It's 'impossible' but, if as some fans are suggesting, Valentino Rossi's rivals were to slow down on the last lap of his final MotoGP race to allow him onto the podium, the Italian joked he'd happily pay for the party!

Rossi has been locked on 199 MotoGP podiums since Jerez 2020 and, with a best result of eighth so far this season, the milestone 200th is likely to remain out of reach.

Nonetheless, if his rivals are feeling charitable on Sunday, Rossi would happily accept… or indeed pay!

"Unfortunately, it's impossible I think, but if they give me a podium position I'm very very happy because it can be the 200th, so important," Rossi smiled. "I can pay them or maybe we can make a party together for the podium and I will pay everything! But I think it won't happen!"

Although easily the worst season of Rossi's career in terms of results, the 42-year-old has generally only been 0.8-1.0s a lap off the front of the field.

The compressed nature of the modern MotoGP grid was again illustrated in Friday practice at Valencia, where Rossi was 21st and last in the dry afternoon session, but only 1.358s behind Jack Miller (Ducati) and 0.577s from Yamaha's new world champion Fabio Quartararo.

"Sometimes it's a lot worse because for example in Portimao I was +0.9 and I was 18th, and that track is a lot longer," Rossi said.

"MotoGP now is like this because all the riders are very fast and very prepared for every racetrack. The bikes are all very similar, also the non-factory bikes and I think this is good about MotoGP. Especially for the fans."

But if Rossi was 20 years younger, the same age as Quartararo, does he think he could have fought at the front of MotoGP given the character of the 2021-spec Yamaha and modern generation of 'soft' Michelin tyres?

"It's difficult to answer, but I think yes," Rossi replied. "For sure if I am 20 years younger I can fight for the victory. I want to say yes."

Pressed on when he felt he was riding at his strongest during his MotoGP career, the Italian answered: "From 2001-2005."

In other words, from winning the final 500cc title with Honda through to his second championship-winning season at Yamaha.

It speaks volumes for Rossi's passion and commitment that he was able to win two more titles after that era, in 2008 and 2009, battled for a tenth world championship until the final round of the 2015 and won what looks like being his last MotoGP race as late as 2017!

Returning to the present, Rossi will spend Friday evening pouring over data and set-up ideas with his team in search of more speed for Saturday, a ritual he has performed since joining the world championship in 1996.

"It was a difficult day because the conditions are very bad already from this morning, with a lot of water and it was very cold. In the afternoon fortunately the conditions were better but not completely dry," he said.

"I don’t feel very good. It's always difficult at Valencia because the layout of the track and grip level is difficult. But I hope that the weather remains good and the conditions come better because for sure the track can improve.

"I was not fast enough today but I think with the better condition our potential can be a bit better, so we have to try."