VALENCIA, Spain – In a historic moment for both Lewis Hamilton and Valentino Rossi, as well as their respective sports, the pair completed an unprecedented track day by swapping machinery at Circuit Ricardo Tormo.
Rossi drove the Mercedes-AMG F1 W08 EQ Power+, the same car that won the 2017 FIA Formula One World Championship with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport at the hands of Hamilton, while Hamilton rode the 2019 Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP YZR-M1 bike that only weeks earlier was piloted by Rossi at the same circuit.
The significance of the occasion was not lost on either Lewis or Valentino who have made no secret of their admiration and respect for each other in recent years.
Acting as a mentor for the other, the pair were able to complete multiple runs on each other‘s machinery and share insight, learn about each other‘s craft and enjoy a unique experience.
“It‘s so awesome to see a legend like Valentino in the car,” said Hamilton. “I‘m excited for him for discovering the car for the first time. Reminds me of my first time in a F-1 car. When you see all the team around you, it‘s just a different animal.”
Of his time out on track riding the Yamaha YZR-M1 with Rossi, Hamilton added, “It was so cool to be out on track and see Valentino ahead of me on the same bike.”
Rossi’s enthusiasm at the experience was equally high after completing the track day.
“I was already a big fan of Lewis before, but now even more. We had a fantastic day, where the two top classes of motorsports not only met, but worked together,” said Rossi. “Trying the W08 was a spectacular opportunity for me. I have tried an F-1 car before, but much has changed since then. Sincerely, I was impressed with the car and its handling, as well as with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport team, who were great to work with. They were very welcoming and made it easy for me to get familiar with the car.
“At first you get an amazing sensation of speed. The G-forces were not so bad, but it takes some getting used to. Once I got into the rhythm I could really push. It was a great pleasure,” Rossi continued. “I felt like a real F-1 driver for a day. I didn’t want the day to end! I also rode the YZR-M1 on track with Lewis. It was a proud moment for the team to share our passion with him. Technically, Valencia is a hard track, and it was windy, so at one point I thought it could be difficult for Lewis, but he was brilliant on the bike and his position on the M1 was great.
“I really enjoyed sharing this experience with him, and I think he had loads of fun too, demonstrated by how reluctant he was to stop riding! I sincerely hope we will get to have many more experiences like this in the future.”
Lin Jarvis, the managing director for Yamaha Motor Racing, was simply happy and honored to have been able to oversee the experience for both legendary drivers.
“It was an exceptional day. To have Lewis together with us and Valentino, two icons of sport at the same time and place, was really amazing. I’m really happy that I could be there to witness it and to enjoy it,” Jarvis noted. “I was very impressed by Lewis’ performance, because how many four-wheel champions could come here and get on an M1, go out there, and do themselves proud? It’s very difficult to ride a motorcycle fast on track, and even more challenging and demanding to ride a factory MotoGP bike.
“What stood out to me the most was the moment when he and Valentino were out, really close together, side by side on their M1s. Lewis has said that he’s been a fan of MotoGP and Valentino for years. It was his wish to ride on track together with Valentino and to have the experience one day to ride an M1, and he got both wishes at the same time!” Jarvis added. “It was fantastic to see that even a six-time Formula 1 world champion, who has already achieved so many things, can still realize a dream at a special occasion like this.
“We are also very pleased for Valentino, who had another chance to test himself in an F-1 car. He clearly thoroughly enjoyed himself, and we heard very positive feedback from the Mercedes team as well. All in all, I think it was a great, unique event.”