Seven days ago, we were talking about how the 2015 MotoGP season will go down in history as one of the greatest of all time, with the Australian Grand Prix as its glittering highlight. A week later, we saw its low point. There were some truly remarkable and admirable performances in all three classes. Dani Pedrosa confirmed his return to form with a formidable victory, his second of the season. The arm pump surgery has been a huge success, and if Honda can resist the temptation to build an unrideably powerful engine, Pedrosa will be back in title contention again next year. Johann Zarco proved once again he is the class of the Moto2 field, stalking Tom Luthi all race and riding to the very limit of physical endurance to snatch victory from what seemed like a foregone conclusion. And Miguel Oliveira demonstrated that he is capable of dominating the second half of the Moto3 season the way that Danny Kent dominated the first half, denying the Englishman the title and taking the championship to Valencia.
The trouble is, those stunning performances were overshadowed by one of the ugliest weekends of racing we have seen in a very long time. The tragedy may not have been physical this time, but it was tragic nonetheless. Three great champions let their masks slip at Sepang, revealing the egotism, spitefulness and petty rivalries that underly their success. And the fans added insult to injury, booing at a result they did not like.
So we shall skip past the victory by Dani Pedrosa, failing to shower him with the praise which he deserves. We shall overlook the stunning ride by Jorge Lorenzo, passing riders at will and subduing everyone but Dani Pedrosa. Instead, we must focus on the battle for third, the clash between Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez. On the breathtaking battle that went sour, after Rossi finally lost his cool at Márquez' provocation and unwillingness to surrender, and precipitated Márquez' crash.
The pocket rocket
Pedrosa got away at the start, and once he was into Turn 1, he was basically gone. The Spaniard did not pull out the kind of gap that Jorge Lorenzo does on his first lap, but he still went faster than anyone could follow. His teammate tried, but it was clear from the start that he could not match him, Márquez struggling with an unwilling front end and a full fuel tank. Behind Márquez sat Valentino Rossi, close on the Spaniard's tail, but never able to threaten him. Rossi's Movistar Yamaha teammate was on his way forward, putting a brilliant pass on both Ducatis at the same time at Turn 4. A lap later, Lorenzo was outbraking Rossi into Turn 1 to take third. Rossi tried to come straight back, but Lorenzo had the line, held on, and pushed away.
Lorenzo was on a charge, and he had only Marc Márquez between him and Dani Pedrosa. Márquez had lost touch with Pedrosa, while Lorenzo was coming up hard from behind. Going into Turn 4, Márquez made a mistake on the brakes and nearly ran wide, skimming along the edge of the rumble strip and nearly hitting the dirt. Lorenzo slipped easily past into second and went charging off to chase Pedrosa.
Here is where the madness starts. Where truth becomes indistinguishable from conspiracy theory. Where naked facts are used as building blocks to construct vast, sprawling narratives that may or may not have any correspondence with the truth. Where fans and observers fill in the blanks the unknown motivations of riders occupy. Normally, if a rider misses a braking point, it is seen as exactly that: a rider making a mistake. But not at Sepang.
Down the rabbit hole
An alternative narrative had been launched on Thursday, when Valentino Rossi came to the press conference armed with a timesheet and an agenda. The Italian had run through the Phillip Island race in his mind and come to the conclusion that Marc Márquez had deliberately got involved with the battle for second, to hold Rossi up and allow Jorge Lorenzo to escape, in a bid to help Lorenzo win the championship. Or more accurately in a bid to ensure that Valentino Rossi lost the championship. Up until that moment, we had all been basking in the glory of one of the most exhilarating races in over a decade, and perhaps the best race of the MotoGP era. Now, though, the seed of doubt had been planted, and with Rossi's green fingers behind it, planted in fertile ground. Rossi's theory quickly spread far and wide, people starting to claim they had been suspicious of Márquez' race all along. Though curiously, they only raised their concerns after Rossi had expressed his.
From that moment on, every meter Marc Márquez rode on a MotoGP bike would come under suspicion, every time that Valentino Rossi rode near Marc Márquez came under scrutiny. Practice sessions were pregnant with meaning, no stone unturned, no incident unexamined. The pair ran across each other in FP3, then again briefly in FP4, and the Internet filled with claims of "mind games". Marc Márquez left pit lane first, Jorge Lorenzo lining up behind him, and again, the cry was "See! Márquez is giving Lorenzo a tow!" The fact that several other riders followed Márquez out at the same time was irrelevant, as was the fact that as a tow, it wasn't much good, Márquez putting in a mediocre lap at best.
Is there merit in Rossi's claims that Márquez had actively tried to hold Rossi up, and help Lorenzo win the championship? I did not believe so on Thursday, and I do not believe so now, as the evidence seems to be lacking. But it is impossible to prove a negative, and so we must allow that we cannot prove that it is not true. What is certain is that Rossi believes it is true, and this would come to play a key role in the race at Sepang.
Treachery and old age
Rossi, seeing Márquez go wide and Lorenzo pass the Repsol Honda with ease, must have suspected the worst. He was quickly with Márquez, but passing the Spaniard was not as easy for Rossi as it had been for Lorenzo. This, too, would be key later on. It took Rossi nearly a lap, the Italian getting through on Márquez at Turn 4, the corner where the Spaniard had been struggling all weekend. Márquez was not about to simply roll over and let Rossi past. He planned his counter attack, but was having to ask a lot of his Honda RC213V, the rear sliding and stepping out when he did not want it to. Márquez looked at Turn 15 but ran wide, got past at Turn 1, but allowed Rossi to get back underneath. Márquez tried again at Turn 4, but at his weakest corner, he could only get past at the cost of leaving himself open for Turn 5. Rossi was straight back again.
From this point onwards all hell broke loose. The crowds lapped it up, as Rossi and Márquez swapped places several times a lap. The pair were pushing each other to the limit, striking back as soon as they were passed, making passes in improbable paces. The risks being taken were evident. Three times Rossi's foot slipped from his footpeg, as he saved the bike from a near crash. Rossi grew increasingly frustrated, at one point turning round to look at Márquez and waving his arm in the air, as if to ask, "what the hell do you think you are doing?"
On lap seven, Rossi finally cracked. After a couple of close passes through the section leading out of Turn 9, Rossi took the inside line through the long right hander of Turn 13, slowing and pushing Márquez ever wider as they approached Turn 14. The act of slowing caused Rossi to adopt a jerky motion, Rossi turning a little and sitting the bike up a little, turning and sitting up. Márquez was taken entirely by surprise by the behavior of the Italian. Forced off line and out, he kept trying to make a judgment as to when Rossi would turn in for Turn 14. He judged it wrong just as Rossi pushed him wide even further, and Márquez leaned in as Rossi moved out, the pair colliding. Márquez helmet collided with Rossi's kneeslider, knocking his leg off the peg, which collided with his handlebars. Márquez claims Rossi kicked his bars, causing the front wheel to lock. Rossi denies this, says Márquez' handlebars hit his leg. Race Direction say they have no conclusive footage to prove the case either way.
Duped by data
That hasn't stopped the Internet from coming to two entirely opposite conclusions on their own. Many video clips are circulating, one allegedly proving that Rossi kicked Márquez' bars, another allegedly proving that Márquez' headbutted Rossi's knee. Both sets of video clips suffer from the problems faced by anyone trying to investigate situations like these: by focusing in on the tiniest of detail, the bigger picture gets lost. You can indeed clearly see that Márquez appears to headbutt Rossi's leg, but you can only accept it as a headbutt if you ignore the previous five seconds of footage on the way into the corner. You can also clearly see Rossi's leg come free, and touch Márquez' bars. But again, what is missing is the second or so before, the moment when the two bikes come together, and Rossi's leg is knocked off the pegs, and his boot gets caught behind the handlebars.
From Marc Márquez' perspective, it is entirely understandable that he should believe that Rossi kicked his handlebar. Márquez found himself caught up in a situation he hadn't expected, with Rossi sitting up, looking at him, and pushing him wide. The next thing he knows, he sees Rossi's boot swinging past, and he is on the floor. Is it likely that Rossi kicked Márquez' bars? Given that the Italian was focusing on pushing Márquez off the track and into the dirt, there seems no real need for him to do so. His aim, the Italian admitted, had been to slow Márquez up, get him completely off line, so he could try to get away from the Spaniard. If you are trying to push a rider out into the dirt, there is no real need to kick his bars. The collision with Márquez' head seems much more probable.
Was it Rossi or Márquez who initiated the contact? From the video, it seems that Márquez leaned into Rossi as the two touched. Of course, that does not mean that Márquez is at fault for the contact. The Repsol Honda rider was taken completely by surprise by the situation, and was not expecting to be pushed out wide by Rossi. He was trying to judge the right moment to turn in, something which proved to be impossible. At some point, he had no choice. If Rossi had been aiming to take the corner, instead of pushing Márquez off the track, there would have been no contact. Race Direction judged that this was Rossi's fault. Márquez claimed it was Rossi's fault. Rossi admitted he had been trying to push Márquez wide. He had not been trying deliberately to make Márquez crash, Rossi said. But it was equally clear that it was an inevitable consequence of his actions.
Cracking under pressure
What had brought Rossi to this point? The Italian claimed that Márquez had been trying to hold him up, slowing in the corners and not opening the throttle fully on the straights. If Márquez was not opening the throttle on the straights, then it must have been down the back straight only, as the lap charts show that Márquez' top speed on the laps when he was ahead of Rossi were pretty much in line with that of Dani Pedrosa's (327 km/h to 326 km/h), and Rossi's top speed was only a couple of kilometers down on the speeds he would reach after the crash, when he was circulating on his own (321 km/h to 324 km/h). The lap times were undeniably slower, lap five a second slower than lap four, and lap six a couple of tenths quicker again. Was that Márquez slowing Rossi up, or the inevitable result of the two swapping places several times a lap?
Race Direction, having access to lap times, data, and every possible camera angle at the circuit, including some which the TV feed does not show, believe that Márquez was doing something, acknowledging that the Spaniard was getting in Rossi's way. "What Rossi said about Marquez deliberately slowing down the pace and affecting Rossi's race also had some merit to it," Mike Webb told reporters. The problem was that Márquez' behavior is not illegal. From the outside, it looked just like Rossi and Márquez were engaged in a thrilling battle, fighting for third position in every corner. That is the prerogative of every rider on the grid, as long as they are both contesting the same position. There is no rule – or at least, not a written one – that a rider who does not have a shot at the championship should not race against a rider who is. As long as they do so without causing the rider chasing the championship any danger, then they are free to try to hold their place. And given the premium (and probable bonus) placed on a podium position, you would expect the battle to be even harder.
History repeats itself
It is not even unique to this race at Sepang. The example which sticks most in my memory is of Phillip Island in 1990, when Dutchman Hans Spaan went to the last 125cc race of the year trailing Loris Capirossi by just two points. Spaan started from pole, and all he had to do was finish ahead of Capirossi to lift the title. The problem was that Spaan lined up ahead of a gaggle of Italians, all of whom were out of contention for the title, and were working together to help Capirossi win. The scrap that developed became legendary, Dario Romboni, Fausto Gresini and Bruno Casanova all blocking Spaan at every pass and trying to push him wide. In the end, Spaan lashed out at Gresini, trying to punch the Italian out of sheer frustration. The plan of the Italians worked, Spaan finishing fourth and Capirossi taking the crown in his rookie season, an amazing debut.
Was it the Italians' fault that Spaan was robbed of the title? There is nothing in the rulebook about helping other riders, or trying to slow them down, as long as it is done safely (a word open to interpretation). But you could turn that question on its head: was it Capirossi's fault that Spaan was not quick enough to shake his pursuers off? What happens out on the track is racing, and any result, any motive is a valid one. The primary goal of racing is to finish ahead of your rivals. Sometimes, though, the reason you want to finish ahead of someone is more than just the position on the grid. The rulebook says nothing about motives.
Spaan had his fate in his own hands in the same way that Rossi had his fate in his own hands at Sepang. If Rossi had had the speed to hold off Lorenzo for third, he would not have got tangled up with Márquez. If Rossi had had the outright speed to leave Márquez behind, he would not have had to slug it out over several laps. Without the speed to do either of those things, then collecting sufficient points to get his hands on the championship was always going to be difficult.
The master meets his match
This, perhaps, is the source of Valentino Rossi's frustration. The Italian senses that this is his best, and perhaps his last chance of a tenth world title. Yet in the three races prior to Sepang, he was beaten in a direct duel twice. At Aragon, Dani Pedrosa produced some brilliant passes to shake off Rossi and take second place. Two races later, at Phillip Island, Rossi found himself losing out to both Marc Márquez and Andrea Iannone, forced to settle for fourth, and lucky that Márquez could pull a blistering lap out of the bag and beat Jorge Lorenzo. In both cases, afterwards, and in private, Rossi sought out the other riders involved to ask them why they had put up such a fight. According to the leading Spanish newspaper El Pais, after Aragon, Rossi went to find Dani Pedrosa to ask him why he had put up such a fight.
At Sepang, he once again found himself losing out against a younger rider in a direct battle. And fighting with Márquez is even worse than battling Pedrosa, Lorenzo or Iannone. Márquez has always said he was a Valentino Rossi fan, and the one element of Rossi's style which he has copied and improved upon is the counter attack. Any time Rossi is passed in one corner, it is a racing certainty that he will try to pass straight back, either at the next corner or on the exit of the turn he was passed in. Márquez does the same, but he brings his own extra tools to the skills he learned from studying Rossi. One of the reasons Márquez spends so much time practicing flat track is to be comfortable around other riders, and finding ways to try to pass them when it does not seem possible. Marc Márquez has found a way to beat Valentino Rossi at his own game. And Valentino Rossi does not like that one bit.
So Rossi faced a rival capable of beating him at his own game. He also faced a rival who he had spent the whole weekend goading, after his outburst in the press conference accusing Márquez of trying to help Lorenzo. It was not as if Márquez needed much encouragement: the clash at Argentina had not sat well with Márquez, but the incident at Assen had infuriated him. Márquez believed – utterly wrongly – that he should have been awarded the win at Assen, when he slammed into Rossi and forced the Italian into the gravel, unwittingly handing him victory. Those two incidents had bred resentment, and Rossi added another twist speaking to Italian media. Márquez' manager, Emilio Alzamora, had told him that Márquez believed that Rossi had knocked him out of the championship, because of the crash in Argentina and second place at Assen.
When Valentino Rossi sat in the press conference at Sepang and accused Márquez of helping Lorenzo, it merely enraged him further. Whether or not there was any truth to Rossi's accusations of his behavior at Phillip Island, at Sepang, it was inevitable that there would be at Sepang. Márquez was determined that if he could not win the race, then he was going to do whatever it took to make Rossi's life hell.
The clash on the track was inevitable, once Márquez could not stick with Pedrosa and Rossi could not hang with Lorenzo. They were destined to meet, and once they did, their mutual hatred and rage was destined to blow up into an incident of historic proportions. Both men lost their minds, and all sense of perspective. Rossi allowed himself to get tangled up with someone he had no business being concerned with, and Márquez got involved in a battle out of petty spite and anger, giving vent to frustration at a year when he could not be competitive on the bike Honda had given him.
Was Marc Márquez' riding fair? He has every right to fight for his position on the track, but it is deeply unsporting to get involved with a rival with other priorities, unless you can beat them simply. There is nothing in the rules about being sporting, though, just about not being dangerous. Márquez' passes were legal, but they were extraordinarily aggressive for a battle for third place just five laps into a twenty lap race.
Ultimately, though, it was Valentino Rossi who lost out most by losing his cool. Throughout his career, Rossi has been known as a master of psychological warfare, of intense mental strength, as someone who can withstand any setback which fate can throw against him. After his outburst on Thursday, we started to wonder if cracks were starting to show in what had until then seemed an impregnable wall. A strong qualifying on Saturday seemed to remove those doubts, but the race proved that our eyes had not deceived us. Andrea Dovizioso put it bluntly. "He is really the best to control every situation, every sensation," the Ducati rider mused. "But not today. He fights for something important, the tenth title, but everybody knows Lorenzo is faster." All that anger and frustration came boiling to a head at Turn 13 at Sepang, ending with Marc Márquez on the ground, and the reputation of both Márquez and Rossi in tatters.
For neither man came out of this well. Márquez showed himself up as a petty man, driven by spite to try to prevent another rider from having something he could not. Rossi showed his weakness, his fear of being able to match Lorenzo in a straight fight, and his willingness to go to extreme lengths to achieve his goals. The Teflon layer which had always allowed accusations of foul play to slip off him, shrugged off with a joke and a smile, was irrevocably damaged. For once, he did openly what he had previously kept hidden. Both men remain great champions, and the finest motorcycle racers of their generation, but if you wanted to see the underlying truth of how bitter and ugly elite sports can get, Sunday at Sepang was the proof. Rossi and Márquez share the same ambition, ruthlessness, and blind hatred of their rivals as every other elite athlete on the planet. If they did not have that hunger, they would not go to the lengths they do to achieve success. They give up everything – friends, lovers, family, time, starving themselves to lose weight, training themselves to exhaustion – just for the sake of a shiny piece of metal with their name on, and the satisfaction that they triumphed over others.
The question is, why was the situation allowed to get so far out of hand? Did no one sit Valentino Rossi down and ask him whether it was a good idea to launch an attack on Márquez at such a crucial time in the championship? Did no one point out to him that his main rival is on the other side of the garage, not down at Honda? Did no one take Márquez to one side after Rossi's attack and tell him to behave with dignity, that if he wants to race Rossi, he should do so fairly and cleanly? Did no one from the organization take the pair of the riders aside, and tell them to behave themselves?
They did not. There was a role for management to play here, and management did not step up and play it. Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis told reporters that Rossi had told him of his opinion of what Márquez had done, but he had not expected Rossi to actually express those concerns in a press conference. If Rossi's claim is true, that Alzamora said Márquez blames Rossi for taking Márquez out of the championship, then someone at HRC should have been monitoring that situation, and spoken to Márquez. But HRC appear to have entrusted care of Márquez to his manager, Alzamora. Alzamora has very different priorities than Honda, and HRC should have realized this, and taken steps to prevent it. After the clash on Sunday, HRC, Yamaha and Dorna were left to pick up the pieces, to clean up the mess their riders had created for them.
