“Valentino was very close to driving in Formula 1”- Ferrari planned to introduce Valentino Rossi into F1 through a route from Sauber.
Valentino Rossi is among the all-time greatest MotoGP racers, if not the greatest of all time. Ferrari eyed his potential with an F1 car long ago, as the Italian had sampled F1 cars several times, and gave impressive outputs.
Luca Di Montezemolo, the former chairman, has revealed that in 2004, there were serious talks to introduce Rossi as a Formula 1 driver by first appointing him a seat in Sauber. If played out well, he would have been a Ferrari superstar.
“Everyone knows it was not a publicity operation, Ferrari did not need it,” said Di Montezemolo during an interview with Motorsport.com. “At the beginning, it was almost to make a courtesy to the desire of a great champion.”
“I saw he was going strong, especially he lacked continuity, but he had a lot of potential and desire. At one point we thought he would do a year at Sauber, but he was smart and preferred to remain number one in motorcycles than four or five in cars.”
Astonished Michael Schumacher at Fiorano
Rossi reportedly participated in a test session back in 2004 wearing Michael Schumacher’s helmet. The Italian astonished the 7-time-world champion, as he was just 0.7 seconds slower than him.
However, Rossi, in the end, decided to stick with MotoGP where he went onto extend his legacy by a multifold. Rossi’s father reveals that MotoGP was his true love.
Rossi’s father said back in 2016: “Valentino was very close to driving in Formula 1. The only thing comparable to a MotoGP bike is a Formula 1 car, and [competing in] another motorsport [categories] would be taking a little step down. Valentino refused [a move] – his love for MotoGP was too big.”