Honoured by fans, respected by opponents, admired by fellow athletes and celebrities – loved by all – Valentino Rossi put an end to his acclaimed career of more than two decades with a 10th-place finish at the final MotoGP race of the season in Spain on Sunday.
Race-winner Francesco Bagnaia and the other riders followed Rossi after the race until the veteran Italian stopped in front of the grandstands to salute his fans.
Seven-times MotoGP title winner Rossi, one of the greatest and most charismatic of motorcycling champions, delighted fans at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo circuit but was unable to add to his 199 premier-class podiums.
Members from other teams awaited him on the pitlane to honor the 42-year-old Italian after he completed his farewell lap on the track.
“It’s the only thing possible today, to give a present to Vale,” said fellow Italian Bagnaia, who wore a helmet with Rossi’s No. 46 on it. “I want to dedicate this race to Vale and thank him for what he has done for us.”
Several video messages for Rossi were shown on the television broadcast, including those from actors Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves as well as athletes Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Lewis Hamilton, Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo.
Valentino: I always think of this day like a nightmare
Former Brazil striker Ronaldo waved the checkered flag at the end of the race, marking the last time the Italian veteran crossed the line.
The 42-year-old, nicknamed “The Doctor,” is considering a move into car racing after competing in Grand Prix motorcycling.
“I always think of this day like a nightmare, because it’s the end of a long career and I thought it would be in Valencia but in the end, I enjoyed it a lot so I have to thank everyone,” Rossi said.
“Everyone who has worked with me, the whole paddock, the other riders … it was an unforgettable day and I enjoyed it. It was a long career, and always a pleasure.”
Rossi, the only rider to win titles in the 125cc, 250cc, 500cc and MotoGP categories, took a final lap of honour on Sunday to a standing ovation from the crowd as fireworks dotted the sky, before an emotional farewell with his Petronas Yamaha team.
A showman on the bike and off it, and famed for his post-victory antics, Rossi last won a MotoGP race in 2017 with Yamaha, in the Dutch TT at Assen.