Judge and jury
Though two riders were at fault here, only one has been punished. After the race, Rossi and Márquez were called in to Race Direction to review the footage and give their version of events. It was an ugly affair, with bitter words spoken between the two. "Honestly, I prefer not to say what he said in Race Direction. I have always had a lot of respect for him, and I prefer not to comment on what he said to me," Márquez said afterwards. Rossi admitted he had spoken to Márquez in the meeting. "I told him what I think of him. But it was personal." No doubt Márquez had some choice words for Rossi too.
In the meeting, the two men stuck to their version of events. Márquez believes Rossi kicked his handlebars, or at least deliberately took his foot off the pegs and nudged his bar and brake lever. Rossi said that Márquez was trying to hold him up, and he had grown tired of being harassed by Márquez, deciding to push him wide and try to make him lose time. He had not meant for him to crash, Rossi said, but that when Márquez and he collided, Márquez' handlebar hit his knee, and that is what caused Márquez to crash. To get the full account from both sides, see this story on Crash.net for Rossi, and this for Márquez.
Race Direction ruled that they could see no clear evidence for a kick, but that Rossi's actions had caused Márquez to crash. Mike Webb told reporters that Rossi had pushed Márquez wide, and that was what had caused the crash. They believed that there was some fault on both sides of the argument, but that all of Márquez' passes had been clean and with no contact. They understood that Rossi had been provoked, but said that his reaction had gone against the rules, causing the contact which brought Márquez down. Causing contact which brought another rider down – whether intentionally or not – had to be penalized. Rossi was handed three penalty points, and because he already had one point he had picked up during qualifying at Misano, he will be forced to start from the back of the grid.
Mike Webb explained the justification for awarding three points: though Rossi had sought contact with Márquez, Rossi had stated he had not intentionally brought Márquez down. They had a precedent from earlier in the year, when Karel Hanika had caused Juanfran Guevara to crash after the flag at Jerez. At that time, Hanika had admitted he had intended to make Guevara crash, and had been handed five points. Without intent, Race Direction could not hand Rossi more points than Hanika, or disqualify him completely. The penalty had to be severe enough for Rossi to feel truly punished, while not being more severe than the points handed out to Hanika. To read Webb's full explanation, see this story over on Crash.net.
Grab the pitchforks
Immediately after the crash, there was a storm of debate as to whether the penalty was either too lenient or too harsh. Carlo Pernat, prominent rider manager, said in the press conference that he felt Rossi should have been immediately disqualified, or given a ride through penalty. At Le Mans in 2011, Marco Simoncelli had caused Dani Pedrosa to crash, and been awarded a ride through penalty a few laps later. Surely, many said, there should have been an immediate sanction, instead of waiting until the race was over?
Webb's version is that they knew this was an incredibly important incident that would have a major impact on the outcome of the championship. They did not want to impose a penalty before examining all of the facts, and in the middle of an active MotoGP race, they could not devote the resources to giving it the attention it deserves. That meant waiting until the race was over, which would also allow them to bring the two riders in and speak to them both, and allow them to explain themselves.
Would it be better to issue an immediate judgment? Instant justice may be a lot more satisfying for the fans, but it creates a situation which cannot be reversed. Should closer scrutiny reveal that the penalty was too harsh, or the crime merely a figment of Race Direction's imagination, then they have no way of making amends. As with the death penalty, exoneration after the fact becomes rather meaningless.
On the other hand, a ride through penalty may not be the punishment it would seem. With the incident coming on lap seven, the earliest Rossi could realistically have been handed a ride through penalty would be lap ten or eleven. He then has three laps to come in and pass through the pits. It takes approximately 27 seconds to ride through the pits at Sepang (at least, that is the length of time Ant West took to perform a ride through there in 2007). Rossi would have reentered the track as twelfth, and with the pace he was running at the time, could have fought his way to the battle for what would have been sixth. Sixth place gives ten points, instead of the sixteen points he got for third. Rossi could have been heading to Valencia still leading the championship by a single point, and with no penalty to serve. Holding on to the sixteen points he got for third at Sepang, and being forced to start from the back of the grid is likely a more severe penalty.
Et tu, brute?
In the press conference, Jorge Lorenzo expressed his disgust at the penalty handed to Rossi. After a brilliant ride that could be a big step on the way to a third championship, Lorenzo added his ugly reaction to the ugliness of the incident between Márquez and Rossi. He had received a race ban for a similar incident in 2005, so why should Rossi receive such a light penalty, conveniently overlooking the fact that Lorenzo had earned a reputation as a wild and dangerous rider at the time, something he refers to himself. It was not fair, Lorenzo said, the look on his face one of utter disgust. If someone in Moto3 had done the same thing, they would have been penalized more heavily, Lorenzo claimed. Rossi was getting away with because of who he is. "His name is very important for the championship," Lorenzo said. "If another rider did what Valentino did today, he would do minimum a ride through, minimum a black flag, minimum a race of penalization. But it didn't happen, and I'm disappointed, very disappointed."
Lorenzo had wanted Rossi disqualified, arguing that his teammate should have exactly the same points as Marc Márquez, the man he had caused to crash. Allowing Rossi to continue had meant Lorenzo had been forced to push hard and take some amount of risk to ensure he finished ahead of Rossi and scored points. He could have crashed because of the risks he was taking, Lorenzo argued, and been left with no points at all. Starting at the back of the grid at Vaelncia was not as harsh as it seemed, he argued. "If Valentino starts in last position, maybe it is raining, and in one or two laps he is there at the front. If it's dry, he will have more problems, but he can champion. This is not fair know what happened today on the track. So if this happens, for me he will not be a fair champion for this championship."
It was a petty reaction, as petty as the reaction by Marc Márquez that had caused him to engage Valentino Rossi, and as petty as the behavior of Rossi in pushing Márquez wide and causing him to crash. Lorenzo had a chance to look presidential, to look dignified, like a worthy champion. Instead, he sat and blamed Race Direction for not handing him the championship. He was not happy at having secured a podium, he was only bitter. It was unedifying.
In his defense, he had some reason to be disgruntled. He had come off the bike feeling exhausted, drained by the heat at Sepang. At the podium ceremony, he was greeted with boos from the crowd – yet more ugliness on a bad day for racing, though nothing compared to the torrent of abuse which has followed among fans on social media and forums since – walking off early claiming he was feeling faint. We have to take his word for it, but being booed for finishing ahead of another rider is not going to make anyone feel invigorated. After the podium ceremony, and the obligatory TV interviews, Lorenzo and Pedrosa waited in the small TV room for Valentino Rossi to return from Race Direction and join them for the post-race press conference. They waited the best part of an hour, tired, dirty, drenched in sweat, but mainly bored. Sat waiting for a man who is notorious for keeping others waiting at the best of times, but who was very much persona non grata at that point in time. In the end, Dorna decided to go ahead with the press conference without Rossi, as he showed no sign of making his return. That would have tried the patience of a saint. But Lorenzo had a chance to make a good impression at Sepang, a chance he completely blew.
The only rider to come out of this with any dignity was Dani Pedrosa. In addition to riding a peerless race, his comportment in the press conference was thoughtful, composed, and honest. "First of all, a very weird press conference," were the first words he spoke, summing up the occasion perfectly. He talked about his race, expressed his happiness at being able to give his team the reward they deserved after what has been a very tough season, the Spaniard having missed so much of it after his arm pump surgery.
He then gave a clear, concise and considered analysis of what had happened between Rossi and Márquez, which captured the events perfectly. "I don't think it's a good thing. I don't think it's good for the championship. It's not good for any of us. I don't think it's good for Valentino, for Marc, for Jorge or me, even though I wasn't involved. It's not a good thing to be happening in this late part of the championship.
"From my point of view, I can say that the battle has been there from the first laps, sure heated up from the press conference and practice sessions from them. And they get together and they start fighting quite early. The maneuvers were OK until then. Sure, Valentino wanted to have a more calm race and maybe try to catch Jorge for second, but Marc maybe wanted to stay on the podium, of course, because Marc is always fighting, he has a fighting spirit, and he has quite a good way to manage the bike and do special overtaking.
"But what I can say from the last maneuver, I think when you have the inside, you can go as wide as you want, because the guy on the inside has the preference always, so normally the guy on the outside should cut. But I can see that the speed at this time was already going very slow, so Marc understood that, and close completely the throttle, waiting for Valentino to turn. And then there is one moment where I can see Valentino's leg moving, and Marc crash. I would like to see more times the image of this moment, but I can see that I don't understand why this leg is moving there, and why Marc is crashing out. Unfortunately, not a good thing, and really disappointed about it."
Pedrosa also pointed out that Rossi had been quick in the past to excuse behavior such as that displayed by Márquez. No doubt colored by his experience with Marco Simoncelli, Pedrosa pointed out that Rossi had been quick to defend the Italian when he was accused of being dangerous. "Always Valentino was saying, well, this is racing, and racing is like this, and we should fight," Pedrosa said. "And now he is changing his comment to what I was saying before. But a little bit of contradiction at this moment of what he said then, and what he is saying now. "
Pedrosa's behavior was a ray of light on a dark day for racing. He may never have won a MotoGP championship, but he behaved like the great champion he is. In the last few years, Pedrosa has matured and developed, become more human, more approachable. He can still be surly in press debriefs, and talking to the press is still something he does not take much pleasure in. But he also has a wry wit, and can give precise and detailed analysis of events and bikes when he feels like it. Which sadly, is not often enough, to my liking.
This is not as bad as it looks
This is a dark and sordid tale, which has exposed the unpleasant side of racing, and of racers. I have had harsh words for the protagonists involved, but I should add that this is just one side to their character. Off track, Valentino Rossi remains a man of unfailing charm and wit, who retains an incredible calmness and dignity in the face of being almost constantly surrounded and harassed by fans. He cannot step outside his motorhome without being mobbed by fans, and he diligently and patiently signs caps, posters and shirts, and poses for photos with as many as he can, while still attending to the business of racing. If he did not turn some people away, he would never actually find time to race his bike during the weekend.
Rossi has a passion for racing, and is putting his own money into helping to bring on the next generation of young Italian racers. He acts like a mentor for these young riders, and treats them as equals, never showing any signs of arrogance toward them – unless, of course, they should have the temerity to try to beat him at his dirt track.
Marc Márquez is similar, always finding time to sign things and pose for fans. He gives much of his time to charity, and is witty, charming and intelligent. He never has a harsh word for the media or fans, even when we ask stupid questions or try to goad him into an ill-judged response. He treats his mechanics with the greatest of respect, eating dinner with them every evening and joking and laughing with them all the time.
Even Jorge Lorenzo, the strangest of the bunch – hardly his fault, robbed of his childhood by a father determined to turn him into a world champion before Lorenzo had a chance to make the choice himself – is at heart a good man. He too supports charities, but not just by donating money, but by putting time and effort into it. The work he did with Ana Vives, a woman with Downs syndrome who is an artist and represents the Downs syndrome community in Spain, went well beyond the patronizing stance so often seen. The pair worked as a partnership in designing Lorenzo's helmet and his number, and have worked together for a good cause.
So to paint these men as flawed and tainted is an unfair and incomplete picture of such complex characters. But underlying them all is an ambition which drives them to succeed. They hate losing, are prepared to do almost anything to win, and believe without question that they deserve to succeed. They are indignant when riders challenge them on track, incapable of understanding how another rider could have the temerity to get in their way. It is a peculiar mindset, to put it mildly. But indispensable if they are to succeed at this level of racing. Normally, such unpleasantness is kept hidden by circumstances, the participants putting on a brave face. What was unusual about Sepang is that three of the greatest riders in the world all let the mask slip on the same day.
We will overcome
In the aftermath of Sepang, fans and media are engaged in writing the sport off, declaring MotoGP to be dead, killed by Race Direction for either being too harsh on Valentino Rossi, or not being harsh enough. Headlines talk of fallen idols, of shattered illusions and broken dreams. Analogies abound, though no one has so far ventured to bring Milton into it, and draw parallels with Lucifer before and after the fall.
Most of that is melodrama, though, a natural consequence of the nature of professional sport. It is, as darts promoter Barry Hearn put it, soap opera for men, a genre characterized by inflated emotions and overwrought responses to events of lesser significance. The intense passions of MotoGP fans can explode in unexpected directions, but once the bikes hit the track again, the trauma of the previous race is forgotten. Big words are being spoken with great passion, but the same passion is what keeps us coming back for more. The Sepang MotoGP round of 2015 will be spoken of for a very long time in the future. But it is just a single chapter in the never ending story of the sport. Valencia awaits.
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Comments and site supporters
I have modified the comment system. Registered users may now comment, but only the comments of Site Supporters will appear immediately. Everyone else's comments will be placed in a moderation queue, which I will start to work through tomorrow (Tuesday) CET.
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When you come across Dani
Can you tell him we love him ?
Mostly Just Sad
This will never be settled. The only thing that can really be said--by both sides--is that there are a handful of facts that "fit" their theory. Mostly, it's just sad that an otherwise phenomenal season will now be forever tainted by controversy.
Great balanced write up
Its a pity the events overshadowed great performances by Bradley Smith and Stefan Bradl.
What will be at Valencia?
No idea. but lets face it the media coverage will be intense in the lead up to the event, for Dorna is there any such thing as bad press?
Remember David when i said both should have been penalized at Assen? To tell them both that they can't do whatever they want? How does it sound now?...
This whole debacle has left me with a sour taste in my mouth, and I drink from the Yellow fountain!
I have no intention of putting my two cents worth into the ring simply because I don't want to become involved in the same pointless debate that has sent the Internet into a virtual meltdown!
All I will say is that you have my utmost admiration David!
To produce such an article as this, whilst simultaneously being accused of being a closet Rossi fan, Marquez fan and Lorenzo fan is truly Admirable!
My sincere thanks for an unbiased view -- it can't have been easy!
PS: I genuinely appreciate your kind words on Twitter regarding me!
An excellent balanced and unbiased article, well done. And also, well done to Dani, a rider that continually rises in my estimation.
Congratulations on the best
Congratulations on the best recap and analysis of the race I’ve read, and I've read many.
(Good luck on trying to go through all the comments before posting them).
One thing I'd like to add (which changes nothing of your analysis) is that Marquez lost more than a second on the lap he was over taken by Lorenzo, but only 0.5 sec on the split for turn 4 (the one he was overtaken in). After that he lost another 0.5 sec. This is the opposite to what he usually does (striking right back) and would also mean he was unable to use Lorenzo's tow. So, I believe, is further proof that he went looking for a fight with Rossi. He purposely dropped back to make sure Rossi couldn’t catch up.
what can I say
Man, as french say, " chapeau". I meant writing my opinion, but after reading your article I've nothing to add. Excellent article, IMHO, congratulations
I'm sorry David. I usually agree with you but you have it completely wrong this time around. Let's make this abundantly clear: Marquez did absolutely nothing wrong. At all. Whatsoever. Pedrosa is right. Everybody who was watching that race could see the fight between Marquez and Rossi was just that, a fight. Like we saw at PI, like we've seen many times. Hard passes sure. Block passes, also a few. But nothing was wrong with that fight. Until Rossi snapped. That move was the most uncalled for ever and it's absolutely ridiculous nothing more has been given than a few penalty points. Many riders have pointed out that anyone else doing that would have gotten at least a drive through penalty on top of the penalty points.
Provocation? Rossi did that by calling out Marquez on Thursday. What Marquez did this race is just that, race. And let's not forget Rossi did too, he gave just as much as he got. He always does and always gets away with it somehow. Remember when he barged Lorenzo out of the way at Motegi 5 years ago while being out of contention for the championship? Pretty sure he and his 'fans' will have forgotten that.
It's disgusting to me how one man can completely ruin an amazing championship first by soiling it with wild accusations and then letting his frustration get the better of him in the race.
Race control should be ashamed of themselves. Who cares if a championship is on the line or not. That should never be a consideration ever. And their amazing claim that somehow Marquez was also to blame but at the same time didn't break any rules. How can they take such a ridiculous statement into consideration? It beggers belief.
It is very clear to everyone who is involved in motogp in any way that Rossi has been extremely lucky to just get the three penalty points and nothing else.
If these are dark days for the sport only one man is to blame for this. The man who should have kept his big mouth shut on Thursday and who should have focused on trying to beat his teammate. A teammate who overtook him with ease in the race and was much faster anyway.
In reply to No. by Firefly
Both riders conducted themselves in a childish and inappropriate way all weekend, this should have been stamped on way before raceday by their teams and managers, even race direction could have called them in before the race and said "We are watching you both very closely. Keep it clean and have a good race."
IMO Marquez was riding like a complete t**t definitely out to prove a point, but Rossi's reaction was unforgiveable. Both riders have ruined a great championship.
Compare & contrast this entire spectacle...
...with the approach of Troy Bayliss & Colin Edwards to a winner takes all World Title fight at Imola in 2002... anybody who watched it (or rewatches it now) will know that there was no lack of commitment by either to say the very least, and that both men involved were and are true champions with an iron will to win, and yet they managed to contrive to settle the matter on the track in a spirit of mutual respect. Which is as we all would have wanted it to be. The result was that everybody's respect for both riders' involved only grew, and that the resulting race became an instant classic. The problem with setting the stage for one of the most epic season finales of the MototGP era is that if the participants haven't read the script you might end up wishing you'd held the Valencia round on the dark side of the moon
Thanks for the balanced write-up. Amazing to see the passions of the masses these past 2 days. I am still confused on one point. Do we truly know that MM was "playing" with VR? I mean, let's say for just a moment he was not deliberately trying to hold VR up. Then, what was wrong with what he did? Personally, I was enjoying the race up until the big moment.
I have never been a fan of MM. But I am not seeing how he carries blame here. So, what am I missing? I would agree with you if I could be convinced MM was trying to impede VR. And I agree that's a possibility. But he was asked, and he said he was not. I am not inclined to assume he is lying, not without cause.
I am not a fan of the (seemingly) European more of making "space" for contenders. I first heard of it with professional bicycling and now I am hearing of it with MotoGP. So, if the whole basis for being critical of MM is this unwritten rule, then fair enough, but I'm not a subscriber of this belief. For me, it should be hard racing from the first to the last race, and that goes for everyone. I want Rossi to win it, not have it handed to him. And that means he has to get past MM; whether MM is racing for position or racing to impede VR. If a final race of a season sees hard riding and one rider inadvertently takes out a contender, well that's just racing. I don't think other riders should be any harder or easier on contenders. Last race of the season ridden no different than the first.
