John Surtees holds a special place in the motorsport pantheon. No, he does not have Michael Schumacher's seven F1 world titles, nor does he have anywhere near as many wins as Italian motorcycling legend Giancomo Agostini.
However, unlike the German ace or the Italian maestro, Surtees can lay claim to being the only person with world championships on two wheels as well as four.
Surtees won four 500cc and three 350cc motorcycle world championships with Italian team MV Augusta. Success that eventually caught the attention of Enzo Ferrari (who had managed a motorcycle racing team in the 1930s), and paved the way for a move to Maranello. In just his second season, he won the F1 world championship.
Add to that the three straight Isle of Man races that he won, and what you get is possibly the most complete motorsport career in history. (He never finished higher than third in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but a podium there in addition to motorcycle and F1 world championships only adds to that glittering CV)
Seven-time MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi briefly flirted with the idea of a switch to F1, he even got behind the wheel of a 2008 spec Ferrari at the Circuit de Catalunya in 2010. To prove that he's no slouch on four wheels, Rossi was within two-tenths of the lap record set by Kimi Raikkonen in 2008.
Rossi's multiple world champion equivalent in F1, Michael Schumacher, didn't have such a good time of it when he piloted a MotoGP beast. The first time he drove a MotoGP bike he was 16 seconds off the pace. In his second test in 2007, riding then world champion Casey Stoner's Ducati, Schumacher set tongues wagging, getting within five seconds of the lap record. Comparing the two speed demons later, he said, it's like being on the earth and going to the moon.
All of which proves that if a rider is to emulate Surtees' feat, he'll literally have to follow his footsteps, or skid marks, if you will, and graduate from two wheels to four.
A view espoused by MotoGP supremo, Carmelo Ezpeleta. In an interaction with HT at Dorna Sport's (MotoGP commercial rights holders) on-site paddock during the inaugural race of the season at Losail, Qatar, he said, "I have no doubt that a MotoGP rider can make a successful switch to F1, Valentino's tests with Ferrari showed that. The problem, for me, lies in the motivation. Why will someone who is very successful in MotoGP, look to start from scratch in F1?"
Speed vs cornering
In 2006, Honda ran a special test at the Circuit de Catalunya pitting their 2006 F1 car, driven by Jenson Button, against the Repsol Honda bike, piloted by then world champion Nicky Hayden.
As the lap started the two were neck and neck. On the main straight Hayden's bike, without the restrictive wings of an F1 car and weighing about a third of it, was ahead of Button owing to its superior acceleration. Those same wings proved to be the difference as the two headed into the first corner, with the exaggerated downforce of the wings helping the F1 car take corners with far greater grip (and more G-Forces weighing down their neck, 4Gs compared to 1.5Gs on the bike). The four disc brakes also meant the F1 car could brake much later and more effectively. The result at the conclusion of the lap? The F1 car ended 26 seconds ahead of the MotoGP bike.