlfriend]?
“It’s something chemical I believe. She is younger than me and works in a similar field. We are comfortable not being around each other all the time.”
Last year Sebastian Vettel won in Malaysia while you won in Qatar. Both of you will be racing next Sunday as well.
“If Vettel wins it would be a good omen. However things are always changing as I started well and finished poorly. I would prefer not to start well and then finish strong.”