It may be rumoured that Valentino Rossi has made up his mind to retire at the end of the 2021 MotoGP season, but his own comments continue to suggest the decision remains up in the air.

After a stronger Saturday in Catalunya, the nine-time world champion criticised how a 'normal' set-up mistake on Friday was used by some as evidence that he should retire.

"We did a mistake on Friday. We followed a wrong way, but that happens in all weekends to more-or-less all the riders!" Rossi said.

"The problem is that when it happens to me, it's 'Rossi is too old, you have to stop!' after one bad practice.

"But it's normal; you work on the bike and we tried the wrong way."

"It's like this, but [MotoGP] is difficult for everybody," he added. "This morning I was P10 and less than half-a-second from the top. Everybody is together."

The Italian bounced back from a lowly 19th in Friday practice to enjoy perhaps his most competitive day of the season so far on Saturday, delighting the Petronas Yamaha team with direct access to Qualifying 2 and then seventh fastest in race trim during FP4.

"I'm very, very happy with the feeling that I had today because I was not so bad on the track and I enjoyed it," Rossi said.

"We modified the bike and I had a lot better feeling for entering the corners and turning the bike, already from FP3. I improved a lot my pace. And at the end I was able to go directly to Qualifying 2.

"FP4 was also a good practice because we tried the hard tyre and we make another step with the setting of the bike and my pace was not so bad, P7."

But the Italian's momentum came to an abrupt stop, literally, when he fell in the early stages of Qualifying 2, while chasing team-mate Franco Morbidelli.

Arriving back in the garage on a scooter, Rossi returned to action on his spare bike and set a lap time 0.752s from Fabio Quartararo's pole position, but in the ultra-close world of MotoGP 2021 that only meant eleventh on the grid.

"Unfortunately, with the first tyre I crashed and after that was difficult because I had to jump on the other bike and I finished P11. I think that I have a bit more potential but it's like this," he said.

Nonetheless, Rossi was happy to give his beleaguered side of the SRT garage a welcome shot in the arm.

"I’m very happy with the behaviour of the team and the atmosphere in the pit because I have a genuine support," he said. "All the guys here understand that this challenge is difficult and everybody is very, very sad when my performance is bad, like Friday.

"They know that we need a good result, that we can still do some good races and we can enjoy, but we need to be strong.

"In my box but also all the guys of the team support me very much and it was fun today. Entering the Q2 for us at this moment is a good result. I don’t feel a particular pressure, more a genuine support.

"Now we wait for tomorrow, to understand the weather because we hope it remains dry, also tonight."

Possible weather changes aside, Sunday's race is again expected to see high levels of tyre consumption - just as last September, when the Suzukis closed in on a fading Fabio Quartararo but ran out of laps.

"The tyre choice for the rear remains open, between medium and hard, and it’s true that the degradation here is a big issue for everybody," Rossi said.

"But I think that anyway it will be a sprint race from the first corner. The first 2-3 laps already decide 85% of the MotoGP race and after starts another, longer phase where you have to decide the other 15%.

"I think that it will be like this also tomorrow. Everybody will push a lot from the beginning."

Rossi, who says he will decide his MotoGP future during the summer break, hasn’t fought at the front of a race since last September's Catalunya round, when he fell while chasing down Quartararo.

 

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