Valentino Rossi first began to think of retirement during the 2019 MotoGP season, when for the first time as a Yamaha rider his podium results dried up.

But he was persuaded to continue and, after returning to the rostrum for what would be the 199th and final time in his grand prix career at the start of the covid-disrupted 2020 season, ultimately decided to race on again in 2021 - after losing his factory Yamaha seat - by switching to Petronas Yamaha.

"I started to think of retirement in 2019," said Rossi, speaking in a series of You Tube interviews with Graham Bensinger. "Because 2019 was the first time that I had a problem with the results. I expected to be stronger.

"I started 2019 in a very good way because I did two podiums in Argentina and Austin, in Austin very close to winning, and after something happened when we came back to Europe and I was not fast.

"So that moment was the first time that I thought we are close to finishing. After we had 2020, but that decision was very strange because of the pandemic.

"At the beginning of the season, I thought I would stop and not race in 2021. But after my parents and my friends [persuaded me to stay], we'd changed my chief mechanic in the team, so they all pushed me and said 'don’t give up! We have to do another season.' So we raced also in 2021."

Although Rossi took the last of his nine world titles back in 2009, he had been title runner-up as late as 2014, 2015 and 2016. The Italian then won what would be his final race at Assen 2017 and was a competitive third in the standings in 2018.

But his championship ranking then went into a sharp decline with 7th in 2019, 15th in 2020 (having missed two rounds after contracting Covid) and finally 18th in 2021.

Rossi insists he has no regrets about his final years in the sport, since he can retire knowing he left no more wins or podiums on the table.

"I see a lot of other riders or drivers, or champions in sport, that want to stop when they are at the top. But for me it's different. I don’t want to stop. If I'm still at the top I want to continue, because I like, I enjoy," Rossi said.

"So I always said I will give the maximum until the end, give everything, so after I don’t have any regrets and can't say 'I could race for another two or three seasons'."

The 42-year-old added: "It's the right decision because I was able to give the maximum and I enjoyed [my career]. But it will be difficult in January-February-March when [MotoGP] restarts and I don’t."