MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi said he believed he could become a top Formula One driver after impressing while testing a Ferrari on Thursday.
The Italian has previously tested a Ferrari F1 car amid speculation that he may one day switch from racing motorbikes to cars.
He has already proved more than capable on four wheels, finishing second at the invitational Rally of Monza last week behind three-time Le Mans winner Rinaldo Capello.
On Thursday morning he completed 30 laps of the famous Mugello circuit at Scarperia, just outside Florence, clocking a fastest time of one minute 23,930 seconds in the Ferrari F2008.
He got that time down to 1:22,5 in the afternoon session before bad weather cut the outing short.
”The times we did in Fiorano, here and in Valencia have been analysed and with some good hard work and lots of effort I could become a good Formula One driver,” said Rossi.
”It’s difficult to say whether or not I would win, but the potential is definitely there.”
His time was only about a second-and-a-half slower than the times posted by Ferrari’s regular pair, Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen, and that posted by Ferrari’s test driver, Luca Badoer, on the same day.
He was also under four seconds off the lap record, set by Rubens Barrichello in a Ferrari in 2004.
Rossi also spoke about fellow world champion Lewis Hamilton of McLaren and Massa, the man who pushed the Briton right to the wire.
”I saw the last race of the F1 season this year and sincerely I have to take my hat off to Massa, because he did brilliantly and with respect to the driver he was when he debuted with Ferrari, he has improved a lot,” added Rossi.
”I think Hamilton is very fast. Watching him drive he seems to be someone on the edge who has the guts to overtake.
”I support Ferrari and I’m sorry for Massa but I also think that Hamilton deserved to win the title.”
Rossi, who won his eighth world title and sixth in the top MotoGP class in September, had stated prior to testing the Ferrari that he wanted to get within one second of the lap record.
He still has another shot at that as he will continue testing on Friday, although as Massa and Raikkonen have not managed to get that close to Barrichello’s time in the F2008, it’s highly unlikely that Rossi will hit that objective. — Sapa-AFP