Rossi’s grand prix career has been going for 26 seasons, having made his debut in the world championship in the 125cc class back in 1996.
The Italian has been through all major changes to the premier class since 2000 and has inspired legions of young riders in his time in grand prix racing.
In a wide-ranging interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, Rossi says he paved the way for how many riders after him approached MotoGP.
“I was the first modern MotoGP rider,” Rossi said.
“I did many things first, which have become a lesson for many riders today.
“I started very young, but when I was 20 I was already in the 500cc [class] and my path was followed by everybody.
“There are some things I did that everyone looked at.”
Despite turning 42 this year, Rossi still harbours hopes of extending his MotoGP career beyond 2021.
Currently, he only has a one-year deal in his pocket with Yamaha to race with Petronas SRT with factory backing – while SRT boss Razlan Razali noted in the pre-season that Rossi has performance criteria he must meet before 2022 discussions can be had.
Valentino Rossi, Petronas Yamaha SRT
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
Rossi has so far struggled in 2021, finishing 12th in the Qatar Grand Prix before coming home 16th in the Doha race having qualified a career-worst 21st and crashing out of the Portuguese GP.
Explaining what continues to motivate him, Rossi added: “My reasoning is very simple and it makes me strange that some people don’t understand it, maybe my way of thinking is different.
“I like the way I feel, the sensation, the adrenaline that comes from winning, getting on the podium or just having a good race.
“I’m fine for a few days. I like that feeling there.
“I know very well that in the end time will have win, unfortunately for everybody it’s like that, but I try with all my strength to make it as difficult as possible, that’s it.
“And that’s the only reason I’m still racing.”
Rossi also revealed what he considers his three best seasons in MotoGP, highlighting the “battle to the death” with Max Biaggi in 2001, his first Yamaha campaign in 2004 and his sixth title-winning season in 2008.
“2001, because it was the last 500cc world championship and therefore the last chance to make it: a battle to the death with Biaggi, wonderful,” he said when asked about his best seasons.
“Then 2004, the victory on the debut at Welkom with Yamaha. Sportingly the most beautiful.
“And 2008: for many people I was already finished, [I was] old. But when I switched to Bridgestones, I beat [Casey] Stoner.”