Rossi is the man, but you gotta wonder what head games he is playing and what his motives are. Everyone in the paddock knows Nicky has been slowed by development work of the 06 bike. Unlike and Melandri and Pedrosa, he has been jumping from the 05 to 06 bike for most of the test. Maybe is he trying to discourage Yamaha from re-considering Nicky after he leaves for Yamaha. I dont know what Pedrosa's times are over a race distance, but I would be surprised if he runs upfront consistently. If testing times are all that important, he (Rossi) should've mentioned that the Kawi boys who did very well timing-wise last weekend, will also be key rivals.
I read a post on SOUP (I think- but maybe not) yesterday that commented on the fact that Nicky would move to Yamaha when Rossi left. Nicky is stuck developing new machines and the times are a little off the leaders. Why? 'Cause he's developing bikes. You can't get your best laps on a bike you keep changing settings on. Vale may not count on Nicky being there to contend, but I believe HRC won't let Nicky ride the season out without thinking that he can win races. They (HRC) are getting as much test info as possible before the season starts.
The article says that he won two of the final 500cc seasons. WRONGO! He won the final in 2001. Kenny Roberts Jr. won it in 2000. If it weren't for Rossi falling in a few races in 2000 he would have won the championship in his first year in the premier class!
I don't want to sound like the pessimist here, Rossi is a great champion, but how come there is always all this F1 talk as if Rossi will just waltz into F1 and pull championships? At this point, I'd say although going to F1 may be far more lucrative, as far as his overall "mystique" goes as a young champion that kicked tail, it could backfire big time. He may just take that $X dollar contract, go into F1, get his a$$ handed to him by Alfonso or some other joe blow and come right back. If it happened to Hailwood, it could happen to Rossi. IMHO, he should clean house for a few more years, secure the all time record, then retire as not only a motorcycle legend, but a ultra young legend instead of be known as the great rider that was an ordinary contender as a driver.
mind you, he IS already a legend, an ultra young legend at that and the only two records left to him are those of Agostini and Nieto. Both achieved all their wins in very different context (smaller classes, racing more than one class per GP, etc.) therefore not really within reach nowadays. So the only reason he might stay another season is because of wanting to win also on the 800's. He's simply running out of chalenges.
As far as Melandri and Pedrosa are concerned, this level of estimation from Rossi has to be the equivalent of a blessing from the pope. Perhaps Hayden would have been a contender if he had learned how to look after his tires earlier in the race.