Bengaluru, November 13: With curtains having come down on the 2017 season, clouds hover over the future of MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi.
The Italian great began the season with a third-place finish in Qatar, won the Dutch Grind Prix midway through the calendar before being laid low by a freak injury off the track.
That virtually put paid to his title dreams and though he made a comeback with a second-place finish at the Australian Grand Prix, Marc Marquez had established a vice-like grip over the MotoGP crown by that time.
The 38-year-old ended the season in Valencia with a fifth-place finish and that is where he ended in the championship too, two places behind Yamaha mate Maverick Vinales.
"I wanted to do better, for sure, but it was the kind of race I was expecting. I knew I had to suffer because my pace during the weekend wasn't fantastic. I didn't have enough grip, so I struggled," said Rossi as he wound up the 2017 season.
The 'Doctor' will be back at the Ricardo Tormo circuit on Tuesday (November 14), for the two-day Valencia MotoGP official test.
Ricardo Tormo circuit,Valencia— Valentino Rossi (@ValeYellow46) November 11, 2017
📸 mighelon @ Circuit de la Comunitat… https://t.co/8at1KpgHx6
"Now I think the pre-season tests will be very important, because I've to reduce the gap, improve the setting and try to arrive ready for next season," Rossi said.
Speculation has been rife that right from the start of the season, Rossi was never happy with the 2017 version of the Yamaha YZR M1 and that he is even open to the idea of re-testing the 2016 version.
"I never felt comfortable with this bike from the first test. Sincerely I tried a lot of different things. Also when you ride this motorcycle, you don't have enough confidence to push at 100 per cent. For me it isn't a bad idea to try the 2016 bike," he said.
Despite a not so good finish, the nine-time MotoGP champion was trying to bank on the positives from the season.
"Sometimes I saw a small light at the end of the tunnel.
"There were four victories for Yamaha in all, a lot of podiums, some double podiums, Maverick third in the championship and me fifth. You can see the glass half-full or half-empty," he said.
These are testing times for Rossi. By the time green light glows in the 2019 season opener in Qatar, he will be 39. He has not won a MotoGP championship since 2009.
With young guns like Marquez and Vinales raising the bar, he will have to do something extraordinary to stay with the rest of the pack.
But you can never write him off. Besides endurance and determination, what differentiates him from the rest of the riders on the grid is his insatiable hunger for success.
At the 2017 season opener at the Losail circuit (Qatar), asked as to where he found his motivation even at this age, Rossi just shrugged his shoulders and said "... I don't know" to send the assembled scores of journalists into peels of laughter.
But what he does know is how to make his bike do unbelievable stuff and MotoGP buffs all around the world would expect him to shine bright just like the fluorescent yellow No 46 on his Yamaha bike.