SAO PAULO, Brazil — McLaren’s Lando Norris revealed boyhood hero Valentino Rossi texted him ahead of what will be the Moto GP legend’s final race this weekend.
Norris is well known as a Rossi fan and got to meet the Italian rider at an event in 2019. The two have remained in touch since and Rossi, who will retire from Moto GP after this weekend’s Valencia Grand Prix, was in touch ahead of the event.
“He sent me a message last night, just because he is going into the final race of his career,” Norris said during his press conference on Thursday. “It is sad times. I’m going to miss him.
“I’m going to try to watch as many MotoGP races as I can.
“He was the guy that I watched when I was four, five, six years old. He got me into racing. He got me onto a motorbike first. He has been the guy that I have looked up to, the guy who kind of helped me get to this position where I am because probably without watching him my ambition of being a racing driver would not have been so high.
“I’m going to miss it. I’m lucky that I got to meet him once at a race at Silverstone. I got to go to the MotoGP race. I’m going to miss him in MotoGP. I don’t think it’s just me. There are millions of fans who support him and are also going to miss him being in F1 and the padlock.
“He is a character. One of the best things about him is the character that he is amongst people and fans, he has time for everyone. He is a good guy and he is definitely going to be missed.”
When asked what Rossi’s message said, Norris said: “You want to know exactly what he said? I am not going to say anything.
“It was just a follow-up from a message that I sent him before this final weekend. A little heartfelt message saying I was going to miss him in MotoGP and congratulations for everything that he has achieved.
“We talk every now and then. We still want to try to do some together — driving. He does a few GTs and stuff. Abu Dhabi 12 hours and the Dubai 12 hours.
“It’s not just motorbikes that he likes. He loves car racing as well. If he can spend some time to come to an F1 race, that is the plan for something that we want to do together. Hopefully that can be done.”
Reigning seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton also paid tribute to Rossi ahead of his final race. Hamilton and Rossi swapped rides at a 2019 event in Valencia, with the Moto GP champion driving Hamilton’s 2017 Mercedes W08 and the F1 champion driving Rossi’s 2019 Yamaha YZR-M1.
“It’s obviously sad to see Vale stopping but his I think his drive, his approach, just everything he’s everything he’s done has been incredible,” Hamilton said.
“The passion that he’s had for so long has shown through. And [he’s] just such a legend — one of the greatest to ever do it, if not the greatest to ever have done it.
“So, it’ll just be sad to not be watching the races and seeing him just ride in style as he usually does.
“But I think it’s a beautiful time for him also, because he’s got a family now he’s growing or starting to build.
“But I’m grateful I’ve had the privilege to share a really special day with him on track. I’ll always remember that.”