I've gotten off track here - basically posted just to say thank you for the balanced reporting. :-)
In reply to Thanks by kisertn
I am a MM fan, I'll be upfront about it - but I don't think he's perfect.
The only real charge that I can see to be levelled against MM is that he was deliberately slowing to hold up MM. What I saw was MM struggling with front grip at a race that has very sharp braking points.
My take on it is that MM had no ulterior motive in PI, his last lap was simply a win or bin gamble, and it came up heads. After Rossi's speech in the pre-race press conference I think MM was a bit upset with Rossi, MM was going to do whatever he could to beat him - and he didn't have the pace to beat DP or JL. MM raced hard and gave no quarter - which is exactly what VR would have done if the roles were reversed.
I think VR cracked under the pressure and did something stupid and a bit malicious. This caught MM completely off guard and he had no idea what to do, and he made the wrong choice; rather than back off MM tried to pick the moment to get past VR - which resulted in some contact and MM crashed. It didn't seem VR kicked him deliberately, but he certainly put them into a position where some contact was going to happen and one of them was going to end in the gravel or worse.
In reply to Thanks by kisertn
It would be one of those
It would be one of those things that is hard to see, and hard to quantify even though we have laptimes, sector times, etc.
He set faster pace in the practice sessions, and you would expect MM to try and chase after the win, or at least latch the coat-tails of the guy in front (JL as he went past).
The other side to that is that no two sessions are going to be the same. His bike may have been playing up big time with the fuel and tyres and he just couldn't keep up at the front. As David says in the article, we will never know these things. They cannot be properly proved or disproved.
It's something I'm sure the riders have much more ease in observing, like where AI and VR said MM had been racing "oddly" as it were at PI.
To them, they might see a rider who cuts them up and gets to the head of the pack, but then drifts back towards them and slows down, and they are forced to overtake again as they would then think they have better pace. Only for the same to happen again a couple of times. Then at the end, for that guy to scorch off into the distance and take the win in one lap. A phenomenal thing, but one that probably left the others really scratching their heads. If he could push that hard at the end of a race, why wouldn't he push his times up a small amount over a larger section of the race, and stay clear of the fight/any risk, and go for that win?
VR might have seen the same at Sepang. MM comes back towards him, rather unlike his pace shown before, but then all of a sudden comes to life and they have the most vicious battle, while the whole time he see's JL getting further away.
Whether VR was seeing that MM was slowing down then speeding up just small amounts, forcing a pass then coming back way faster, we can't know that. But obviously for VR, that was the case then.
I have never seen anyone in the top class that animated/frustrated, and having that many looks around. Pretty clear that he was wanting to tag together and have a go at catching the front guys. That could never happen with that many wild moves and wasted time.
For MM, it could have been as simple as fighting for the position that he could actually stick with. Unable to stay with second place, so put up a hard fight for 3rd. While it does seem odd so early on, I bet the war of words fired him up, especially as it was VR he was with.
Regardless, all that overwhelmed VR resulting in what we saw. What I see as a racing incident, but one that was started by VR after MM had been blowing on the embers.
We have been robbed, and for me it doesn't matter what way this championship goes, it is a bit of a tainted one for both involved. I just feel deflated almost, it's hard to describe. Guess this is what F1 fans feel when team orders or pitstops decide championships.
This whole matter
has enabled me to wipe numerous people and motorcyclists from my social media.
Once Jorge waltzed past Marc, and then Marc got into the tussle with Rossi, my comment was 'i hope this dick doesnt cause an accident'. Some of those passes were aggressive, far more aggressive than lap2 for third typically demands. Some of the pressuring of Vale out to the edge of hte rumble strip were not required. The same level of aggresion was not applied to Jorge...
Then the incident happened and my first thought was "F&$# that, what an ass rossi". And turned off my stream.
I got tweeted a few videos and watched htem, again and again. The slow motion is particularly telling. Above, side, all around. Rossi took the corner straight, and slowed substantially. Marc didnt slow as much as was heading outside. Rossi looked at him in a "what do you think you are playing at" sorta way. Then just as Rossi turns back to the track, Marc turned in prematuraly and hit Rossis leg, which went off the peg and end the end result was Marc on the floor.
The end punishment is 3 points, but as a result is starting from the back - due to the earlier punishment (that he should not have accrued).
I am annoyed with rossi biting to Marcs antagonism.
I am annoyed with marc for being a petty child.
I disagree with the concept that 'if he wanted to get away from them, he should have been faster' because as Rossi himself has shown in the past (fighting for a championship) being obstructive prevents the faster bike/rider from getting away. The Spaan example is worse, as its racing not Gridiron with your 'team' running interference. Its not to say Rossi shouldnt race for the position, but if the obstructionism from Marc had resulted in a major crash (for rossi was not that far off it) on a track that his friend died on four years previous....
In hindsight, rossi should have given him the max biaggi finger https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNyopy25mMc and then met up for a mosquito bite...
Lorenzos situation was not helped by btsport (hodgeson?) claimed that Lorenzo was up in race direction yelling and screaming to have rossi kicked out.
He should take guidance from Pedrosa, who was fantastic.
Light in a dark hour
Thanks for the considered review David, woven with great skill and a perspective lacking in most coverage as usual. For me I'm just disappointed in MotoGP generally right now. The final will likely be an ugly affair. I will probably change my mind by then but right now I do not even feel inclined to watch it live, I think I will need to know the outcome and watch it as a replay with some detachment. In spite of it being in Spain I imagine Lorenzo will be vilified by the crowd again, even more so if he triumphs (which I do not think is actually all that likely). An epic season ruined. Sad.
As good as Rossi is on the track, I am very much looking forward to MotoGP post-Rossi, when the hysteria that follows him around hopefully goes some place else.
In other news, how about Kent? He only needs 2 points but the atmosphere in Valencia will not be conducive to keeping calm. If Olivera wins will it be the biggest championship choke in history?
Well considered and articulate as usual.
Marc Marquez said during the week that he was there to win, if he couldn't win, to come second, if he couldn't do that then third.
Certainly Rossi's pre-race comments may have goaded him, but his intention was always clear, it is a race-track after all.
You report Rossi challenging Pedrosa on why he raced him so hard, I find unbelievable, well, not your report, but that Rossi would do that.
Every rider's duty is to their team, sponsors etc to do their best. Surely????
Mainly in the plains...
For me, the only thing that can revive the climax that was sure to be in Valencia prior to the misbehaviors in Sepang would be rain. I believe that Rossi knew that losing to Lorenzo in Sepang spelled doom, because in normal conditions, a 7 points or fewer lead at Valencia would not be enough. He knew that about losing points in Australia as well, but he still had the hope he could beat Jorge in Sepang and rebuild the cushion. Unfortunately, in neither race did we actually get to see what vale was capable of.
I have no sympathy for him as he simply was not fast enough to be with Jorge, regardless of what marquez did. Jorge passed him on track and left him. While I now believe there was something deceitful in marquez' riding that I never would have picked up on, I am still more disappointed in rossi than anything else...and I have been a huge Rossi fan his whole career.
I said after the Australia race that even though I'm a Rossi fan, I wanted the guy who earned it on the track to be the champion. In my mind, even in my deepest, heartfelt desire for Rossi to win his 10th, I don't want him to win it without actually BEATING Jorge.
Contrary to those who believe in luck, I count Rossi beating jorge in the wet as an actual victory because you still have to ride for 45 mins faster than the other guy. Rossi BEAT Jorge at Silverstone, Misano and Motegi.
I pray for rain, but this time, only so we can potentially see a fight and have the best man win in what had been a magical season until now, not because I am cheering for Rossi.
Rain rain, go away. Please come back for next Sunday.
Feet of Clay...
...an old phrase that says it all and which applies to all of us in time. Blinded by anger says a lot too, a kind of target fixation which can be our own undoing.
Thank you David for your thorough and thoughtful analysis of the big picture.
Great article. While I am a
Great article. While I am a JL fan, I have a couple of friends that are devout VR fans. They came to me and said, this happened because Rossi is suffering from delayed PTSD after the death of Marco. I said, "With Rossi's body of work, there is no need to look for a reason to forgive."
It’s unfortunate that the frailty of heroes is so unavoidable.
We put sportsmen on pedestals, assuming that sporting prowess makes them extraordinary in all other personal qualities, and then are so bitterly disappointed to discover they have all the same human flaws as ourselves.
. . . for the balanced and insightful commentary David. I feel like I have been to a religious service and washed away some poison.
Wildly changed perceptions
I have watched, respected, and (mostly) admired Rossi throughout his career.
What I cannot understand in this case, is the amazing change of perceptions and reactions between the end of the P.I. race and post Rossi's initial outburst. The 'fan' response has been excrutiating, vituperative to both riders and poisonously lacking in any sense of moderation at all. Long-time motomatters readers will - surely - note that perhaps the greatest Rossi fan - someone who knows Rossi and is known BY Rossi - Albert - has maintained a dignified silence so far, and just perhaps this should not be lost on them.
Rossi did not finish P.I. with steaming rage against Marquez - and had Marquez's actions been so transparent, then Rossi would have, surely, been entirely aware of the effects. Nor did anybody watching P.I. come out with any such suggestion at the time.
I sincerely believe that Rossi has been wound up by others and that his usually excellent judgement of when to say things and precisely what to say, has been lost in his understandable tension for the last races of an already tense battle. If that is indeed the case, then those responsible should be feeling shame and regret for unsettling their man at perhaps the very time he needed to be calm and keep a clear head.
For Marquez's part, it is understandable that he would react very strongly to a charge, coming apparently out of the blue, that his race at P.I. was not conducted fairly. That is tantamount to a direct charge of cheating, and not something that any rider would feel at all happy about having attached to his reputation.
The concept that Marquez would feel any particular 'loyalty' to Lorenzo above Rossi is extremely strange: Lorenzo is not - as far as I am aware - a friend of any standing and Marquez and Lorenzo have had their 'differences' on track and off, just as Marquez and Rossi have had prior to P.I. and subsequently. If anybody can produce 'evidence' of a comradely co-existence between these two - and more than assuming that since Marquez and Rossi have had their on-track moments more recently it is a case of 'my enemy's enemy is my friend' - let's have it laid out for all to see.
That the bad blood flowing from the Thursday Press Conference would have manifested itself if Rossi and Marquez found themselves on the same metres of track, was pre-destined. The results are indeed ugly, but the vehemence that has been expressed across the 'fan' base is, by comparison, grotesque.
Both riders have lost a great deal of status, but the level of almost incoherent rage being expressed everywhere is to my mind, far worse than any smudge on the lustre of motoGp or even just the season.
Two people turned out to be human. This is, in the greater context, the equivalent of a rather snarky bar-room dispute which resulted in the protagonists walking outside to settle it.
It is NOT the end of life as we know it.
In reply to Wildly changed perceptions by Oscar
Some of the comments from these so-called motoGP fans is excruciating, and simply demonstrates their inability to form an objective assessment. Mind-boggling bias at times, as people view the incident through their fanboi lenses.
What I am most pissed off about is that, in slowing and forcing Marquez wide, ultimately to fall, we have been robbed of what was developing into the best dice I had ever seen. That it was truncated through stupidity and petulance was to deny the true fans of 'the dice' the opportunity to see the best dice of our lifetimes. The loss of that opportunity seems to have been lost in all the name-calling and polarised views.
Oh, how I wish it would have run its natural course, now that would have been a race to watch over and over again.
Thanks David, from what I
Thanks David, from what I have read on various sites, your coverage of Sepang really has been the only coverage that is been detailed, multi-facated, and not reeking of an agenda. I was waiting for this post, and you really delieverd.
My take on Sepang is that on Thursday Rossi started playing with fire, and both Rossi and Marquez got burnt on Sunday, and pretty much everybody else by proxy.
If memory serves me well, this is not the first time Lorenzo has skipped a podium ceremony for feeling faint.
Thank You David
I'm glad you took your time with this one David as it's the perfect balance of informed critique and intelligent analysis. You rock!
I really did wonder what was going to take place this race with all the hype and hysteria over Rossi's press conference comments, and quite frankly, the MotoGP commentators were relishing the "war of words" and "how far would it go" statements. I turned down the volume at one point as Gavin Emmet was working himself into a lather.
Well, they (Dorna) got exactly what they wanted, and then they penalize Rossi for it?! Doesn't make sense to me as it was obvious that Marquez was doing everything in his power to mess Rossi up, and presumably allow Lorenzo to open up an insurmountable gap. No wonder Rossi slowed up as often as did and gave him that "WTF??!?!" stare. Marquez going down was unfortunate, but not intentional on Rossi's part, more due to Marquez thinking he can bulldoze his way through anyone—yet again.
One last thing, I thought that Marquez' dad looked like the "hockey/soccer dad from hell" the way he reacted. That made me laugh.
Hopefully Rossi can give us a re-enactment of Kenny Roberts at Sears Point back in 1977 and get onto Lorenzo's tail by the 4th lap at Valencia!
In reply to Thank You David by Matt Warburton
That'd be a real miracle! But
That'd be a real miracle!
But again, the biggest question is "Did Marquez do all these on purpose?". If the answer is true, there is no rule in the book that prevent him from doing it again; even race direction confirmed the absence of such rule. Given Rossi will start from the back at Valencia, if Marquez wants to mess up Rossi's race again, he certainly can.
Rossi is absolutely at fault for the move at Sepang. His legacy will forever be tainted, if just a little bit. Nine times world champion, or ten times, it is nothing but a number; it doesn't really matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. I genuinely wished he didn't do it, and settled for 4th. IMHO Rossi got obsessed with the 10th championship, instead of enjoying the race.
Taking a step back and look at this whole thing, I still think Rossi came out ahead. Sure he lost his cool and made a stupid move; sure his championship hope is all but gone. But Marquez stood out as the bigger loser. He demonstrated one of the worst treat of humanity: if I can't have something, you can't have it either. Rossi beat him fair and square this season, so he revenged by sabotage. I used to think that Marquez will become the next legend after Rossi. Not anymore.
Looking back at the Sepang race, it is clear to me that Marquez is indeed slowing down to fight Rossi. Let's examine all the possibilities:
Could it be that Marquez genuinely had similar pace as Rossi? If this is the case, both him and Rossi would realize it after a couple laps of back and forth passing. Why didn't Marquez settle down and follow Rossi around, conserve tires and energy, and build a moment in the last couple laps for a decisive pass to take 3rd? His professional obligation is to get the best possible race result for Honda. And that dictate using the best strategy during the race. I may not know enough about riding a motorcycle fast, but I can tell that the kind of risky fighting he engaged in is absolutely *not* the best strategy.
Then, could it be that Marquez's race pace is actually slower than Rossi? Given the fact that both Lorenzo and Rossi caught up to Marquez, it is a possibility. But when you look at what happened next, this assumption makes no sense. Rossi has absolutely no incentive to slow down to fight Marquez. Yet he was not able to get away after each pass.
The only remaining option is that Marquez is indeed faster. If so, why did Rossi kept on passing him? If Marquez is faster, and is going as fast as he can, the logical thing for Rossi is to follow him around, using him as tow toward Lorenzo; Rossi got nothing to gain and absolutely everything to lose by kept on passing Marquez.
So the only logical conclusion is that Marquez has better pace, but is slowing down on purpose to pick a fight.
I really hope this kind of silly game never happen again. There are enough of everyday things that remind us of the ugliness of humanity. Can we please have a pure sports in MotoGP?
I hope these two riders apologize to each other with real sincerity. I hope for a real miracle in Valencia. Oh and I also hope Lorenzo stop giving interviews so people can hate him less.
In reply to That'd be a real miracle! But by gkeeper
Thank you for such a clear and well thought out explanation of Marquez's actions during the Sepang race. I completely agree he was purposefully holding up Rossi. Rossi had no problem sticking to Lorenzo's rear wheel until JL got past MM. MM was faster than Rossi in all FP's, Q2, and WUP. Then suddenly he can only match Rossi's race pace? I have no idea why MM has inserted himself into the outcome of the championship but it comes off as child's tantrum.
And for the record, I am not condoning Rossi's actions on track. I am basically sickened by the events that occurred during the entire Sepang weekend which culminated in an outcome worse than I could have imagined, for all parties.
Well, maybe not for Dani Pedrosa, he raced beautifully and totally deserved the win.
A pictures worth a thousand words..
and if we find ourselves using more than that, we must be reading into it more than what occured.
I'm really not liking my favorite sport right now.
Thank You David
A very good balanced sumation of the events. Goodluck Dani for next year, he really deserves a championship.
What a write-up David. What a write-up. After seeing you locked the comments on the direct news entries I figured it was a wise move, to avoid the flood -or rather torrent- of heated-up comments that would drop the level of the site to petty squabbling. So I calmly prepared a lengthy comment, putting together all my thoughts on the matter and waitig for the comments to open.
Then I read yours, here, and point by point, paragraph by paragraph I realised that you covered me completely and even more so. Whatever you said about the events themselves, what lead to them, about all three of the riders, were exactly my thoughts. What remained at the bottom line in my head was the same as yours too: How on that day everyone found a way to appear petty and damage he sport. And what a light of composure and balance Pedrosa was.
So I will spare your and other readers eyes of my ranting since I completely agree with you.
That being said, there is something that I'd like to add here and this is that there is another party that appeared... not exactly petty, but judging on the outcome, below expectations. And this is non other than Race Direction. The reason is that they never sanctioned Marquez for whatever he has done. Marquez caused and causes physical contact with other riders without hesitation and in a frequency unprecedented to say the least. Some of his moves have been so impossible that they verge more on the deliberate side than not. And although there is a reason why Race Direction judges and sanctions rider's actions on a basis of effects (crash or no crash), in view of such consistently dangerous behaviour they should have done something, a long time ago. And boy, did they have opportunities. Among other incidents, one of the most blatant ones was Marquez causing Pedrosa to crash. Did anything ever happen? No.(if my memory serves me well). Even if they did it was negligible on the background of the physical onslaught Marquez has produced in general. If Marquez had been put in his place before Argentina or Assen maybe he wouldn't have tried his eventually fateful maneuvers against Rossi and things maybe wouldn't have spiralled down to this ugly feud that damaged the sport. I strongly feel that Marquez's twisted view of reality, more than willing to give but totally unwilling to take, his aggression paired with his vengefulness is one of the main elements, if not THE element that led the situation to this point. He has to be stopped because if allowed to go uninhibited, it's either going to be another feud with somebody else, or he will simply turn into the bogeyman of MotoGP, bullying his way through the pack, launching sheer intimidation towards all directions.
