With just over a week to go until his 42nd birthday, and ahead of his 22nd season in the premier 500cc/MotoGP class, Valentino Rossi has given a wide-ranging interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera covering everything from politics to Covid and life with girlfriend Francesca Sofia Novello.

In terms of the racing, Rossi, who won his ninth world title back in 2009, says he continues to believe in the possibility of a tenth crown, but adds "it's not an obsession. I would be happy to do well, make podiums, be a protagonist in the fight."

"Winning [races] is a tough business, because the level of the riders is very high," he adds of his victory drought since 2017. "I have had at least three opportunities in recent years, but always missed by a hair."

Two novelties for 2021 will be Rossi's move to the satellite Petronas Yamaha team and racing against younger brother Luca Marini, who will spend his rookie MotoGP season at Avintia Ducati.

"We are different. For example, he is truly a serious person. Sometimes he seems like the only 40-year-old in the family!" Rossi says of Marini. "He's a cool guy, he's enormously talented, he's always believed in himself. I expect him to do very well even if it will take him time to learn how to ride the Ducati."

While not commenting directly on his own exit from the factory Yamaha team, Rossi feels that, in general, choosing riders for 2021 before 2020 starts is "a mistake".

"It is a MotoGP vice. We should wait at least a few races. However Quartararo is still a promise and Viñales, even with ups and downs, is very strong. They will do well, I am sure."

Turning to the subject of injured eight-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez, Rossi says: "I think he wanted to go back to racing too soon after the operation and I don't understand how they allowed that to happen…"

Asked if it is 'nice to know that Marquez isn't here?', referring to their heated clashes in the past, Rossi responds: "Hahaha… here we need a diplomatic answer: I'm very sorry that [Marquez] can't ride [at the moment]. If he heals, which nobody knows at the moment, not even him, he will be as strong as before. But Marquez was not the strongest opponent I met."

Direct rivalry between Marquez and Rossi may have been rare in recent seasons, but the Italian says it is "impossible" to forgive the Spaniard for the end of 2015, when Rossi believes Marquez tried to aid the title chances of Jorge Lorenzo.

"What he did to me is not forgivable. When I think back to those days, I have the same feelings as then. And it's been six years. It seems difficult to me that [my feelings] can change," Rossi said.

While the timing of Marquez's return from complications to his fractured arm remains unclear, Andrea Dovizioso is set to take at least a year out of the sport after splitting from Ducati and failing to find a competitive ride.

"For me it is absurd, he is fast, expert," Rossi said of the triple MotoGP title runner-up not being on the grid in 2021. "But we should ask him. Maybe he didn't feel like it anymore. If it was his choice, everything is fine."