‘Struggling’ Rossi ‘still has fight left in him’ - Kevin Schwantz

Valentino Rossi's racing career isn't destined to go out on a whimper, believes Kevin Schwantz despite the Italian's woeful start to the 2021 MotoGP season

Valentino Rossi - Petronas SRT Yamaha

500GP World Champion Kevin Schwantz has come out in support of an ailing Valentino Rossi, saying the ‘Doctor’ still has time to cause a surprise and (possibly) end his long career with a bang after a whimper of a start to the 2021 MotoGP World Championship season.

With four rounds down, Rossi finds himself languishing in 21st of the 24 riders and while there is certainly a long way to go in this year’s championship battle, this is the first time in 21 attempts Rossi hasn’t achieved a top ten finish within the first two races of a year, let alone the first four.

indeed , with a 12-16-DNF-17 scoresheet to his name thus far, it has been a sobering start to the year for Rossi at a time he more than most could have benefited from a return to form


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For now, Rossi remains upbeat despite admitting to ‘low morale’ after finishing 17th from 17th on the grid in Jerez, with this weekend’s French MotoGP at Le Mans one of his more favourable - or at least familiar - venues. 

Naturally, everyone is a critic and you don’t need to go far to get an opinion on whether Rossi should race on, call time on his career at the end of the year, or maybe even walk away before that. However, if Rossi himself was ever going to take advice from a former racer then we reckon Kevion Schwantz would rank fairly highly on this metaphorical list… higher than Jorge Lorenzo or Casey Stoner anyway!

The 1993 500cc Grand Prix World Champion can’t deny Rossi’s form is less of a lull and more of a trend, but while Schwantz saysslump is unlikely to ever recover in its entirety now, he is convinced on his day Rossi can still remind the world why he was such a colourful force for two decades.

"I'm concerned about the 46," the Texan told Autosport. "I don't like seeing him race that far back. It seems like he qualified a little bit better in Qatar but then he really struggled in Portugal and Jerez and not making any great advances in the race like he used to. 

“Maybe it's just his comfort level is not there with the bike, maybe there's something new that Yamaha's got that's made the factory Yamaha's bike better and maybe Rossi is last on the pecking order to get it. So, who knows? I'm sure the 46 still has some fight left in him."

"No," replied Schwantz when asked whether he believes Rossi appears to be enjoying his racing at the moment. "And, as a rider, it's one of the most difficult things ever. I remember the first few races of 95, not qualifying great, finishing back in the field, not fighting for a podium or a win like I was used to. As a rider, it's really hard on you."

"If you're not winning anymore, you don't enjoy racing" - Schwantz 

While Rossi is never very far from the spotlight in MotoGP - despite results over the last three seasons failing to justify the attention - his switch from the Yamaha Factory to the Petronas SRT squad represented the biggest shift in his day-to-day since returning to the firm from Ducati in 2013.

For a rider that has benefitted from a sizeable share of Yamaha’s resources over the years, it appears the transition from Factory to Satellite has been more disruptive than he might have feared, even though he does still line-up on osetasibly the same M1 as Fabio Quartataro and Maverick Vinales.

With this in mind, Schwantz says the lack of silverware coupled with a feeling he can’t influence things to go his way anymore will play their part in whatever decision he takes for his future. 

“Racing is fun because we all love winning and when the opportunity to win is not there, racing's really not that much fun anymore. So, I don't know what the answer is.

"I would have thought maybe getting to Europe, maybe not so much Portugal as much as Jerez, getting to a track he knows, he's raced at and has won races at that maybe that was going to help him get back on his feet. But it's definitely a struggle for him right now."

Rossi has not won a MotoGP race since since Assen 2017, while he has only achieved a relatively scant three podiums over the past two seasons.