So, I think that race direction and their failure to inhibit Marquez's aggression is definitely one of the responsible parties for the current situation and I won't refrain from saying that they don't simply hold the rulebook in hand as we may all be thinking - they hold a marketing textbook, and the racing rulebook is only a chapter in it.
I would have to think that
I would have to think that whatever the outcome in Valencia that Lorenzo is going to be booed both loud and long. His remarks were injudicious and spiteful and even the Spanish fans will like him even less than they do now. He will likely win the championship but it will forever remain a tainted victory.
Much the same for Marc, all in all a sad day for MotoGP and for Dorna and the circuit owners who stand to lose a lot of fans and revenue. We will see exactly how much one rider means to MotoGP.
At least that will be interesting now that we have been deprived of the ultimate battle.
Excellent piece. I always look forward to your coverage of the races, but this is the best one yet. Thank you.
Great article! Pedrosa was the real winner that weekend, in more ways then one.
David, Great article, gives
Great article, gives all a lot to digest. I have been looking for this since the end of the race. My only complaint is you need to get these things written in advance so you can post them up right away :)
Is there any chance that Lorenzo could get a publicist? The man does damage to himself on a constant and on going basis whenever he opens his mouth. I have been warming up to him this season as I try to take his post race comments as unfiltered facts as he sees them, and not as the self aggrandizing statements they often sound like. But the post Sepang press conference was just over the top. Its hard not to see him as the definition of petulant.
Agree that Pedrosa did himself proud over the weekend both during and after the race. A real gentleman and I hope that next season brings him a championship.
I love this sport. For love is not about sticking around when things are perfect, but showing dedication when things are ugly. Vamos Velencia.
David, Fantastic analysis!!
Fantastic analysis!! Thank you for piecing everything together so nicely. Spot on about Dani, class act.
Thank goodness for cool heads
Thank you for a clear, unemotional, excellent summary of the events. It's why I'll happily ante up with my subscription every year. You go above and beyond and I appreciate the willingness to put it on the line knowing you make a living from reporting on these guys. I can only imagine what would happen if the well established players chose to take a negative view of your comments.
The pressure these guys are under is intense and it's no wonder it explodes like a festering abscess at times. Regardless of our personal likes and dislikes we need articles like this to ground us and look at things from different perspectives. Racing will go on despite the doomsayers and we'll all be cheering our (somewhat sullied) champions. Lets hope this does not continue into Valencia.
I especially appreciate the comments about the responsibilities of managers and team management. They have a duty of care to their riders and that goes beyond the race track. This could all have been prevented from occurring if some common sense could have been applied before the press conference in Sepang on Thursday.
No matter what I will be glued to my TV for the Valencia round remembering that Moto 3 World Champion is also still to be crowned and painfully realising its almost all over for this year. Bring it on! As Shakespeare said "Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war"
In reply to Thank goodness for cool heads by pomallon
An extra donation coming by the end of the season!
There I've said it now, so must do it..
Drinking from yellow fountain??
Albert, you should find another way to word this!
Great write up, but...
Thank you for this great write up. Articles like these are precisely why I finally took out a subscription to your site.
I do wonder if you are being fair to Lorenzo, however. You say that his comments were petty, but also say that one would have to be a saint in order to keep one's patience after the heat, the booing fans, and the long wait before the press conference. I agree with the latter assessment, but think that this means that keeping one's cool and being diplomatic, as Pedrosa did, is supererogatory. This means we can praise Dani for doing it, but can't fault Jorge for falling short.
For whatever it's worth, I'm not a big fan of Lorenzo, and certainly not a die hard fan. But I do think he was right in saying that Rossi got off easy, or at least easier than anyone else would. Casey Stoner and Carl Fogarty have tweeted similar sentiments, so this is probably not merely sour apples on Lorenzo's part.
But be that as it may, thank you for writing a very balanced piece on a subject that defies balanced judgment!
In reply to Great write up, but... by andrera3
I think David's fairness--to all of the players in this spectacle--is demonstrated by his acknowledgement of the context that drives this behavior, and the care he takes in stating that these actions represent just one facet of these riders' characters. I think it's appopriate to describe the comments (as opposed to the man) as petty, because distilled to their essence they represent the same basic sentiment as Rossi's complaints: it's not fair to make me fight to the last for this title. It just doesn't really portray the ideal demeanor of a champion gladly willing to tackle any obstacle in his way in pursuit of glory.
I'd actually felt bad for Lorenzo prior to his comments, because I felt it was unfair to him that he now, in the eyes of many, has lost the ability to earn the title this year. Even if he ends up with it, many will discount it as having been gifted to him. His comments suggest he'd be perfectly happy to have the title handed to him without having to bother with Valencia, which comes off as, well, petty.
Separately, excellent use of "supererogatory".
In reply to Fairness by Athorn
Fair enough (no pun intended). It's a knotty problem, and it seems that the only way to come out unscathed would be to take the high road. It's a shame, as Lorenzo's comments are not nearly as blameworthy as Rossi's actions, to my eyes, but the title is now tainted for whomever wins it.
As for "supererogatory:" all of these years in graduate school had to be good for something!
In reply to Great write up, but... by andrera3
Commets by Fogarty or Stoner or Lorenzo may be expressing that Rossi got away lightly but getting to start from the last place of the grid at the final round of a championship you are marginally leading... that sounds pretty hefty to me. Rossi's deliberation is quite questionable as is Marquez's so to proclaim Rossi got away easily without ever speaking about Marquez who barely -if ever- got sanctioned for any of his dangerous moves is hypocritic to say the least. And OK I would be willing to discuss with Fogarty but Stoner or Lorenzo? Come on they wouldn't be the most objective parties now would they?
Worth the wait and the late night of writing!
Thank you for the best analysis and digestion of this weekend that I've read anywhere. Site support $$ was just sent. My thoughts are only worth the electrons they're printed with, but you have educated me and changed my opinion here and for that I'm grateful. :)
I'm rooting for Rossi and I'm a fan of his, but I feel that the punishment was fairly arrived at. Race Directions' explanation makes sense. Both men were misbehaving, but Rossi's mis-behavior induced more danger than Marquez's. It's very simple. I do not under any circumstances believe a *Nick Harris voice* "NINE TIMES WORLD CHAAAMPION, VAAAALENTINO ROSSI!!" ;) would be so stupid as to deliberately kick at another rider. It's an idiotic accusation and Rossi would have to be on drugs or brain damaged to pull a stunt like that. Everybody involved knows better... He definitely did stick his hand in the cage and tweak the young tiger's nose with that wide push though. The outcome is not at all surprising to anybody with a knowledge of bike physics and the mentalities of the parties involved.
I still believe there's a generational difference at play here, as it's the youngest men who have behaved and spoken the ugliest under these weird social pressures. I'm prejudiced, being Rossi's age, but I can't help but feel there's a little something missing in JL and MM's presentation.
Regarding Lorenzo's disposition after the race, his first words off the bike were "Agua, agua!" and I'm not certain but I thought I saw his drink tube had disconnected. He had reasons to be ornery. On the other hand, his Cheshire-cat pose of mockery just before the podium ceremony was simultaneously ugly and funny. Surely he's smart enough to see that asking for Rossi to be thrown off the Tarpeian Rock makes him look like he wants the Championship handed to him? His complaining about running extra risk because of Rossi is absurd to my ears. The guy is a lap time terminator and he's been his own worst enemy all year, now suddenly he's a victim? Nonsense.
I also find myself in the strange position of becoming a Pedrosa fan, as I've admittedly not paid him any mind the last couple of years. My assessment of him has been unfair and misinformed.
It's a shame that this soap opera overshadows great performances by so many people. I think another post-race press conference should be had with the fellows who came in 1st and 4th-10th!
In reply to Worth the wait and the late night of writing! by The Blue Rider
Lorenzo's water tube
Was certainly detached from his helmet when he dismounted in parc ferme.
As an Australian bush-fire fighter and also a long-time glider pilot, I can state that extreme dehydration is a very frightening experience; the descent from being 'capable' and feeling panic and disorientation is absolutely real.
However, I will agree with others, that Lorenzo's statements - while having some justification in history - were ill-considered. Having also done some racing, in the post-race adrenalin collapse, it is better to say nothing.
And as you said, likely pissing everyone off!
I just wonder why everyone, Mike Webb included, needs to paint Marquez in the shady 'legal...but' category. His passes were all clean. He was in effect blindsided by the press conference then Rossi goes further with the acting childish and bedroom poster thing on scant if any evidence from PI. If there was any instigator of the provoking in Mike Webb's 'big picture', it was not Marquez. He always said he learned by studying Rossi. Laguna '08 is one lesson Marquez learned. Motegi '10 apparently was another. Rossi made harder moves on teammate and near-title-clincher Lorenzo in that race than Marquez did on manufacturer and factory rival Rossi at Sepang but in Motegi the stakes were not high enough to take it further. Not to mention Valencia '13 where during Lorenzo's slowdown Rossi could not seem to bring his race pace up to his practice pace and get involved in the lead group that would help Lorenzo get the title. In the best of situations why would Marquez have any reason to let Rossi by easily? Overall, Marquez may have some clay under his toenails, but not much.
I think painting Lorenzo with the same brush for a comment is a bit extreme. When he was banned for a race he had cultivated a reputation for it, but then again he was banned for a race in an incident that he caused and also fell in. Rossi has cultivated a reputation for getting off lightly, and from Lorenzo's perspective here he was, causing a crash then going on to finish third and only gets a grid penalty. Just another brick in the wall, and Lorenzo is not the best at expressing his displeasure without seeming surly. But feet of clay for that? Maybe a left pinkie toe.
As far as Rossi goes, with all this extra information about him quizzing better finishing riders the clay may be shin high. Why would he expect anybody not to fight hard? Asking Pedrosa? That seems a bit entitled, and at a risk of alliteration, nobody is entitled to a title. I'm sure he had small sympathies for Rossi wanting him to take it easy so he could collect his 7th. In the face of that inquiry I wonder if Pedrosa had a millisecond of though to let Jorge by for the win to help his title bid! I also wonder if Iannone was apologetic for PI?
But this is Rossi, never write him off and clay feet will not slow him down. He may have said something to the effect that he may not race at Valencia, but in the face of the guaranteed sore loser label he would be branded with I doubt that will happen. He has two weeks to realize that if Pedrosa and Marquez really want to race to win like they say they do, Lorenzo could come in 3rd. Rossi doing a back of the grid to 6th place charge to take the title is nothing I would put money against.
In reply to Good writeup by thecosman
shady but legal
At the opening of a race, you lose time by battling in every corner. Marquez knows this. Everyone who has watched any racing knows this. If Marquez was interested in contesting the race, he would have led or followed in an effort to keep Lorenzo and Pedrosa in sight. If Rossi and Marquez were evenly matched in the opening laps, then it behooves both of them to stop the passing battle and make the attempt to catch the leaders. One can reasonably only conclude that Marquez was less interested in contesting the race than he was in besting Rossi. This is why Webb, Rossi, and every other person who has raced a motorcycle understands what pushed Rossi's buttons on Sunday. It was pushing my buttons as a spectator - before the crash I was yelling at my TV "What is Marquez doing?"
Will Rossi be banned from the
Will Rossi be banned from the qualifying session(s) in Valencia?
In reply to Will Rossi be banned from the by ghostdog6
He can therefore just concentrate on race set-up.
In reply to No by swiftnick
He can also give tows to a
He can also give tows to a select group of riders (ironic that his best allies could be 2-3 Italians on Italian motorcycles that he absolutely loathed), loiter on the racing line at whatever % of his fastest time is allowed and slow people up (i.e. not slow enough to draw a penalty but slow enough to stop a hot lap - after all he can have the slowest time in Q2 as long as he's there) - there are things he can do to try and affect how far down the grid Lorenzo starts.
I don't think for a second that he won't try something along those lines, unless he cools off between now and Valencia. With the level of conspiracy he thinks is working against him he may not cool off. No matter what we think, or race direction thinks, or Dorna thinks about it, if that conspiracy is Rossi's reality, he'll act on it.
Not cut and dry
There were plenty of self-proclaimed guardians of the 'spirit of racing', the keyboard jurists who pronounced the sentence on Rossi or Marquez. I saw people on my twitter feed who never tweet about MotoGP going 'This is why I am not a Rossi fan' and patting themselves on the back for it. And then they go back and watch F1 for the eagerly anticipated Lewis Hamilton hair colour of the week (I love Lewis, he's an amazing driver)
Rossi deserves this penalty. He probably deserved a disqualification too. But it's more complicated than that. One needs to recognise that in this saga, Marquez was no poor babe-in-the-woods and nor was he a model of racing etiquette and rectitude.
Then there are those who make sweeping statements like 'OF COURSE HE KICKED MM93 WE ALL SAW IT!'. They probably saw something else. Ex-MotoGP riders like Jeremy McWilliams and Ben Spies assess it differently:
Spies says: '@marcmarquez93 asked for it the whole race and @ValeYellow46 intentionally gave it to him so both riders are at fault'
McWilliams: 'MM turned back into VR, you'd stick your knee out too!'
There are others like Colin Edwards, Josh Brookes etc with distinct opinions. I guess what I am trying to say is that there is room for nuance in this debate.
Marquez was screwing with Rossi in the lead-up to that incident (but did absolutely nothing illegal - 'allegedly' slowing down and holding someone up is fine) and Rossi took him wide, Marquez leant into him and turned his bike into the Yamaha, his helmet touched Rossi's left knee slider, and Rossi pushed him with his knee, and Marquez fell. Rossi's 'kick' is a reaction he could have avoided. That's what we saw. And that's not legal and Rossi got penalized for it. Which is fine. Let's keep this in context. It's Marquez we are talking about. If Rossi had done this to Pedrosa or Lorenzo I would have thrown away my Rossi shirt as well. But this is Marquez - just ask people like Pol Espargaro, Alvaro Bautista about what they have received from him on track.
The 10th championship is now gone, so all this is mere detail. If this was 2003, I would expect Rossi to scythe through the field and maybe win. But this is one step too far.
7000 words - not upsetting
You tweeted that these 7000 words would upset everyone, but not me. I am so grateful to you - flying across the world must be exhausting and I appreciate the work you do very, very much.
Things that just don't make sense on the surface start to add up when someone with your access and experience shows us the underside of the grand life. I just could not for the life of my wrap my head around Rossi's thinking behind his words at Thursday's press conference and then the tug of war that went on in the first part of the race was such a nail-biter for me. Why didn't Rossi just let it go - grab a big handful of points in Sepang and then go get enough in Valencia to win the big number ten? Oh. Ego. Enough ego and drive to get to this level... Something I'll never experience first hand at any endeavor, but I get it. I actually only get it with help from insightful folks such as yourself. Yes. I am upset, but not with you.
Thank you David for a balanced write up
Dear David, thank you for the very balanced write up and it is a brilliant piece taking into consideration the history of each of the riders and their temperaments. For me this is just a regrettable incident and a blotch on the otherwise brilliant careers of an icon and of an icon in the making. What really happened nobody will ever know. Thank you again, for the nice write up.
One thing not mentioned ...
Great roundup and pretty solid recount including also the pressure Lorenzo must be also feeling.
The one thing not mentioned here and I think is what irked VR the most after PI, is that in PI , Jorge maybe was not the second fastest, maybe it was VR maybe it was AI but MM effectively blocked them and maybe in Sepang he could catch JL had his tires not worn down by the battle .
So tough to decide
As a fan of both Rossi and Marquez I like to think I have a balanced opinion of this incident. I like racers with off track personality that are also tough on track. Hell, I pegged my flag to a Sofuoglu fan after hearing his off track interviews combined with his sometimes questionable on track moves. Those are the racers that I am passionate about. In this case, I think the punishment went too far, but for a reason not cited elsewhere.
I want to see this championship battle go down to a straight fight. I firmly believe Rossi deserves a harsh and difficult punishment. He slowed on the racing line (in the sense that he was on the inside kf the turn with Marquez trying to lredict where to turn in, despite neither of them truly being on "the line") in a moment of frustration, which caused Marquez to crash.
However, this is also entertainment. I believe Rossi meant to disrupt Marquez, but not cause him to crash. 3-points, fine. Back of the grid leaves no incentive for Rossi to try during free practice and QP at Valencia. He can just circulate, work on race pace, and generally be boring until Sunday. Then during the race he has a nearly insurmountable goal to bring the fight to Lorenzo. Without Iannone, both Hondas, and Lorenzo having bad races, I just can't see Rossi in contention to pish Lorenzo to fight for this championship. Essentially, I beleive race direction unwittingly decided the championship at Sepang.
I propose they should have docked Rossi like 8 or ten or even twelve grid positions for Valencia. That would be a hefty penalty, but still give him incentive to push in QP and see the possibility of a fight to the line for the championship. It would keep the entertainment factor alive for those of us that are most of all fans of great racing, while sending a clear message that Rossi's behavior, goaded or not, was unacceptable. Unfortunately, now I believe we will see the champion decided through the default of a penalty in the second to last race of the season. Let's not forget that these men are human. This late in such a hard fought season should have drama and questionable actions on track. It adds to the entertainment, and in this case, the questionable move was foolish and petty. It was not a major threat to Marquez health and safety.
I know it can be argued that any crash is a major threat. But at that slow of a speed, on an FIM approved track, in the gear they wear, it's not that dangerous. Just crappy to do and crappy to watch.
Pedrosa sort of explains what I was thinking
First of all, thanks David -- great writeup! And I don't at all envy you the moderation backlog tomorrow. Good luck. :)
FWIW, I _almost_ completely agree with Pedrosa: He says, "But what I can say from the last maneuver, I think when you have the inside, you can go as wide as you want, because the guy on the inside has the preference always, so normally the guy on the outside should cut.", but then allows for the kick or leg shove that I just don't buy after seeing the overhead footage (a result of contact, not the cause of it).
Rossi was both ahead and had the inside. Marquez turned in on him, bumped or leaned on him, and fell. All Marquez had to do (all! <g>), right up until he fell, was momentarily give up -- stand it up, brake harder, and back out. They both had pretty clearly lost the script by that point, but Marquez was outside and behind; short of a deliberate and sudden chop from Rossi, wasn't it Marquez' responsibility to yield to avoid contact?
