John Surtees, the only man to win world titles in both Formula One and the 500cc World Championship, believes that Valentino Rossi could be the man to emulate his success - and rule both the two and four-wheeled worlds.

Speaking exclusively to during the opening of the new Silverstone Innovation Centre, the first phase of the redevelopment of the home of British motorsport, Surtees said that the key factor for Rossi - before he even contemplates a move to F1 - is to achieve everything he set out to do in the world of motorcycling.

"The main thing is that he needs to realise the ambitions that he has in motorcycling and he also has to change at the right time," said the seven-time motorcycling champion and 1964 F1 title winner. "If he is going to change, then he needs to do it at a point while he is still improving, he mustn't wait until he perhaps gets slightly over the hill like so many other people have done.

"I changed when I was just coming up to 26-years of age and still getting better. I probably had another ten years left in motorcycling, so that was something that was very important for me and will be very important for him."

Surtees also added that the Italian superstar would have to show that he had the pace to make the grade in Formula One if he did make a move away from bike racing.

"When I first jumped into a car I jumped into the same cars that had been driven by Stirling Moss and a number of other top drivers and I was able to go just as quick," he said. "The important thing is that Rossi will have to show the speed in the car to make it worthwhile. He'll find safety and he'll put experience together, but first and foremost he will have to see that he has the speed because speed in the end is something that you don't find, you've either got it or you haven't."

Rossi has been linked with a possible switch to four-wheels long before he clinched his sixth world title - and fourth consecutive crown in the premier MotoGP class - this season for new team Yamaha, and has previously tested a Ferrari F1 machine at Fiorano.

Although the 25-year-old has committed his immediate future to MotoGP, the rumour mill continues to speculate that his long term future could be in F1 with the Scuderia, an all Italian combination that many believe could help him emulate Surtees' achievements.

Surtees himself believes that that technological improvements could make it easier for Rossi should he make the move from two-wheels to four at some point down the line.

"I would say that it would be easier today [than it was in the 1950s-60s]," Surtees said. "One, the technique of riding a bike, with its very large tyres and very high power output, is more akin to a car, and second, whereas when you made the transfer in my day you had to do all the feedback and basically get the feel from the seat of your pants or the tips of your fingers, today you have all the telemetry.

"They can even point out where you may have made a mistake while you're going round the track and be in communication all the time. All the modern technology must aid you to get together your program quicker than it would have been learning it the hard way as I did in my day," he explained.

Those technological improvements, coupled with the Italians undoubted skill, leaves Surtees in no doubt that Rossi could become only the second person to achieve the double of being a world title both on bikes and in F1.

"If anybody is going to do it at this time in particular then it is Valentino," he said, "because he is a true racer."



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