Marco Melandri has something of a reputation for speaking out whenever he's not happy. Melandri's outburst about the weakness of the Honda RC212V, and HRC's reneging on promises of full factory support for the Gresini Honda team are still ringing in the ears of both Honda officials and journalists, and now Melandri is at it again.
Melandri has posted a diary entry on his personal website speaking about the despair he feels at his current situation. "Whenever I think I've hit rock bottom, things just keep on getting worse," the Italian ex-250 champion wrote. Things are so bad that Melandri can't even bear to watch the races on TV, as the pain of seeing just how stiff and uncertain he is on the bike, the very opposite of his natural style: "I look like someone who's never ridden before," the Italian wrote. He confidence is at such a low ebb, he describes himself as being "a luxury spectator," rather than actually doing any racing, "but only at the start, for after the first two corners, I can't see anyone else."
Melandri's predicament is hardly new, for as anyone who saw the fear and anguish on Melandri's face after the Qualifying Practice at Jerez could see, the Italian looks more like a teenager facing the executioner's noose, rather than the mature and experienced racer that he is. Neither racing nor testing at Estoril made much difference to Macio's situation, and only radical improvements at Shanghai will be able to lift the former champion's mood.
The one remarkable thing about Melandri's post is that it is not a fulmination against Ducati. Last year's rant was aimed fairly and squarely at HRC, and the way they treated him and his team. This weekend's entry is more like a cry of despair than a roar of anger, a fact which is itself deeply telling. Melandri has clearly lost all confidence in his own ability, not just in the bike, and it may take more than just some chassis modifications to get him back on the right track.
In a sport where confidence is crucial, Melandri is a long way down a very slippery slope, one from which it is incredibly difficult to return. Even after just 3 races, it's almost inconceivable that Melandri will stay at Ducati for 2009. But if things don't improve even a little soon, you have to wonder whether Melandri isn't thinking the unthinkable: will Melandri find the fortitude to carry on putting his body on the line every weekend? Or could he possibly decide that discretion is the better part of valor, and to get out while he still can?