- Brian (@milomb on the twitters)
You're both pretty
I got as far as paragraph 6 and realised today was the day i needed to start to contribute.
Seems like they need to be told they're both pretty to me.
Although, it'll be interesting to see who lets Vale go by easily at Valencia.
In reply to You're both pretty by jjjohncau
Pretty or petty?
I'll echo others and say thank you David for this masterful write up.
And yes, it will be interesting to see who "lets Vale go by easily". Except it will look like all the countless riders over the years he has done that to on account of his own unworldly talents and abilities.
I felt as disgusted as everyone watching at the actions of many on Sunday. On reflection, even my own reactions were pretty terrible. But if any MotoGP fan thinks this will taint the 2015 season they are only fooling themselves. We as fans often lament when the riders give robotic, PR-stamped interviews. Then suddenly, on a day like Sunday, we get to witness all the humanity of this flying circus. Yes humanity has a good side just the same as it has a bad side. That's no shocker. Every story throughout history says as much. We don't need to celebrate the bad but we should embrace it as a part of us, and learn from it.
As far as entertainment value, which is what any professional sport is as a matter of fact, the 2015 MotoGP season has topped the charts.
In reply to You're both pretty by jjjohncau
Marquez will still be there
Even everyone else let's Rossi pass, Marquez will still be a factor and whatever you/me/the internet think of him, he won't mellow down, he will still be fiercely competitive. Both Rossi and Lorenzo should take note of this (if they haven't done so already). Rossi and Lorenzo both have it tough and it will even be tougher for the management at Yamaha; Whatever decisions and strategies they make this week, the outcome(s) will reverberate beyond Valencia
Thanks for the amazing write up. Not much more to be said other than to say that after Thursday I was deflated. After having watching every race since 2001, this has certainly been the best season. The competition, the talent, the racing, the drama, the fact that there have been four multiple race winners and glimpses of the future with Ducati, Suzuki and satellite Yamaha riders putting in consistent and improving results.
I am unabashedly a Rossi fan especially this year as the old man is still hanging tough. So it was disappointing to hear what he had to say on Thursday. Even if it were true it is hard to imagine what positive would have been accomplished, it seemed to have the reverse effect of showing Rossi's weakness. The race itself was thrilling and I too was a little confused as to why MM was pushing so hard. And when they clashed I felt numb. Deep down I felt like Rossi caused this and it was not pretty. It stinks when your heroes, flawed as they may be, let you down.
I do hope he shows up at Valencia, at least he will not have to worry about putting in a fast one off lap in qualifying and concentrate on race pace and cutting through the field. The fact that Lorenzo was sore about having to maintain his pace after the incident shows that he is potentially cracking a bit. One can dream...
Anyway maybe next year with the new tires and electronics we will be presented with more drama but hopefully more close racing.
Biggest takeaway for me was
Biggest takeaway for me was the grace of Dani at the press conference. Made me a fan, and I'll pay more attention to his words in the future.
Down right shameful
I have not stopped shaking my head or asking myself and small circle of GP friends if what i saw Sunday actually happened. I am simply stunned. Marquez' petulance was maddening; my hero's hubris and emotional meltdown for the world to see a gobsmacking tragedy; Lorenzo once again making it so easy for me to truly dislike him and down to a celluar level; Dani standing tall with another win overlooked by circumstance. What Strange days.
i truly feel a sense of mourning. I feel that something awesome was taken from us and shattered on purpose. A remarkable season to stand with a WTF asterisk.
I also now understand what my occassional emotional outbursts at work look like and realize that i can't let myself be seen the way fhat i saw my hero act. So, i can pull an uncomfortable learning from this.
Very sad. I do hope VR, if he shows up (Soup reporting he may not) can pull an old-school Philip Island result, or more recently, run the table like Marquez did in moto2 a few years ago and get his title, but i just don't see how i celebrate it like i had planned to if he won. Just shocked and saddened by his and Marquez' behavior. Easy for me to say, but this was wholly avoidable and not neccessary.
Not sure what else to say other than i was really looking forward to David's roundup and was unnerved by having to wait so long. Well done and thank you.
In reply to Down right shameful by MSS 58
Thank you David!
@MSS 58 summarized it very well.
Gods fallen to earth
"Look at this. Look at what they make you give." - Jason Bourne
This is a tragedy better written in Greek.
A theory on why Rossi made the accusation on Thursday
I'd like to offer this theory on why Rossi made that explosive accusation last Thursday.
After the Phillip Island race, he believed that Marquez was secretly sabotaging his chance at championship on purpose. We may never find out the definite answer. Maybe in 50 years Marquez will reveal it in his biography.What's important is that, this is what Rossi believed.
Heading into Sepang, Rossi faced a dilemma. With only two races to go, and Lorenzo being usually stronger at Valencia, he really need to build as much buffer as possible in the Sepang race, and this required a clean race. At that moment Rossi has two options for a clean race:
Option 1 is to smile and say nothing. Keep the conspiracy theory within his team, hope that he is wrong, hope that Marquez does a clean race. But as we often say in the field of engineering, "Hope is not a strategy."
Option 2 is to expose the hidden agenda at the risk of being wrong. Rossi basically said I caught you with your dirty plan, don't do it again!.
Rossi went with option 2, and it backfired spectacularly. Instead of preventing any real or imagined dirty game plan, his comments provoked Marquez into doing exactly what he set out to prevent.
Another great article, thanks David.
I'm left feeling let down by these guys who give so much. This is probably grossly unfair as I really cannot imagine what it's like to operate at the level they do, so my perspective needs some recalibration, I'm sure. Still, let down is how I feel, and worried.....
Someone - anyone - MUST sit Rossi, Marquez & Lorenzo down before track time starts at Valencia, the sooner the better, because it could all boil over again there, maybe with even worse consequences.
I'm reminded of the feud between Senna & Prost in F1, and the Suzuka clashes they had.
Running your competitor off track, at speed, on two wheels.......doesn't bear thinking about.
So, I'm left feeling let down & worried, and more concerned that everyone leaves Valencia in good health, than with who leaves with a trophy.
What can I say.
That was the single greatest "Op-ed" piece I've ever had the pleasure of reading here.
I feel humbled and privileged to have read what so many have tried to capture in words from Sepang 2015 but haven't actually quite hit the mark. Until now.
Thank-you for your continued contribution to the Sport Journalism world.
I have been waiting for your write-up since Sunday, and it was so worth it. I found myself nodding and saying yes (quietly, since I am reading this rather secretly at work) at every single point. Thank you so much for your balanced reportage, for cutting through all the crap and the bullshit and saying it as it should be said.
In reply to Thank you by Chitra
You need a new job, Man!
I could have read the whole article aloud at work and not gotten into trouble. Hell, now that I think about it, I was at work when I watched the race!
Phenomenon is made by many elements.
Excellent analysis is not be misled by the superficial.
Rossi and Marquez
It really is likely to be a very, very sad end to the most exciting Moto GP season I can remember in a long time (unless of course Rossi miraculously takes it at Valencia!) It’s an outside chance but it can happen – witness USA winning the Americas Cup in 2013.
I have a huge amount of respect for Valentino Rossi as a person as well as a sportsman and he’s proved his integrity over the many years he’s been at the top in MotoGP. He pushes the limits but is always fair and within the rules. Marquez has tried to emulate Rossi and has failed; he has to learn to become his own man. His passes at Laguna and the last corner on Lorenzo at Jerez were overly aggressive, untidy as a result and poor imitations of the original but nevertheless say a lot about his mindset and his attitude towards Rossi.
However, I believe Rossi made an error of judgment in naming Marquez in the way he did during the press conference at Sepang. I believe his intention was to draw attention to what had happened in previous races in an attempt to ensure Marquez couldn’t continue in the same way at Sepang. His mistake was in assuming Marquez had the maturity to understand, know that everyone would be watching and to keep out of the championship battle. Marquez is immature in that he doesn’t know when to back off, both in a race and in a situation like this so couldn’t help himself but be the person he is.
I think the punishment is too harsh as there are extenuating circumstances in that Rossi was provoked by Marquez’s behavior; you also have to look at his record. But rules are rules.
Maybe this isn’t relevant here but its ironic Marquez has made so many marginal maneuvers on other riders that could easily have caused serious injury or a fatality (deliberately running Luthi wide in Moto3 at Quatar in 2005 for example, his pass on Lorenzo at Jerez and his last corner ‘barge’ on Rossi at Assen).
Punishments change as well – remember Capirossi taking Harada out at high speed at the last corner in 1998 in Argentina (check it out on YouTube). This one unashamed, premeditated move gave Capirossi the World Championship.
In reply to Rossi and Marquez by robcruickshank
That would be ..
Loris Capirossi, member of the MotoGP Safety Commission? Haha! Mat Oxley posted a link to that race on his
Twitter account on Sunday!
With Rossi slotted to be "Last" on the grid, does that mean that if another rider between now and the race earns 4 points that Rossi will be behind him or in front of him?
In reply to Penalty points? by binx_19
Probably too much hypothesis
The chance of that happening are really REALLY low, but you never know.
Anyways, to answer your question, the penalty is applied in the order that it is awarded, so the rider will start behind Rossi.
Many thanks to David
Grate details with no bias and clear in everything that we want to know. This article educated me a lot.
I’m a Suzuki fan not a fan of either Rossi or Marquez but the incident in Sepang made me feel sad, at least for 2 days ago. We already have a great season and waiting for the final showdown at Valencia but thing have changed after that crash and the following dramas.
I’ve lost some respect for Valentino Rossi, Mark Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo (in their behavior not racing skill) but your point in the last paragraph has changed my mind again.
"Pedrosa's behavior was a ray of light on a dark day for racing. He may never have won a MotoGP championship, but he behaved like the great champion he is. In the last few years, Pedrosa has matured and developed, become more human, more approachable. He can still be surly in press debriefs, and talking to the press is still something he does not take much pleasure in. But he also has a wry wit, and can give precise and detailed analysis of events and bikes when he feels like it. Which sadly, is not often enough, to my liking."
After I read this paragraph, I have a bit tear in my eyes. Even he is not a MotoGP's champion but he is my superhero now.
I hope the air will be cleared soon and The heroes will listen to our little voices.
MotoGP riders are an incredible guy and MotoGP is the sport we love. As you said, we will overcome. We have a lot of talented young riders in the feeder classes. We should have more competitive bikes in next years. MotoGP is going to the new era.
Well, my F5 key is only just saved...
Been refreshing fairly constantly for the last couple of nights, waiting for this writeup. Don't have many people in real life I can really talk about these events with, as it's not very popular in this area. And my wife started glazing over almost immediately (although, like a trooper, she sat through the whole sordid story and even re-watched the race with me).
My feeling of disillusionment at the moment could not be stronger. Growing up in the northwest corner of the U.S., and not in a motorsports family, I had no idea motorcycle road racing even existed until I was already in my twenties. This happened when I stumbled upon Mark Neale's Faster, and I was forever hooked--not only watching MotoGP, but getting my endorsement and starting to ride and track bikes myself.
When your introduction to motorcycle racing is essentially a two-hour Valentino Ross tugjob, how do you not become a fan of the guy? I'm not one of the yellow masses, but I can't deny that I've been at least subconsciously pulling for him against the Spanish hordes for going on a decade. This year, in particular, I've really been pulling for him in the championship, mostly because he's the "old guy," at exactly my age.
I disagree with you, David. Nice to fans, charitable, whatever, I now find it difficult to reconcile my fandom with what I've seen this entire weekend. And not just from Rossi. He kicked it off, but this whole weekend was an ugly-off competition. From the pre-race comments (which, even if true, just come across like spoiled whining)...
to the dangerous and unnecessary clash on track--from both riders...
to what really looked to me like one rider intentionally putting another rider on the ground, something I'm not sure I've ever seen before...
to the absolutely ugly booing at the podium celebration...
to Lorenzo storming off the podium...
to Rossi skipping the press conference...
then Lorenzo, feeling left out, acting like a five year old not getting his way regarding the penalty.
I find myself in the unexpected position of finding Dani Pedrosa to be one of the most likable riders in the MotoGP field, and I'm concerned that I've maybe spent the last decade cheering on a group of children that were spoiled and praised and pressured and separated to the point that they never had a chance to grow up and learn how to be normal people.
In two weeks, this has gone from the most exciting championship I've ever witnessed (even more so than '06) to one I could care less about. This is Sunday at Valencia, as far as I'm concerned:
In reply to Well, my F5 key is only just saved... by geddyt
You know you'll watch
You know you'll watch it........
In reply to You know you'll watch by TonyZed
I'm Team Turd Sandwich all the way...
and I agree 100% with Pedrosa's sentiment that the rule book should be made clear regarding penalty points and punishments. Things are far too subjective as they sit, so it's just too easy for partisans to reach for conspiracy theories. In every other sport I can think of, penalties and consequences are clearly defined (jump offsides, that's five yards; handball in the penalty area, that's a free kick; be good at baseball, and you have to keep playing baseball...).
These penalties should be clearly defined such that if a rider gets busted for slowing on the race line to get a tow, he/she knows it's a one point penalty; if a rider causes another rider to crash, he/she knows it's a three point penalty; etc.
It's already over. They appealed and the decision was unanimously upheld.
I would also like to start by thanking David for a considered
However, I personally (please note, it's just my opinion) think the conclusion that MM was trying to interfere/slow Rossi could be argued. If you are slower than your competition then this is the only way you will beat them. Indeed, I seem to remember a certain Mr Rossi said so when he beat Stoner at Laguna Seca. As such it is MM's job as a racer to do just that.
So, if MM was somehow supposed to understand an unspoken/unwritten rule that he is to roll over and get out of the way because he is not going to win the WC then at this stage of the year why are we not simply having a race of two and ban all the others?
After the race it all seems like little kids pointing fingers and saying "I told you so". MM and JL should have shut it, Casey should have stayed right away and I'm thinking DP was not quite the little angel he has been made out to be since he pointed out the 58/26 incident where Rossi had said "that is racing". Overall, I was genuinely surprised at how quickly the claws came out. Meowww.
Anyhooo, moving on. No one was actually injured which is a good thing and I suspect a certain Mr Rossi is not happy that Sete probably gave him a phone call and reminded him of one particularly deliberate T bone move.
If we all draw a big breath, think back to 2006 and remember a certain underdog (after having been punted off the track by Pedrosa) came to the last race behind in points simply got on with doing the best job he could, then hopefully JL and VR will indeed try to emulate the same.
Another great write-up David.
Another great write-up David. It definitely covered all the salient points involved with the complete spectrum of facts, isssues, and opinions. The latter of which can be based on all sorts of items, including emotions which are often influential enough to filter the reality of truth completely out of a situation.
While I admit to being a huge MotoGp fan, I don't consider myself to be a true fanatic of any one rider. At least not since Rainey's tragic incident at Misano a couple of decades ago. While I haven't searched the internet high & wide to take in all of the various opinions and reports, I have seen quite a number of reports about all this. One of the comments that I feel best represents my take on the whole matter was from Michael Laverty "Yes Marc has every right to ride his own race, although there are many ways to ride your own race. Choice is key, and his decisions lacked respect towards someone fighting for something bigger than a podium on the day or another championship."
I'm fully aware that with Rossi making the comments that he did last Thursday, he invited Marquez to actually turn up the heat. Marquez, instead of taking the higher path and doing just what he, himself, had said and staying out of the middle of the championship, chose to dig right in and make sure his presence was felt. In my view those two decisions have made both of these extremely talented riders look like a couple of whiney asses. Instead of tackling the task at hand and choosing to ride to the best of their abilities on the machines they were given for the day, they made the choice to try and disrupt each other with mental games and track antics. As for Lorenzo's comments about the incident I'm not surprised at the comments nor his attitude. While I respect his riding ability I've always felt like he was the spoiled brat of the paddock in this generation of riders and seemed to think that everyone owed him because he had talent. As all of us are aware, the difference between winning in MotoGP and finishing in the bottom half can often be as simple as the ride you get. Put any of the top 5 on an open class bike and they'd also be lucky to sniff a top 5 spot, and probably be quite challenged to finish in the top 10. They all are ultra talented, without doubt. You don't get to that level otherwise.
So, where do I lay the blame? Pretty much on the shoulders of the two main protagonists, with both carrying an equal amount of blame. I find it interesting, to quote David's article that "Márquez claims Rossi kicked his bars, causing the front wheel to lock. Rossi denies this, says Márquez' handlebars hit his leg. Race Direction say they have no conclusive footage to prove the case either way.". Yet, with no conclusive footage to prove that it was actually Rossi that caused Marquez to fall, they chose to punish Vale. If Marc can slow in corners and block Vale, why is it not alright for Vale to run Marc out to the tracks edge. Marc could have used his brakes to slow more than he had and get himself right out of the situation. Yet, instead he chose to lean down onto Rossi to try and resolve the situation. As we all witnessed, that didn't work out so well. So why then, with "no conclusive footage to prove the case either way" did they choose to punish Rossi? It's a shame that this championship won't truly be decided by the two leading competitors, but instead by those that hand out penalties from race direction. In my view, they failed completely with this. It's been an epic season up till this point and it's sad that something of this nature seemingly will decide this championship
In reply to Another great write-up David. by motomania
I personally think Race Direction's statements about Marquez were mostly political cover to avoid being seen as overly one-sided. He wasn't penalized, because as intensely as both were riding, his passes were clean and--I think more importantly--he wasn't really holding Rossi up as much as you imply, despite how it looked.
Doesn't anybody find it odd that as "obviously" as Marc was interfering with Rossi's pace, that there was never any sign of Dovizioso in 4th? There's a good reason for that. Rossi's fastest lap of the race was lap 4, in the midst of the battle with Marc. Also, at no point during the multi-lap exchange did either Rossi or Marquez lap slower than any rider behind them until lap 7, where Rossi acknowledged that he deliberately slowed and tried to push Marc wide.
With Marc out of the race, Rossi only posted one lap faster than Lorenzo, and the margin between his pace and those behind him did not noticeably improve.
I'm willing to entertain the idea that Marc may have been capable of chasing Lorenzo, and thus showed his immaturity by hanging around waiting for Rossi. We'll never know for sure. But assigning Marquez a penalty based on the available evidence would be a disturbing precedent. It would basically amount to a "seems kind of fishy" penalty. I believe in almost any other situation, with almost any other pair of riders, there would be universal disdain if Race Direction handed out penalty points to a rider riding the way Marc did.
