Moto GP star Valentino Rossi has once again been involved in talks with Ferrari regarding a Formula 1 slot. Apparently, when plans to have Michael Schumacher fill in for Felipe Massa fell through, the Prancing Horse approached Rossi – yet again – about a possible drive.
As anyone who follows either Formula 1 or MotoGP knows, Ferrari and Rossi have been engaged in a sporadic mating dance for the past several years. While it seems that Ferrari would have been happy to hire Rossi, had he been willing, the MotoGP champ has been playing such a clever game of hard-to-get that he’s managed to stay effectively ungot.
Along the way, Rossi has been politic, and careful not to close the door completely. He has always provided a reasonable excuse for not trading his Yamaha colors for Ferrari red. In this case, he said his reasons were two-fold.
First, there was the issue of Formula 1 neck fitness. F1 pilots typically add an inch or two in neck circumference during an active racing season, as their neck muscles respond to the rigors of extreme lateral G-force loading. Drivers who are out of condition are prone to serious strain and injury in this area. When Michael Schumacher opted out of subbing for Massa a few weeks ago, citing his own still mending neck injury, he wasn’t just being a proverbial wuss. Rossi is correct in assuming that his own neck fitness wouldn’t be up to snuff on short notice.
Secondly, Rossi also indicated that he wanted to focus on the current MotoGP championship without worrying about distractions. Certainly, fighting for the MotoGP title is probably a full time job. What’s left unsaid here, is that Ferrari certainly would have expected Rossi to make Formula 1 his primary (if not exclusive) commitment for the remainder of the season. In other words, forget about MotoGP, you’re a Ferrari driver now.
Granted, as MotoGP fans will point out, Ferrari have no problem with Kimi Raikkonen’s moonlighting in the World Rally Championship, so why would they mind if Rossi did double duty? A cynic might answer that, since Ferrari seem bent on saying good-bye to the Kimster a year before his contract expires anyway, what better way to ease his exit than to encourage him to swap his Ferrari for a Fiat Grand Punto?
For now, with Giancarlo Fisichella having been designated to keep Massa’s seat warm, it would appear that a Rossi drive is off the table. Rossi should bear in mind, however, that if you fail to answer often enough, eventually opportunity stops knocking on your door.