Valentino Rossi must ‘be honest’ he’s ‘too old for MotoGP' – Melandri

Yamaha's Valentino Rossi should accept that he is 'too old for MotoGP' now, according to his former MotoGP rival Marco Melandri

Valentino Rossi - Yamaha MotoGP

Marco Melandri has called on Valentino Rossi to ‘be honest with himself’ and accept he is now too old for MotoGP as the motorcycle racing legend considers his future in the sport following a reshuffle at Yamaha.

The seven-time premier class champion will exit the Yamaha Factory team at the end of this season and replaced by Fabio Quartararo, leaving him with the option of continuing at the Petronas SRT Yamaha team or calling time on his illustrious career.

Rossi, who last week turned 41, says he will base his decision on whether he is competitive during the opening rounds of the 2020 MotoGP season.

However, former rival Melandri – who himself retired from competition in 2019 - suggests Rossi shouldn’t kid himself that he can go up against the new generation of rivals, adding his ‘real opponent is time’ and that he should accept that ‘life changes’.

"He is too old for MotoGP,” Melandri told “Of course, even if it's difficult to accept, but you have to be honest with yourself. It's not nice. If you always keep pushing and can't improve. 

“Today's drivers are 20-years old, they belong to another generation. They have a different driving style, a different physical shape and a different mentality. Quartararo has never been exceptionally fast in his career, but today he has the perfect bike for his riding style and his results have exploded.

Melandri continues that while the sport won’t relish the inevitable departure of Rossi, he says there is more to gain from choosing to leave on a relative high than to watch his form dwindle.

“Nobody he will be happy when Valentino Rossi retires, first of all Dorna, because he allows you to earn a lot of money. Retiring is much more difficult than continuing to go wrong. Your real opponent is time, and that cannot be stopped, it always goes on. A rider must accept that the years pass and that life changes."

Is Valentino Rossi told old for MotoGP?

At 37, Melandri’s rather glib assessment of how age affects one’s riding ability might speak more about his own downturn in form in the years prior to his retirement.

Indeed, Dorna’s own boss Carmelo Ezpeleta rejected the notion Rossi is too old for MotoGP, pointing out that he is fitter than ever because he is now training more, even if he accepts the mental motivation may be different now.

“I don't even think it's a question of age,” he said. “Valentino, if you look at him now, he's physically better prepared than he was ten years ago. Why is he training now? At the time he didn't do it. I agree with you that after so many years you may be tired of competing, more mentally than physically.”

Indeed, it is a measure of Rossi’s ability that he has moved into his 40s and has remained competitive whereas former rivals have seen their careers tail off in their 30s before exiting altogether or finding new homes in WorldSBK, for instance.

The end will inevitably come though, and it may come down to whether Rossi wants to compete to enjoy himself pressure-free or wants to compete only to win. No-one would begrudge him either but as time goes on expectations may need to be managed.