That's not to suggest that I'm happy with the decision. I don't necessarily know how it could have been avoided, but like most of us, I would have much preferred an outcome that would have allowed Lorenzo and Rossi to face each other in Valencia without any unearned advantage for either rider.
In reply to Marquez' Blame by Athorn
I guess it depends
i guess it depends on your perspective as to what a safe pass is. There were several passes on Sunday that were marginal (at best). In fact, the last pass that Marquez made in Turn 13 was, in my view, quite dangerous. He narrowly avoided Rossi's front tire and I believe that caused Vale to "snap". This is all going on in the early laps of a race where Marquez stated that he was having problems with his front end. Partly due to a full tank of fuel and the rest due to the characteristics of the 2015 motor, whether it's in the 2014 or 2015 chassis. From past races of this year, we know that issue would lessen as he burned off fuel but he chose not to wait for that to happen. Why not wait a few laps till the issue resolves itself instead of messing up another riders chance at a championship because of your ego?
As far as penalties go, I did not state anywhere in my comment that I felt Marquez should have received any point deduction or penalty points on his record. I did imply, and stand by, that I felt that Marquez was as equally responsible for falling on his butt as Rossi was. Both made choices that harmed themselves. As far as the rules go, I understand that the rider that causes a fall should be the one that receives the addition of points to his penalty points tally.
I've been involved in working at the track for almost 3 decades, everything from amateur club level events to MotoGP. Having worked damn near every job at the track from picking up bikes, driving the crash truck, to working in race control with the powers that be when it comes to running these events. I can count on one hand the times that I've disagreed with decisions passed down and this is one of those times. In essence, RD decided this championship when they decided that Rossi caused Marquez to fall. In my view, Marc was just as responsible for landing on his butt as Vale was, even though Rossi initially pushed Marquez wide. I believe that RD should do everything they can not to make decisions that decide championship unless it's absolutely warranted. So, just to be clear, I do NOT feel that Marquez should have been given any penalty points. I do feel that causing Rossi to start from the back of the grid is simply a bit much. Having said that, I don't believe for an instant that this decision will be changed before Valencia as they can't be seen as being wishy-washy with their decisions or they really will have problems dealing with those incidents where punishment actually fits the "crime".
In reply to I guess it depends by motomania
Thanks for clarifying. I agree that the consequence of the penalty in this case feels too harsh. Ironically, I think the truly consequential events in the outcome of the championship this season actually occurred earlier in the year: the Hanika/Guevara crash at Jerez cited by Mike Webb, and the single race line interference penalty point Rossi picked up during qualifying in Misano.
The Hanika incident set a precedent of a five-point penalty for a deliberately caused crash. Reading between the lines of Webb's comments, I think it's clear that Race Direction was looking for something substantial that would allow them to issue fewer points to Rossi than they had to Hanika. What they came up with was deliberate excessive interference on Rossi's part, but without the intent to cause a crash. (Thankfully, Hanika admitted his intent. Race Direction would have had to work much harder to justify the point disparity otherwise, even though the Hanika incident was less ambiguous.)
Once they had their reasoning for being more lenient with Rossi, it was Rossi's Misano point that really boxed them in. If they'd issued two points, it would have been blatant that they were trying to "punish" Rossi without creating any meaningful consequence, and would have sent the message that there are special rules for championship contenders. Race Direction must avoid that perception for the series to maintain its integrity.
Without the single point from Misano, I doubt there'd be as much controversy over the three point penalty for Sepang. Viewed only in comparison to the Hanika incident, three points for Sepang would probably feel reasonable to most (well, there's always the Rossi factor which distorts "reasonable", but I digress). The fury of the Internet was provoked because Race Direction was perceived as having "sent Rossi to the back of the grid" over the incident in Sepang. But that's not really what happened. For Sepang, Rossi was issued three points. His point from Misano sent him to the back of the grid.
That said, I'm still left disappointed by the outcome, I just don't know what Race Direction could have done differently. They just really didn't have any good options.
In reply to Marquez' Blame by Athorn
I'd argue that VR well and
I'd argue that VR well and truly *earned* his penalty but I certainly agree with the sentiment.
In reply to Another great write-up David. by motomania
slowing down before falling?
I was also thinking about how Marquez was slowing slowing slowing down behind Rossi. I thought perhaps that this was the evidence sought -- couldn't he have rapidly slowed or accelerated to get around Rossi? Of course I'm no expert, but given the talent involved I'm surprised he didn't just slip around him somehow, but since he didn't not it makes one suspicious (like many other things). Still, it's just another suspicion, and hard to penalize one as such. And to repeat so many others here, excellent write-up David!
Nicely balanced article.
To thecosman, Spot on, perversely I've enjoyed watching Rossi get a dose of what he's being dishing out for years.
Bravo Danny Pedrosa, he truly presents as being human and real not to mention the flawless performance on track.
Lorenzo, as much as I admire his on track skill, the same can't be said about how he comes across on camera, dunno but does he deserve a pass due to language interpretation?
Marquez.....I'm still not convinced his sole purpose has been to thwart Rossi from the championship but certainly to duff him up a bit.
Rossi fan here so I'll speak for him only
Something cracked inside me instantly when I saw Rossi -seemingly- kick Marquez out. After watching many slow motion videos from various angles I was relieved at least that he didn't kick him out. But it was disgraceful nonetheless. After 2 days of deliberation (and may I say grief?) I concluded the following:
1. These men are men like us with mental limits.
2. Rossi should have simply fought with Marquez because losing the championship suddenly wasn't the worst thing that could happen, considering the damage in his pride, image, etc.
3. To anyone not being sure if Marquez was deliberately affecting Rossi's pace: The only logical reason that makes you fight so hard with a championship contender, one race before Valencia, so early in the race, is if you have a stake in the championship. And Marquez, although not a contender anymore, surprisingly seems to have a stake. He doesn't want Rossi to win! This explanation is logically coherent enough for me in order to explain his racing tactics in the last couple of races. So I'm with Rossi 100% here and I understand his frustration.
4. The rules are rules though. And however frustrating must be for Rossi to have to fight with Marquez all the way, he cannot escape from the fact that Lorenzo isn't the only one circulating on the track. So it was a catch-22 situation for him. The rules didn't foresee it but it felt unfair enough to him to justify some bullying. And this is were he lost me.
5. I would like for him to calm down, man up and offer his apologies to Marquez, fans and the sport. To recognize his fault and not hide behind his excuses, which are logical but he's a damn symbol and I don't care. Otherwise, it's irrelevant for me if his wins another championship. Sorry.
Who still deserves the title?
First of all, again, a great write up. I always enjoy your stories and you made an massive effort with this one. I also feel sorry for you that modern social media behaviour forces you to make these kind of decisions to temporarely disable the comment buttons and moderate the comments as you do now, but I understand that it has to be done.
I also still got a sour taste in my mouth from the past events. I'm not one of the Yellow army, however, for me VR was the most populair rider. The accusations he did at Thursday he shouldn't have done in my opinion, even if it was true, but I don't believe that. This all backfired and this was to be expected.
I believe Rossi made a couple of wrong decisions this round and paid the price, it breaks my heart. I wanted him to win the title this year as a reward for the period from 2010 till now. Actually now, I can't be bothered who will win, since I actualy don't believe Rossi deserves it now, neither does Lorenzo. The statements he put in the press conference after this brief period and only looking at the footage once...oh man.
You said this is only a dark period, I sincerely hope that, but I have my doubts. The interview I saw Rossi giving to the italian press (just looked at the subtitles) I saw a beaten-Rossi. He definately should race at Valencia, but I'm very curious what the outcome will be and how people will react on that.
In the back of my mind I feel a tiny little bit sorry for Lorenzo. His title win in Sepang 2010 was overshadowed by the win and rise of Rossi, back at the top. His title win in PI 2012 was overshadowed by the final win and goodbye of Stoner and all the bad luck Dani Pedrosa had in this year. And now, I can't see him being happy if he wins the title in two weeks, with a marginal few points.
If it was possible, give the title to Dani, he's the only one who behaved like a champion recently and than next year we can have a fresh start.
One little thing, who knows more about what Emilio Alzamora said (about Marquez feels Rossi is the blame for losing the title). Also the race footage shows a bit of an argument between Alzemora and Marquez's crew chief. Also, if Alzemora said such a thing to Rossi, I can't believe Marquez will continue with him or would he?
Thank you for a great summing up to an uncomfortable race. The show was, for a time, forgotten as we witnessed real people failing to deal adequately with their conflicting ambitions. Rossi has always been true to himself, and continues to do the same. He fits the bill as folk hero to the masses seemingly so neatly, but the weekend shows that he is a human being as well, and subject to a fall from grace like the rest of us. We should allow him this, just as we should allow young Marquez his own failings.
I do wish, however that the media commentators would show some maturity in such a situation. Some people were getting far too hot under the collar in making pronouncements about what should happen to the protagonists as punishment for an incident that they could not have been able to see clearly. People were saying things had "obviously" happened which it turns out had not. This wound me up needlessly and contributed to the whole sordid atmosphere.
I do not want a return to the old bbc approach were non-one says anything but the race commentary and some of the comments from pitlane were well dodgy.
Correct Decision, Not yet Over
I fully support David's decision of blocking and regulating comments. Having seen the bile spewed on other sites, it is best that the animosity is tapered a bit . It is clear that all sides of the divides will continue hold their own, stubborn opinions with little sobriety. Facts will be twisted to suit their agendas. it is the 'lies, damn lies and statistics' play all over again.
Amidst all this mud slinging and name calling, people forget that the championship isn't over, even if Rossi makes good on his threats of not racing in Valencia. Lorenzo's best chance to win the title is to win the race. Both of them still have it tough and in my opinion, their mental state of mind on that weekend will play a big role in determining who takes it in the end. Rossi's task is tougher but you can't rule anything out; Lorenzo should race as if rossi is the person behind him or put in his so called 'time-trial' laps. Rossi, assuming Lorenzo is strong in the race and doesn't experiences hiccups, should simply ride the race of his life.
Whatever the case, I want the Valencia race to be an epic one. Rossi charging through the field, Lorenzo doing his utmost to win. No doubt there will be grumbling, no matter who takes the title but no matter, the Valencia race should be more about the race than another bout of bile. Marquez will be there and as soon as both men accept that he will always be a factor, the better for them
Lastly, I want to lend my opinions to the Rossi interview. He should simply have not done it, It doesn't matter if his opinions/beliefs are more true that the verses of a religious book. He shouldn't have done it. Especially when targeting Marquez. Even without reading David's insight of how he hated losing the flatbed race, it has always been clear that Marquez is super competitive. He doesn't really hide it. When you throw such a meaty bone to a racing beast, it is inevitable that it will want to devour it. Right after watching that interview I knew Rossi was asking for something that he will regret. For me, it backfired and I think privately, part of him will wish that he reserved that for an autobiography. Anyway, it's all done now and as I said in the title, it is not over. I am team Lorenzo and I hope he wins and (possibly) takes the title. Why? Because I simply support him.
Marc has a reason...
He has a different agenda to Rossi but it's not necessarily less justifiable.
He's a 4 times world champion with 6 more to go to beat Rossi. With this season over for him if Rossi wins it would effectively double his losses. If he has his sights on a bigger picture is it any less legitimate then Rossi's bigger picture (which is actually quite a bit smaller)?
"...if he wants to race Rossi, he should do so fairly and cleanly"
Nothing he did was illegal or unsafe.
"Márquez showed himself up as a petty man, driven by spite to try to prevent another rider from having something he could not."
... or ambition to have something he can.
Im also a 46 fan
And maybe my post and woth posting but im in disbelieve about mm cant hold pace with eighter dp or jl because of his struggling honda but yet could find the pace to fight with #46. or do anything in his power to fight with #46.
I never seen VR lose his cool befor but i can get it if a championship is so tight and you do everything in your power to win it that #93 chose only vr to fight with.
Conserving tires..... when have we ever seen mm sinds he joined motogp conserve his tires? he could drift in to and out a corner balancing on what was not even possible to do.
i even think that this could get ugly in the future. VR should not lose his cool but mm should not pick only #46 to fight with.
i strongly believe both of them wil do anything in their power to prevent eighter one of them gets another title.
BTW big tnx for your writing again David
What goes around...
Interesting reminder about Capirossi's 'team win', David. Not quite Spain vs italy, but....
I'm leaning Rossi's way on this, but I hope Dorna or the FIM have the moral strength to reset the championship and reduce the penalty to whatever allows VR to do his race in Valencia. Then no-one can say it wasn't a straight fight (I didn't say clean), I would hope. Without that this will never go away and will fester. Let VR and JL battle it out and it will be largely forgotten.
Sport should be a pleasure and this nastiness does no-one any credit.
In reply to What goes around... by motomann
If we're talking what goes around..
Vale has proven he's capable of 'getting his hands dirty' and has used this tactic in the past himself. Stands to reason one of his rivals would use it on him, which is fair enough. Game on!
Dark Days in MotoGP but there's light elsewhere.
First congratulations on a fantastic article David. I've been waiting for it since the chequered flag and it was worth the wait.
Sunday was a bad day for the MotoGP class and I've had a sick feeling in my stomach and a bad taste in my mouth since. I've been following MotoGP since the 90's and for me we've gone from the apex to the nadir of the sport over the course of a fortnight, let alone a season. As evidenced on Sunday, the egos have most definitely (crash) landed. We've seen petulance from multiple, multi-class world champions both on-track and off. We've had ill-informed comment from past and present racers, booing from the grandstands and from keyboard bashers. Few have covered themselves in glory, most in ordure. I can't help but feel that it's going to take some time for everyone to get over this.
It's rare that we look to the once-dubbed 'Axe Murderer Class' for balance and professionalism, but Zarco for me has been the shining light this year. He's raced hard but fair, has been gracious in victory, magnanimous in defeat.
Oliveira has shown he's a class act in Moto3 also. He's riding with belief and self-confidence, but not at the detriment of anyone else. He gives the impression of being cool and collected, going about his business with single minded purpose. He may be chasing a distant dream, but as they say, that's why they line up on Sunday.
Maybe it's time that the MotoGP Aliens (well at least three of them) started to show a bit more humanity. I know that VR46 has his academy and JL99 and MM93 inspire youngsters at home and afar, but perhaps they should spend a bit more time learning from their roots in the lower classes, rather than just checking the starting lights.
As a big Rossi fan, I'm very
As a big Rossi fan, I'm very disappointed in what happened in Sepang, but I think it's mainly his own fault. He ignited the fire and let Marc get to him mentally. This surprised me very much since he is the master of mind games.
After the clash race direction had to penalize this kind of behavior. And I think they did a fair job. The championship is tainted at this moment, but without a penalty it would be as well.
Vale waving was saying "follow me"
Also, Vale's waving was saying "follow me", "stop overtaking", "let's go get the guys in front".
And right away... Marquez overtakes him again.
That incensed Vale of course because it was the exact, perfect manifestation of the idea that Marquez was out to spoil Valentino's race.
In reply to Vale waving was saying "follow me" by lux7
follow me is usually indicated by
pointing behind your bike, not throwing an arm up in the air. Rossi was not happy with MM and he was convinced MM was deliberately slowing him down and yet the times do not support that. Rossi was already incensed before he threw his arm up.
At the start of the season I wondered if we might get to see VR and MM have a problem with each other. They both like to use "bullying" tactics and then proclaim that it is "just racing". Fair enough but I did wonder what if someone did it back to them. We just saw the answer and unsurprisingly they were both revealed as being very hypocritical.
Honda needs to sit down with Márquez
and tell him his responsibility is riding for his team and sponsors. For all the overreactions and wrong doings from Rossi and Lorenzo, those could be "forgiven" and "supported" by their team and sponsors, as both were fighting for the the championship for them.
No one can tell when Márquez had started riding for revenge. Since Assen? Or even earlier when he started saying he had "nothing to lose"? Looking back, Márquez has 6 DNFs this year. If he traded all these 6 DNFs all for 3rd places instead, and demoting Rossi/Lorenzo to 4th places in occasions along the way, he would still remains in the fight of the championship.
If Marquez hadn't leant on Rossi and consequently gone down, this would just have been a curious but entertaining mid-race shenanigan, no doubt followed by yet more rude, fairing-bashing passes and probably ending up in a thoroughly legal but messy crash from one or both.
To be fair to Rossi, while he pushed Marquez out to the edge of the track, he didn't seem to be trying to push him right off it into the dirt. It was a weird and aggressive manoeuvre, but could easily just have gone down as yet another of Rossi's quirky bits of over-thought racecraft.
(For the record, I don't think any less of Rossi, or indeed Marquez. To go that quick you have to have several important bits of brain missing anyway. They're all as mad as a bottle of fish, as you have to be to race at at that level, so it's hardly a shock that occasional on-track weirdness occurs. It would be more surprising if it didn't.)
But when Marquez went down the race was spoiled. Not by Marquez' crash, but by the endless holier-than-thou pontificating from everybody in the media. I'm looking at you particularly, Keith Heuwen. For goodness' sake, it's just a sport – a branch of the entertainment industry. Get a grip. Nobody died. It's not 9/11, the Black Death or World War One.
Congratulations to Bradley, Cal and Stefan, plus obviously Dani, who had great races. Now let's get back to the business at hand, knowing that we've got a championship which is still in the balance, and a final race that should be a total cliffhanger, with two fast Hondas and Rossi having to pass everybody in the field. It'll be excellent whoever wins, and very entertaining no matter what mind games and tantrums might occur. You can all stop moralising now and look forward to the next one.
Great write-up David!! Excellent as ever, insightful, unbiased, honest...
I found Dani's comments very good, with great insight and tons of dignity!!
However I couldn't really agree with his "VR is changing his mind" statement, at no point did I hear VR bluntly say he didn't want to have to fight for the race/WC... but I found it was clear quite soon MM had a different agenda when retaliating VRs pass. I did like Dani's reaction towards the journo: "I think you have some questions for him, no?", regarding VRs absence, strike!
I watched the first laps/replays several times, and found MMs passes "extraordinarily aggressive " (as David called them), they were borderline on more than one occasion. At no point do I expect any World Class rider to "roll over" (I was disgusted with the blatant team orders in WSBK last year) but he could've stalked and paid a little more respect to the Championship fight. Had he be the faster at the end (which he thought he was/would be with older tires & less fuel) he could've easily passed VR a few laps down the road.
