On August 5, 2021, the MotoGP paddock returned to continue the 2021 season after its annual summer break. To kick things off at the MotoGP of Styria weekend, seven-time MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi and the MotoGP organization announced a special press conference where Vale would tell the world his future plans. Would he retire, or would he continue to race on his own VR46 team?
Rossi is Rossi, no matter what. The press conference was livestreamed on the MotoGP website, and as soon as he came out onstage and took his seat, the Doctor didn’t waste any time keeping everyone watching in suspense. Valentino Rossi announced that he’s officially retiring from MotoGP at the end of the 2021 season.
He made the announcement first in English, and then in Italian. The English announcement started with jokes, and the usual Rossi demeanor we’re used to seeing in interviews. As he spoke in Italian, however, Rossi’s tone was noticeably more serious. It’s an incredibly emotional moment for both the man and his fans around the world. While he didn’t cry, it was at this point you could see him tear up just a little—and honestly, you would, too. It’s a monumental decision. Here’s what he said in English.
"I said I would take a decision for next year after the summer break, and I decided to stop at the end of the season," the living racing legend began. "Unfortunately, this will be my last half season as a MotoGP rider. And it's difficult, it's a very sad moment because it's difficult to say and know that next year I will not race with a motorcycle, I've done that for I think more or less 30 years!”
"Next year, my life will change. But it was great, I've enjoyed it very much, it's been a long, long journey and it was really, really fun. It's 25, 26 years in the World Championship, so it was great. And I had unforgettable moments with all my guys, the guys who work for me, so... I don't have a lot to say! Just this,” Vale continued.
Naturally, MotoGP had a nicely edited collection of the Doctor’s career highlights ready to show during the conference. They showed it as a split-screen at times, with a tight closeup on Vale’s face as he watched the clips reel along with the rest of us, as perhaps the ultimate reaction video.
Since this was a press conference, Rossi of course took questions afterward. He also went on to explain in one answer about why he chose not to accept the VR46 team’s offer to race there in 2022. Quite simply, the Doctor said he feels that he has about one more strong year of racing in him. The VR46 team, he said, really needs talented riders with at least three or four years to devote to developing within the team. It was a tactical, clear-eyed, and no doubt unimaginably difficult decision to make.
This is an emotional day for MotoGP fans, and indeed for all kinds of racing fans around the world. Some have compared Rossi to other beloved athletic greats like Michael Jordan, because both transcended their sports to become personalities loved around the world. While everyone knew this day would eventually come, that doesn’t make it any less tough. We wish the Doctor all the best and look forward to seeing how the VR46 team fares on track in 2022.