After setting a best lap time just a fraction slower than Felipe Massa and that would have been quick enough for 18th on the starting grid for the 2008 Spanish Grand Prix on the second and final day of his Ferrari F1 test at Barcelona this week, record-breaking multiple MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi acknowledged that whilst a future career in the top flight might be 'fun', it would not be 'feasible'.
Having not tested for the Scuderia
for twelve months, Rossi successfully lopped a full ten seconds off his initial efforts by the end of Wednesday around the Circuit de Catalunya, and then improved by a further 3.7 seconds still on day two to wind up on a 1m 21.9s, benefitting from better weather conditions than on the rainy opening day, and increased familiarity with the Ferrari F2008.
With his father and 2008 F1 World Championship runner-up Massa both keen observers from the pit garage, Rossi committed a brace of near-identical errors at the entrance to the chicane, a section of the track to which he is not accustomed given that it is not used in motorcycle racing.
However, in terms of outright pace the nine-time world champion impressed, lapping barely 1.2 seconds shy of the lap record around the circuit – set by Kimi Raikkonen in the same car two years ago – and less than half a second adrift of Massa's Q1 qualifying marker for the same race, despite driving with GP2 Series tyres to circumvent the F1 testing ban.
“We had hoped to run in the dry, but we had to fit wet tyres again in the morning,” the Urbino native remarked. “I was faster than [the previous day], despite some problems with understeer. We kept the last three-quarters of an hour to try a 'time attack' with little petrol and fresh tyres – I would have given anything for such a lap time.
“I haven't driven an F1 car for a year, but we worked on the set-up – and it's always interesting to go a little further than just driving. I think it's nice for Italian fans to see me driving a Ferrari – and I must say that Montmeló is really wonderful and even more fun than Mugello because it's a little bit easier, though turn ten is difficult because it is too narrow and a little tight; for sure it's much better when we go through it on a bike.”
“We tried different set-ups and he improved a lot,” added chief track engineer Luca Baldisserri. “This means that the driver learns quickly and has room for improvement.”
Whilst the performance has set tongues wagging once more – with Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali having made no secret of his desire to run Rossi in a third car should F1 governing body the FIA consent to it, his current Yamaha contract expiring at the close of 2010 and the general post-test consensus being that 'The Doctor' has 'the talent to progress' [see separate story – click here
] – the motorcycling legend re-affirmed that he has no plans to make his four-wheeled exploits a permanent focus anytime soon.
Describing such a notion as 'fun, but not feasible', he told Spanish newspaper AS
that 'tomorrow I am a MotoGP rider again', adding in an interview with El Periodico
: “When I could come to F1, I will be too old. There are wonderful drivers there. I'm fine in my world, which is bikes. This is just a diversion, some fun, and I am grateful to everybody for the opportunity.”
“It's a special situation because the four fastest riders in the world championship are in the final year of their contracts,” he mused, finally, reflecting on the likely situation of musical chairs in the premier class come season's end. “Personally, I'll think about it around June and may have decided by then. I'm happy with Yamaha, so I want to talk with them before anyone else.”
Last year, Rossi reportedly issued his employer with an ultimatum for 2011, offering the Japanese manufacturer the option of either losing team-mate Jorge Lorenzo – or losing him [see separate story – click here
]. Rival Ducati is known to be courting his services, ostensibly to partner fellow title-winner Casey Stoner in Nicky Hayden's stead [see separate story – click here