JL has every right to have his opinion, but during the press conference it did not do him justice the things he said and the way he said them, or as David put so very well: "look dignified, like a worthy champion". Especially towards the journo regarding the yellow flag situation, was caught by surprise but could've easily said he'd look at it, instead of "congrats to you".
MM looked, like, well... a kid who didn't get to play. Not calling names or anything. But that was my impression.
VR, well... even though I understand why he ran wide, he shouldn't have. Plain and simple. Regardless of the entire discussion whether or not he kicked, running that wide alone was wrong.
Do find it a bit strange that MM & JL condemn this so strongly, seeing what they have done in the past (and MM not that long ago) :)
Well as you can probably tell, I hope(d) VR would get his 10th title... but in this clash no-one was innocent.
Whether or not the penalty VR received is enough/too much, really depends on which rider you prefer. Rationally I think it suits the crime, emotionally I think it is a bit harsh, seen RD also acknowledged MM had the intention to interfere. But, I think it cost VR his title...
In reply to Excellent by Dawg
Rational vs. Emotional
Yep, that's exactly the war raging in my head.
Something I haven't seen mentioned anywhere; Marc claims Valentino hit his front brake - wouldn't that show up on the Honda's data recorder? I can understand that Honda might not want to release data to the public, but surely Race Direction can request it?
The other problem I see with this version of events is that the the guard that is required around the brake lever these days would make it extremely difficult for another rider to hit it... which is the whole idea of the guard.
A well balanced opinion as always. I can't get my head around the amount of stress these riders have faced this season, it's been stressful enough just watching! But no one seems to have mentioned that this was also the simmoncelli race... the anniversary of that terrible accident that left such a hole in moto gp. I'm sure this also had an effect on the riders, especially his good friend Valentino, who was involved in the accident 4 years ago. To see these guys crack under the pressure of this season is no surprise. I'd have had a meltdown a long time ago! Time to breath in and move on. Well done for balancing David and keep up the good work.
FOR THE GREATER GOOD
Thanks David for your usual balanced, thoughtful review. As with you, Race Direction and many here, I think there was fault on both Marc and Vale's sides. A red mist came down for both men, and it turned into unremitting war out there. In those situations (as we all know from our own lives) logic and calm judgment go out the window. Throw in the past history, the haze, the heat, and the third week of a stressful away stint that had everyone in the paddock's nerves stretched and it was almost inevitable something like this would occur.
As far as the final leg incident goes, I don't think Rossi intended the crash. He pushed Marquez wide and slowed down, which was extremely provocative and aggressive but not dangerous. Marc reacted in the same aggressive manner by accelerating into Rossi's body, trying to push him inside the track. His helmet hit Rossi's leg, and Rossi flicked him back. Wrong, but not deliberately intending to hit critical parts of his bike and bring him down. I and many believe that after watching the super slowMo footage on YouTube many times. It was an unintended consequence of a very inflamed situation, with huge repercussions.
What's done is done, what's said is said and punishment has been meted out - apparently to nobody's satisfaction. As many feel, it's ruined the end of a fabulous season and put the whole sport under a dark cloud. But there is a way back.
After a simmering down period I believe all the protagonists including Lorenzo will be wishing what was said and done hadn't happened in the way it did. As you say David, they all come out of it looking bad, their snarling alter egos exposed for all to see. For all his faults Rossi is a true legend who won't want his legacy tarnished by this unsavoury episode. Marquez is a legend in the making but has now become a hate figure for millions of fans, which he must find very hurtful and worrying. Lorenzo stupidly lowered his reputation by not simply standing above the fray, as he could have.
All three riders have a lot to lose by letting this situation persist. For the good of their reputations and the greater good of the sport, they have it within their power to turn this dark downward spiral around into a virtuous circle. They should swallow their pride and show magnanimity towards each other as fellow great riders. A face to face meeting where they all apologise and forgive would be not just good for them, but for the teams, the families, the sponsors, Dorna and above all the fans.
It would not only clear the air but clear the way for a rescinding of the back-of-the-grid penalty, if Marquez was to request it. A formula could be found where Valencia could go down to the fair fight we all want it to be. Rossi could be allowed to qualify and take his grid spot accordingly. The points between him and Lorenzo could be made equal, to level the playing field and reflect the probable outcome of Sepang without the crash: fourth place behind Marc. All this could happen if the riders request it.
The vast majority of MotoGP fans would love to see this happen, and it would be in the interests of all the riders to do something along these lines. Marquez and Lorenzo would be lauded for their bigness of heart, instead of vilified and crucified for years to come, Rossi can retract the dark accusations, apologise and salvage some of his lost respect in the eyes of many. Then let the chips fall where they will in Valencia, and all accept the result.
It's the only way for a positive outcome. Without such a coming together of the riders themselves, MotoGP will suffer massively in the next few years as these riders continue to be involved with each other and us.
I've been reading the site for years but only now feel like I want to comment on anything.
I loved this part: "They give up everything – friends, lovers, family, time, starving themselves to lose weight, training themselves to exhaustion – just for the sake of a shiny piece of metal with their name on" Reminds me of the Napoleon quote about about men fighting long and hard for pieces of coloured ribbon.
Regarding heroes unmasked: I think we all knew Lorenzo to be petulant at times, with the press etc, but he can also be very funny (as can Pedrosa) and it was great you added the paragraph about all their good work. But let's be clear, in his younger days he was heavily punished with a ban (MM's worse punishment was a back of grid start even though he was also known as wild and dangerous) and is now an extremely clean rider - second maybe to Pedrosa in that regard. Nothing he did this weekend endangered anybody. Had Rossi not started this horrible turn of events MM's simmering hatred and JL's simmering sense of unfairness may have stayed locked safely away. Rossi is the greatest and the most experienced, of the 3 he has fallen the furthest.
In the past Rossi has done exactly what MM did at Sepang - he has fought with someone in a hard way while they were riding for the title, a title race he was out of. And he revelled in it. The fans loved it.
To me (although I respect race directions decision) MM did nothing wrong, I saw no contact and whenever Rossi was near an edge or contact was possible it was MM who picked up the bike to avoid and leave room. I was really enjoying it and while close it did not appear any more dangerous than previous "Great battles".
I'm fairly neutral - I would have enjoyed seeing Rossi lift the title as the best over-all rider this year for title number 10 - thoroughly deserved. I do however sympathise slightly with Lorenzo that he maybe should not be allowed to - it sends the wrong message. Now in any title fight a rider knows he can run his rival off track and keep his championship points. Especially in the last race. 3 points is effectively no sanction at all - it's only Rossi's other point that makes it anything noteworthy.
It seems to me fair that the antagonist is awarded the same points as the victim.
It's like someone steals your car, scratches it up and their punishment is 3 points on their license. You get your scratched up car back.
So while I sympathise with race direction in that they don't want to totally end the title race in the boardroom; I fear it may come back to bite them one day.
A lot of people are
A lot of people are mentioning Motegi 2010 to justify, tolerate or lessen Marquez's behavior.
I believe Marquez dropped back to engage Rossi (after been overtaken by Lorenzo he slowed down instead of his usual speeding up to strike back). In that interpretation, this has little to do with Motegi. Rossi was trying to win the race not caring for Lorenzo's championship. Marquez was throwing his race away to make sure Rossi wouldn't take the championship.
Very, very different.
Excellent Write-up - Terrible end to a great championship
Long time reader - 2nd time poster. Some great comments so far, (especially loved geddyt's motogp fan history so here's mine).
I started watching in 98 (when I turned 18 and got a bike license) and can't remember seeing such unsportsmanlike actions since Capirossi on Harada back in that year.
I really liked David's comparison in this write-up of how a ride-through penalty would have affected Rossi as compared to adjudicating after the race. However I think race direction got it pretty much bang-on seeing as what happened on the weekend really couldn't be decided during the race. I think it's pretty clear that Marquez held Vale up for a personal vendetta. However Vale really did lose his head, and I think a "back of the grid" is the best he could have hoped for. Had it been decided during the race it surely should have been a black flag as previous ride-through incidents like Simo on Pedrosa in 2011 was accidental contact. Taking into account Marc's behavior, again I think race direction have pretty much nailed it on a very tough decision...
An aussie supporter here so over the years I've been rooting for Doohan, Mccoy, Rossi, Stoner, Marquez, Rossi.
Have lost an enormous amount of respect for Marquez though this and while I've also lost some respect for Rossi I do genuinely feel for him, (even though what he did was very very bad...). I know David quite rightly pointed out that had Rossi had the pace to get away from Marquez on Sunday things would have been different but I think Vale was at his maximum just trying to latch onto Jorge's back wheel.
I'll be firmly in the Dani camp next year. Have always had a respect for him and I think he's been very impressive through his injuries last year and this year. Sunday just re-inforced his class.
Championship now seems to be in Dani and Marc's hands as the only way Vale can win it (bar rain) is if those guys finish 1st and 2nd in Valencia. I'd certainly be interested on HRC's take on Marc deliberately finishing 3rd if he has the pace for 2nd, as I think Dani will have the pace and confidence for another win. If Lorenzo doesn't have the pace of the 2 Hondas @ Valencia it will indeed be a sad sad situation to have the championship decided on 2 riders not involved in the battle...
Whatever happens the championship has been undeniably tainted and as a 2015 Rossi supporter, if he does win it I don't think it will hold the same meaning as the battle that was meant to be (Rossi / Lorenzo), never eventuated... :-(
As always - Thanks to David for the best motogp site on the internet.
Always an in-depth and neutral view. Great write-up!
Considered and to the point.
A balanced in depth review of the Sepang race in my opinion. Thank you Mr Emmett. After reading this I think that MM must accept a lager part of the moral guilt than I did before.
Did the penalty cost VR the title? Too early to say I think. VR is still 7 points up. It did surely reduce his chances but we still have Valencia to look forward to. I just can't wait.
A shame that Pedrosa's dominant performance is shadowed by the VR/MM debacle. Good to see a great rider back again.
Still in disbelief
2 days later, I still can't wrap my head around to what happened on Lap 7. It was shaping up to end in this way for one or both with the passes they were making, I said to myself no way do they carry on like this for another 15 laps but never did I imagine the scenario in which it would take place. Fault lies equally with both Marquez and Rossi. Marquez was looking for trouble by making overly aggressive moves so early on and Rossi for lashing out. The biggest surprise for us fans is we've seen how petty riders are at the top level. Marquez doesn't want Rossi to have what he can't and Rossi can't accept being bullied by someone else and retaliated in a manner which is against the rules. Lorenzo too had a great great opportunity to keep his cool and speak with dignity, people would've lapped him up as a 'worthy' champion but he too spat out his dummy because he wasn't handed over the title in Sepang itself.
We all think our idols are above this but at the end of day they do have flaws which come to the fore on days like this. It's truly a sad day for MotoGP and especially for 2015 season which reached a huge anti-climax. As a fan I feel sad and being denied an opportunity to see the spectacle unfold as it should have in Valencia but the penultimate round has cast an overshadowing effect on finale, one which would be seen parallel to the events of Sepang.
Firstly, I will just repeat everyone else here and praise David for yet again an excellent, well-balanced article. What a relief...
Hard to describe my disappointment at what happened, but like so many others, I will probably be crying yellow tears in two weeks time. 6 years of waiting, and nearly a full season of dreaming and anticipating, all shattered in a few seconds. Very very hard to swallow, but then again, indeed, it is only bike racing...
Thumbs up for Dani. No doubt he will have many new fans rooting for him, and rightfully so.
As always. This write-up has cheered me up actually. Ive had a sour taste in my mouth all weekend and just back to work today (bank holiday yesterday).
But can someone please explain why Loris Capirossi was involved in this incident review? He somehow attained the role of safety officer, but his own record in these title deciders is not exactly exemplary. The 1990 Italian "teammate" situation was outlined by David, and his torpedo attack on Harada in 98 was mentioned by someone else; both were echoed in a way on Sunday.
Actually, scratch my reservations above, hes the most qualified man in the world in this situation.
Amazing how my mood was
Amazing how my mood was affected post the Rossi-Marquez clash. Ruined my enjoyment of the rest of the race. But I am a bit sensitive. I can see how this is a bit of a bloodsport and the winners have to be strong to survive. That means they won't always seem like good sportsmen. This has been a great season and maybe I've been lulled. Neither one of them are innocents, and in order to achieve what they have, they couldn't possibly be. Sepang has exposed Vale, Marc and Jorge in different ways. I admire them all, and feel for them all as real human beings.
So, they live and die by the sword. In the end, Vale has paid his price for a situation that he didn't really want but maybe helped to create. Fair enough. There will always be arguments about the severity of his punishment but Race Direction has spoken and the show must go on. In the end, nobody got hurt and all concerned will have/have had great careers, so no sympathy required from any of us. If any of us is indignant, we must look to ourselves for why that is.
Bring on Valencia. Jorge is a worthy champ in that he is fast. Vale is already a legend so he has nothing to lose and will certainly entertain us in this last race, successful or not. Marc has his faults but has already achieved legendary status by any measure, and promises to continue that for years to come.
It's ironic that PI was a race that stands out for good reasons, followed by Sepang that was a standout for not so good reasons. I guess it's part of the ebbs and flows of life.
In reply to Amazing how my mood was by lowflying
I completely agree with your mood -- I felt exactly the same way, as I'm sure did many others.
What a mistake-a to make-a!
Great round up David, as allways.
For me, all this could be avoided if it weren't been that Valentino Rossi's statement an Thursday's press conference. I think this is the moment that has changed all. I am not justifyng Marc or Valentino for what they did on the track, but the bottom line is Valentino has done what he always did, and it didn't pay off this time, action=reaction. In the end, the results are not what Valentino has expected from Sepang.
About the clash, can you bet that Marc will not return Valentino the same thing? I mean Valentino got "only" three points. What will stop Marc to do the same?
When I saw the fall, I was thinking about the line that Captain Alberto Bertorelli used to say in BBC's popular sitcom 'Allo 'Allo!, the line was: "What a mistake-a to make-a!"
Seems something was bound to
Seems something was bound to happen after the culmination of events leading up to the end of this season. It surely got messy by VR who already is a legend and MM who is believed to become the next legend. Hence not an easy task for all parties involved to come to a conclusion on penalties and for whom. Looks like a very tricky political situation to me that is residing in the hands of Dorna.
As I don't know Dorna's rulebook, does anyone know if it reads that you can not run wide? For whatever reason... I see it happen all the time under different circumstances as last race for sure, but in my eyes it is still just running wide. And everyone knows that if you then turn in, being the overtaker, that you will run into the one who is running wide.
In the end there can only be one winner as everyone knows. Hopefully in Valencia all racers will be riding with a 'cleared' conscience that will not permit the thought of any 'conspiracy theories'. And so, should VR win the championship next round starting from the back of the grid it will be a very sweet victory. Sweeter than if JL should rack up the championship.
Too bad for DP. He rode a beautiful race and was good to see him in the last races putting up a fight. Nevertheless, he always seems to be coming in second place even after a win.
Clear headed facts and opinion.
A much appreciated bit of sanity in all of this mess. In years to come the mystery will remain, why Valentino decided to start a fight with Marquez when his sole focus should be on Jorge Lorenzo. But has Valentino ever succeeded in a really close title battle? He usually wins them by miles, Valencia 06 didn't work out so well.
I wonder if MM has responded to Mike Webb saying that he was interfering with VR's race.
In reply to Clear headed facts and opinion. by Ppparkinson9
I feel pretty strongly that
I feel pretty strongly that VR was messing with MM in order to play mind games with JL. Put the seed of doubt in JL's mind that he was actually winning with his own speed. He'd have pointed at AI if they weren't so close. I think VR's mistake was escalating it so much with someone who's a younger version of himself (MM) and not understanding how he (VR) would react to the same scenario.
I'm a MM fan but I want VR to win the championship so I (and we) lose all around in this scenario.
it must have been Doriano Romboni. Not Dario.
And very very nice writeup on Lorenzo. Pefect 10.
I like to echo the comments of so many,and say how good this write up is,
It was a very tense weekend,and my two pennorth is only stirring the pudding,
best wishes to David,he has come out of this,top of the pile
I knew this would be worth waiting for!
The best piece on this sorry weekend I've seen bar none.
This was a bad day for the sport, and on reflection of this piece, I agree three people come out badly.
Me, I do believe VR when he says MM is interfering, Rossi clearly thought that by calling him out on Thurs he would desist, it made it worse, running to the law of unintended consequences. Getting frustrated and running MM wide? Bad call, my heart sunk as soon as I saw it start. I don't believe there was a 'kick'.
As Mike Webb says, no rule against what MM was doing no matter what the motive.
What should Rossi have done as he couldn't get clear of MM to engage with JL? I don't know, but not what he did. We have to remember that race finishing pace can be totally different between the contenders and I guess he was hoping to pick up time later, and saw that MM was denying him the chance. Infuriating, but I'd have hoped the most experienced racer ever would have made a better choice.
Personally, if MM had been doing that to Jorge (if we accept the 'deliberate hindrance' as moved by RD as true) I would be equally frustrated as a fan.
What I expected for the season conclusion was everyone racing to do their best, and possibly a great humdinger between the two contenders, we are likely robbed of that. I too loathed what happened with Kawasaki and Aprilia at the the end of WSBK last year.
Jorge? Really undignified, I was embarrassed for him, such a brilliant talent too.
It's a shame, and in so many ways.
Humble pie time
Didn't Keith Huewen promise during the race to eat a full size Arai if Race Direction allowed VR to keep his points for 3rd? Anyone got his address, I've a mouldering Arai lid he can have. The rest of the team will probably help him out. Live commentary is highly pressured, the BT boys until now have done a decent job this season, but they got carried away on Sunday. They jumped to conclusions, rushed to judgement, spoke too soon and they should say so. Humble pie is due. I know, I got it wrong too.
In reply to Humble pie time by Cloverleaf
You are over reacting. A lot
You are over reacting.
A lot of people expected DSQ, including me, I watched the race after an unfortunate night out where I drank a few to many and slept for only 3 or 4 hours so I can get up and watch the race, and I'm telling you, the move hit me harder than the cognac I was unfortunately pressured into drinking.
Not siding with any of the parties, whole thing left a sour taste in my mouth, but I have to say that I did to expect DSQ.
