The credits arrived, including hugs, fireworks and 75,000 crazy spectators. A yellow tide for the latest tribute to Valentino Rossi, even when the color of the uniforms is different. Fans, riders, all the people in the paddock made the Doctor feel their warmth at his last race. There were no tears – “maybe I’ll cry tonight alone, then I’ll send you the videoHe jokes – but the emotions were powerful. A great career needed a grand finale and so it was, with in every self-respecting masterpiece.
“In recent days I thought that today I would be sad and desperate, but I have fun. It’s a lot. I’m a pilot and I was a pilot, it’s the thing that gives me the most taste and I did it to the end “ start putting together the pieces of an unforgettable day.
So are you surprised?
“It was a special weekend, I didn’t expect it. On the contrary, I was a bit worried about my last race. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time and I didn’t know how I would feel if I could stay focused. It has been a great weekend since Thursday, with lots of surprises. I was pleased to feel the respect towards me from all the other riders, it’s not so normal “.
A Grand Prix that started well and ended …
“AEqually well, I was able to ride as I like it and I ended a long career finishing among the top 10 drivers in the world. It means a lot to me, you usually carry the result of the last race with you all winter, it will last a lot longer for me. In ten years I will be able to say: I finished my last race in the Top Ten. After I made a big mess, like I had won a title, I will not forget this day. Bagnaia helped me to start 10th, then I concentrated as if I were playing for the championship, it was important because I was still a driver, I gave my best and made no mistakes “.
Have you never dropped your chain?
“This has been a long and difficult season, at the beginning crucial for me because I had to decide whether I would continue or not, but the results did not come. After announcing the retirement it is easy to give up, but the team supported me. After Portiamo I told him that in Valencia I didn’t want to finish last and I think I had my best race of the whole season “.
What did you think on the last lap?
“I tried not to think it was the last one, I did it for the whole race and it was a great psychological test. I concentrated only on driving, on being in front and I really enjoyed it. I had Morbidelli behind me, I knew he wanted to cheat me, but now I can always tell him that as long as I was on the track he couldn’t beat me (ride)”.
You’ve had so many giveaways these days which one was your favorite?
“Seeing all my bikes was nice, like hugging all the other riders on Thursday and still today after the race. However the surprise that pleased me most was seeing the Academy riders with my helmets, it was a great idea”.
And the shirt received from Ronaldo?
“He is my idol, for me the best sportsman outside of motorsport. I used to go to San Siro to cheer him on, I think he gave me the same sensations that I gave to my fans. It made me understand what it feels like to be on the other side”.
Bagnaia won wearing your helmet, who will be your heir?
“I am a huge fan of all our Academy riders and next year we will have 4 in MotoGP. Bagnaia, but also Franco, next year they can fight for the title, I hope the next superstar will be among them”.
Looking back, don’t you have any regrets?
“The only one is that it’s over, it will be more difficult for me in the next weeks, in the next months, in March when the championship starts again and I won’t be there. I can’t complain about my results but, if I had put the same commitment and effort as the last 10 years into my early career, I would probably have won more. When you are young it is normal that this is the case, there are things you learn with age”.
If you could travel to the past, what would you change?
“I would return here to Valencia, but in 2006, I would face that race more prepared and concentrated, maybe I wouldn’t fall. But above all I would go back to 2015, that time I had done everything I had to, I had lost through no fault of my own and this hurts even more. It is the biggest regret, because the defeat in 2006 was there, it is normal to lose after so many victories, the title in 2015 would have been more important, I would have reached 10, it hurt me. The rest was all great”.
Can you describe your career in three words?
“Above all fun, then amazing and very competitive “.
What do you expect from your future?
“On the one hand, I’m happy to have more free time and to continue to be a rider, I hope I like the cars as much as MotoGP. Then I will become a dad and tell you how I will feel when it happens”.