I also have to say I agree with Race Direction that it was better to be left to tend to afterwards, because then you can both do and undo your actions, which is something you cannot after an immediate reaction such as a black flag or a ride through or a third alternative that I think is not used in MotoGP, a stop and go penalty.
Anyways, Keith and Julian are my favorite commentating pair, right before Whitham and Burnicle a pair that I think unfortunately is no longer together, replaced by a professional, but a bit borish Steve Day and his co-comentator.
BT Sport guys are for me the most professional squad out there, by that primarily I mean Hodgey, Gavin, Keith and Julian, the man whose voice is synonymous with MotoGP. I have no feelings either way towards James Toseland, other that the abreviation JT seems childish and forced. The only one who I don't like is that tall blond ogre of a man who acts like the personification of social networking, always shouting and annoucncing something unnecessarily.
My point is that they didn't get carried away, their assesment was geniuine, and honestly, a probability.
In my view, someone should bake Keith a cake in the shape of an Arai helmet for the fun of it, but I don't take anything against the main, he said it as he saw it, as many of us did, regardless of our biases or unbiasedness.
In reply to You are over reacting. A lot by J_Archer
Julian Ryder and Toby Moody
...Just. Bring. Them. Back. Together.
I always felt that duo was the best commentator service this sport has ever seen.
Both balancing each other, as faultless commentaries as we've ever seen.
Even Randy Mamola as on-track man fitted that party well too (although Neil Hodgson does an even better job now, must say),
Can't say the same for Keith Huewen. With all due respect to the man and professional, he's far too opiniated, with really stupid remarks far too many times. So much so that I ended up prefering the other pair on MotoGP.com (cringe enducing).
Please bring back Toby Moody, and pair him with Julian Ryder, once again!
In reply to Humble pie time by Cloverleaf
Both Keith and Jules said so
Both Keith and Jules said so much on air.... So much that was contentious, assumption fuelled and (IMO) nigh on libellous...
But WTF was Hodgson (or was it Gavin?) doing claiming that JL had stormed into race direction, losing his temper and banging things around?
If anyone needs to eat a mouldy Arai....
Ugly but familiar
Ugly racing from Marquez or not, he did nothing Rossi has never done. At Motegi 2010 he was even battling his own team mate balls out, who was leading the championship at the time while Valentino was already long out of contention. Only Lorenzo kept his cool and backed off in the end.
Great write up, and great response from Dani.
Keeping it safe at Valencia
The saving grace in all this is that no-one was hurt, and keeping it that way in Valencia needs to be everyone's priority. At the end of the day, a tenth title is only a number and VR has already proved that he can still beat everyone else currently racing when the gods smile on him. The same applies to MM, JL and DP, all four are clearly quite capable of winning a championship when things go their way and if this year has proved anything, it's that good and bad fortune have quite an impact on who gets to hold the trophy. Think DP, in this instance, since there's almost unanimous agreement that if he bought a duck it'd sink.
Regardless of Sepang, this year would have (and I'm sure will) generate years of debate about why the other guy deserved it more so in that sense nothing much has changed, only who gets to be the victor/victim. What won't change is that this has been by far and away the best year for MotoGP in eons and vast hordes of us have had something we craved, the chance to see VR once more at his best, rather than a shadow of his former self.
Come on Rossi!
Just wanted to say that I am very ashamed for Rossi after that incident; I am cheering for him for the championship but what he did was wrong. Even though if Marquez is deliberately trying to sabotage his championship hopes, that was uncalled for. But what is done is done and we can only look forward to Valencia. I also wanted to vent on Marquez & his team about their reaction to the punishment; He should remember he had a lenient punishment for his incident with Wilairot a few years back, so for me that was a bit hypocritical, I feel. I also agree that Lorenzo's reaction were "petty". The only positive thing I take from this was finally being able to see more of Maverick racing. I was bummed out after the incident but to see him race Aleix for a few laps, I was stoked! but them got bummed out when he didn't come out on top from that battle.
David, Even compared to the
Even compared to the excellent level of writing in all of your content here, this piece IMO represents you at your finest. So I'd like to echo the comments of the other posters here in thanking you for this article.
As a passionate motogp fan I've already typed many words about this on social media, so I'll endeavour to be brief here, if for nothing else than the fact that unlike the rest of the motogp internet community the visitors to your site are mostly well informed, intelligent and respectful. I am unlikely to add much to the debate.
So placing to one side the "did he / didn't he" of the actual incident, then what am I left to talk about?!
Well to me, the biggest issue with MM and VR is the things they'd said previously.... IMO MM now looks pretty silly claiming (iirc before PI) that he'd definitely think twice before conducting any move that might influence the championship. Of VR it is easy to argue that he pushed the wrong buttons on the wrong guy at the wrong time.
For me (and I'm not bringing anything new to the table here) this whole thing mostly illustrates that whatever rules motogp has in it's rule book, they are effectively enforced via a benign dictatorship. Think that's harsh? Well Webb's account of the Simoncelli/Pedrosa clash in the Hitting the Apex movie leaves me in no doubt... (YMMV of course) - basically that he'd have probably of let it slide with Simoncelli (ie not issue a ride through) but because he had previous form...
MM has form - whether it's nearly taking out several marshals at Silverstone or "merely" nearly killing himself @ 200+mph in Mugello, (plus many other instances) MM has demonstrated (IMO, YMMV remember) that the level of personal risk he's prepared to endure extends to all around him.
I think you could quite easily suggest MM needs to learn some respect for the other riders.
VR doesn't really have this form. But since the SIC press conference his words and attitude have had the impact of a crashing motorcycle throughout the MotoGPsphere, When VR speaks, people listen. When VR says "this rider is a bad guy" then that rider can only look forward to online troll hatred, and trackside booing. I'm sure VR knows he has this power ;)
I think you could quite easily suggest VR needs to learn some respect for the other riders.
So if I was Webb, with the basic ability to apply any rule I see fit, and faced with 2 riders that need to learn respect, underlined by the most exciting championship for 9 years, what would I do?
I think both MM VR should be on 3 points, 3 points that carry over to next year. 3 points with the warning the next infraction (no matter what it is) will carry enough points to induce at least a 1 race ban.
This might make both riders engage their intellects, rather than their red mist - whilst simultaneously not depriving the humble fan (and bread and butter of the sport) the finest championship in years.
It would also (finally) give Lorenzo a chance to win a championship that wasn't UNFAIRLY tarred with, "ah but Rossi broke his leg, Casey broke his ankle, Dani got taken out - that's why you won"
(Hmmmm apologies - that wasn't that brief!!!)
The last part of the article
The last part of the article about the character of the racers off track was a nice, balancing piece, and I have to say I got a little bit carried away and found my self thinking of everyone as unlikable, except Dani, who really has shun this weekend, both on and off track.
What can I say, except that this whole thing was unnecessary, and that I do not understand how Valentino, in all his wisdom and experience thought that it was a good move.
From the moment he sat up, my jaw dropped.
There was something about it not at all right.
Everyone of us, even racing in places that are virtual, like multiplayer video games, know that it is so easy to get frustrated by someone to the point you start being brazen and aggressive. And if tension run high behind a screen, where races are run 5-6 times per sitting, where it doesn't really count for jack, just imagine how high they must run on the top of a whole branch of sports.
However, never did I think Valentino was going to be the one that breaks.
The positive thing here: It made me indifferent towards who wins the championship
The negative: As I believe Keith said, I do genuinely feel robbed of a championship, now, it's pretty much decided. Don't be fooled by Lorenzo's statement, that's just anxiety talking, the chances of Valentino wining the championship are slim to none.
Mixed conditions and an error from Lorenzo are pretty much the only way I see Vale winning this one.
But what about 2016?
Being the pessimist that I am I can't help but think that Vale's carreer is on a downward spiral from now on, but, ralistically, or better yet, statistically, from 2013 onwards the man has only improved.
Marc should lose an edge over the field on the Michelins (should but we don't know if he will) because of the front tyre that is sub par to the Bridgestones, and we all know just how much he loves late braking, while Pedrosa, who has shown form loves shooting out of corners and dislikes late braking, and the Michelins love Pedrosa's style.
These are all half-informed views of a bike racing fan that reads too much about riders and the way they setup the bike and ride, but there is basis for those assumptions.
A tamed Marquez, a resurgent Pedrosa, a re-invigorated Lorenzo and an angry, angry Valentino...could we have all hell break loose in 2016?
And imagine if Vinales gets a decent Suzuki...
I think a lot of us will have fingers crossed for Pedrosa winning the 2016 championship. How obvious is it now that that arm pump problem was a huge hinderance for him?
Oh how long are the two weeks before Valencia, and how forever is defined as from November to April.
In reply to The last part of the article by J_Archer
Not so sure....
"Mixed conditions and an error from Lorenzo are pretty much the only way I see Vale winning this one."
Chances that Dani and MM will blast by Lorenzo are not bad. And 6-th place is far from impossible for Rossi.
I do not think that mixed conditions and an error from Lorenzo are pretty much the only way that VR can win this.
Actually Rossi starting close to top with angry MM would be way worse.
Just my two cents worth
I've been following MotoGP for many many years and I've been a Rossi fan since his early career. After this weeks race and all the surrounding BS, I'll probably start following the series on TV rather than spending ~100 Euro's to subscribe with Dorna and watching live. I think David's assessment is pretty accurate and it's a sad sad day for motorcycle racing.
Is there a Pulitzer Prize for Sport Journalism? How can I vote?
Thanks for a cracking article. Worth a year’s subs - you should charge more!
Only one small point I’d question in your superb analysis David – was it really inevitable that Rossi’s actions would precipitate a crash? I think not. The risk was certainly there, and large, but Marquez has legendary handling skills and I think Rossi would have been only too aware of the dire consequences of actually, deliberately pushing Marquez over. Stand him up and slow him down? Yes. Push him over and out? No.
But is the prize of a tenth (and last?) title as great, or even greater, than the prize of the first (or any of the other nine)? Maybe this explains Rossi’s conservative performances in the last few close quarter races – better to finish with ‘sensible’ points than risk all for only one or two more? This attitude, along with a nod to luck and fate that circumstances would conspire to keep JL99 out of the big points, seemed to be working quite well for him as he hung on to that slender points lead.
The old magic is still there but not frequently or consistently enough to put him right out front, nor to be able to pick his way through with impunity like the good old days. And the opposition have all upped their games. So, he is doing what he can, when he can. Will it prove to be enough though?
And so we await Valencia with bated breath. I hope we have a race worthy of the talents (and only the talents) of all the key men involved: we deserve it. And a dose of irony surely in the situation that Rossi will have to emulate Marquez at Valencia and come from the very back to the front to clinch his tenth prize. If anyone else can do it, it’s probably only VR46.
Well worth the wait!
Thank you very much. Exactly what I needed to read! I was hoping you would frame the thing with historical precedents and you did.
I liked your tone and perspective but I don't buy it that Marquez was caught by surprise They were too slow and wide for him not to figure what was going on. His peripheral vision at that point would be revealing a looking at him stood up Rossi. For me it looked more like "I know what you're doing, I'm not afraid, I may even push you to turn in". It backfired. It's just my opinion and I am just stating it to justify that declaring that Marquez was taken by surprise is also opinion.
Anyway, I don't think it makes a difference, the three of them were bad enough just given the facts, let alone opinions.
what happens now?
Mostly I think Rossi has to turn up at Valencia and give it his best shot. There is nothing as far as I am aware in the rules that governs intentional baulking of another rider by racing against them
But what happens when he gets up behind Marquez? MM did not break the rules as such so is he free to 'interference race' Rossi in Valencia on purpose even if he did not do that in Sepang? and can either of them do it again at the end of next season? If they had been racing for the lead no-one would have questioned it, but they weren't.
Rossi has been 'robust' in his track behaviour for most of his career and he has plenty of 'heroes' himself. Can we believe he wouldn't have behaved like MM has if the situation was reversed? I don't know if it ever happened but I would like to think not.
In the bigger picture what if Rossi is right? What if Marquez believes Rossi deprived him of this year's championship in Argentina and Assen and has planned ( as he said he practised the Assen move) a strategy to put a spoke in VR's championship attempt? Is this something we just have to accept or is there a way of legislating for it?
Its no good saying "if Rossi had been fast enough he should have ridden away from Marquez" In these days of incredibly competitive racing it takes only very subtle actions to ruin a racer's rhythm for a short period of time and make it impossible to get back to the leader to fight for the race.
Deliberate interference is surely something we would want to exclude ( like team orders) but is it possible to do so? I for one would not like to see any curb on racers racing, thats what they are there for, and that, in a way is what they did on Sunday. Except one rider impeded another's championship attempt.
Whether he did it on purpose or not is the question that will still be hanging around next year, and it will be seen whether it casts a shadow over Marquez' more than Rossi........he had the option to shut the throttle and avoid contact but visibly closed in at the last.
In reply to what happens now? by marmike
Oh the irony of it all...
quote - "Rossi has been 'robust' in his track behaviour for most of his career and he has plenty of 'heroes' himself. Can we believe he wouldn't have behaved like MM has if the situation was reversed? I don't know if it ever happened but I would like to think not."
I refer you to Motegi 2010. Rossi aggressively racing championship contender Lorenzo whilst out of contention himself.
Using Rossi'sown impeccable logic, Marquez is entitled to race a title contender for the podium despite the fact he cannot win the championship himself. The precedent had been set by Rossi himself! Oh the irony of it all...it would be funny if it wasn't so tragic.
For the record, I do generally agree with the sentiment of your post.
Beautifully summarised David. All the thoughts I have had swimming around in my head neatly written down.
I have little to add except that as a long time bike racing fan (I was lucky enough to see some of the Trans-Atlantic series at Oulton in the 70's) and more recently a Rossi fan it was probably the saddest thing I have witnessed in all my years of watching. I do think it's worth pointing out that Rossi's only actual crime was deliberately running Marquez out to edge of the track, cynical and unsporting though it undoubtedly was. Whatever the reasons, real or imagined, Rossi should have known better and the incident has undoubtedly tainted at least this championship.
I'll carry on watching but it won't be the same.
I wonder now if VR will be back in 2016.
Blame especially Dorna for this bad, bad Sunday
Thank you David, I like this article, very balanced and consistent to what I have seen on TV.
As a VR46 die-hard fan, I was disturbed by the race events and, even more than what MM did (awful), by VR46 failure to keep his head cool. VR46 has never been a saint but he has always kept balance and control so a real unexpected failure.
However, I could not stop from wondering what kind of pressure was on VR (and JL). So much at stake, so far away from home, for so many weeks - yes, 3 flyaways in 3 weeks. I would like to know how many hours of sleep Vale had in the last weeks, not just the World Title in itself but also knowing that this is, very likely, the last chance.
IMHO, blame should be put on Dorna. Everybody saw it coming after Thu press event and they did nothing.
Best ever championship contention and they let is spoil by a rider that is out of the championship games. They should have summoned MM and VL for what happened at PI and at the press event, make sure they play by the rules with no hidden plan and no intent to response to hidden plans.
Hope Dorna realizes their mistakes but I am no so sure; given their negligence in educating MM in the past (e.g. when he hit Iannone during practice or Bautista earlier this year or Pedrosa last yeat, cutting the torque sensor cable or when he ran wide Luthi in moto2...) and their willingness to morph MotoGP into a big CEV, I doubt they will do anything serious.
Thanks again David.
After watching the race I was a bit sour with the hole thing. On reflection its a shame but it is what it is. I find marquez deliberately slowing rossi ridiculous and unsporting, but at the same time rossi's responce was ridiculous. I watch motogp because I love racing, but not false racing because a rider is slowing to stop another rider from been able to catch another rider. Who ever wins the championship I want them to go win it, and to do that they must race who ever in front of them. Who cares what is said or not said in press conferences, marquez in my opinion was childlike, but rossi lost his cool in responce. If rossi won it now with no problems on lorenzo's side it would be truly deserved. Just get out there and race and may the best man win.
Lorenzo pass on Rossi was during a waving yellow flag
When Lorenzo passed Rossi at turn one on the second lap, a waving yellow flag was being waved for a previous incident at that corner. Why has Race Direction, the Yamaha Team or any commentators not pick up on this, it is clearly visible on the film footage. Lorenzo should have been penalized for this incident, but he has received nothing. why?
In reply to Lorenzo pass on Rossi was during a waving yellow flag by pouchy750
It has been explained by Mike Webb (I think on Crash).
The flag was being raised after Lorenzo and Rossi went by as seen in the still image.
It was not waved but put straight back down as the rider who was running off stayed upright IIRC.
This was before Loris Baz went off
Look it up for full details - this is from my memory of Webb's statement.
Oops. See below for details.
Can something be cleared up on Rossi's penalty?
OK, so Rossi now does not have to qualify, or does he?
If he is in the top ten after FP3, does he still participate in Q2 and then gets demoted?
Or if he concentrates on race pace, and ends up in Q1, will he progress to Q2 at the expense of other riders, to then be demoted to the back of the grid afterwards?
If he is allowed to participate in the normal process only to demoted afterwards this will be a punishment to someone else. For example: VR is 11th quickest and joins a Ducati/Suzuki/Honda/Yamaha that also did not make Q2 outright. VR finishes Q1 in the top 2 so moving to Q1. This will penalise the 13th fastest from the chance of getting a shot at a better grid position.
Just a thought
In reply to Can something be cleared up on Rossi's penalty? by Mumbly
Also, another less relevant/realistic thought, would Rossi be able to try and slow up other riders in Q2 to make their grid position worse? Could he try and disrupt Lorenzo to bring him further back? This would be a pretty slimy tactic, slowing someone else up that is fighting for the championship, and I wouldn't be pleased to see Rossi doing this, but I am just curious about it.
On second thought, it wouldn't be as slimy as someone that has no shot at the championship holding someone else up that did have a good shot at the championship, but still, slimy non the less. But is there a rule against it?
In reply to Good point by brummeepants
Ironically, this sort of behavior is much more strictly punished in practice and qualifying than during the race. In the race, you are allowed to use whatever tactics you have at your disposal to try to disrupt the other rider and slow them down (for example, Rossi vs Stoner at Laguna Seca in 2008). In practice, you are not allowed to get in the way of another rider as he goes for a fast lap. If you could get ahead of them and ride half a second off qualifying pace, then you might get away with it. But you can't just dawdle along blocking your rival every time he comes past.