Having been in Austin all weekend long, I just had my first opportunity to watch the MotoGP race from Sepang. Admittedly, I was a bit stunned with the on-track exploitations of Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez to say the least but I have not read anything about the incident from any news sites, blogs or traditional news outlets yet. I have not even seen what the official team positions are, driver’s comments or Dorna’s results of the investigation.
Now, while that may make me a galactic idiot for posting commentary on this race, I reckon I would just give an initial reaction to it as I saw it unfold because I have to imagine it is a pure S-storm out there right now on the interweb about the incident. I can imagine the Marc and Vale camps are at odds with each other and the one thing I did see this morning was some Facebook post in Italian, which I cannot read, that had an on-board camera of Marc’s bike. I did watch that view.
In reality I see two riders who represent the old guard and the new guard. They were already ratcheted up from Rossi’s comments Thursday about Marquez helping Lorenz and slowing the Italian down etc. I assume that is one part opinion and two parts Rossi. Fair enough, that’s part of his charm. I have not read if Dorna found that to be true based on data and timing. Again, I’ve been out of the loop.
However, that being said, the two riders were relatively equal and didn’t have much to take the battle to Lorenzo and Pedrosa who were left to battle it out at the front. What they did have is nearly equal performance and this placed them both in the hunt for third. Passing and re-passing, a Rossi trademark, they both tried to out-Rossi the other and there was some brilliant racing from legend and young phenom alike. Incredible pushing from Marc who seemed to be completely hanging it out to battle with Rossi. Rossi was clinical in his passing and Marc was showing incredible bike-handling skill to hang on a not only pass but re-pass. Amazing action from perhaps a battle that signals the changing of the guard.
In return, the wily veteran wasn’t going to give up easy as in his mind, I have to think he was wondering why Marc was fighting so fiercely given he is out of the title hunt and Rossi desperately needed to catch Lorenzo. Thus the accusation that he may be helping Lorenzo. You know, Spaniards helping Spaniards…that type of thing. I have no way of knowing that, perhaps the two are friends but that’s for a better person to explain.
What I do know is that it looked to me that Rossi was absolutely miffed by Marc’s actions and otherworldly riding and combative behavior. As they entered the right-hander, Rossi sat up, pressed out wide to force Marc outside and effectively back him off a bit. Basically resign himself to third behind Lorenzo but also to cool Marquez down.
What transpired then was interesting as there was some head, knee and handlebar touching and at first blush it looked as if Rossi kneed Marc’s bike but then if I had a bike closing in on me from the side, I would put my leg out as well.
For me, it seemed that Rossi hit the apex but didn’t turn in for the corner like a rider would normally do while Marquez started to turn in anticipating that Rossi would to. They both touched and Marc went down.
Was it deliberate? I think the answer is yes in the terms that Rossi was trying to get Marc to go wide and slow him down a bit to get some breathing room. I’m unclear as to what the regulations say about that but the fact is Rossi didn’t turn in and Marquez was which probably caught him off guard. In Austin, Lewis Hamilton a very similar thing to his teammate, Nico Rosberg, by running him wide into turn 1 and taking the lead. Shutting doors in turns happens in F1.
I think Marquez has a personal vendetta he was battling for on Sunday and Rossi has a pride and championship he was fighting for and didn’t relish Marc being mixed up in a fight that he really has no cause in. Having said that, third place is third place and Marc has every right to fight for that position. Again, I’m not sure how Dorna felt about Marquez pressing a title contender so hard but each race is its own chance to win with positions up for grabs.
I have not seen the official result of the investigation but I would say that if they penalize Rossi, then they are saying that each race is its own entity and it doesn’t matter if Rossi is in the title hunt and it doesn’t matter that Marc is outrageously fighting Rossi for a position even though he is out of the title bid.
On the other hand, if they don’t penalize Rossi, then they are saying the opposite. I would add that if they are concerned over the title contenders, then this incident really shouldn’t garner a penalty as Marc isn’t in the fight.
As I said, I am posting this without a safety net here folks, so I am coming from it with initial knee-jerk reactions and no data to support my opinion. I see both riders at odds with each other over pride, words, head games and on-track action. Both already incensed on Thursday and it spilled over to the track. For Rossi, Marc was an annoying gnat that was getting in his way for a title and for Marc, beating Rossi was as good as winning the title because wasn’t going to be besmirched by this guy having had some on-track altercations already this season. It was personal, that’s what I am saying.
What I fear we may have missed is an incredible ride by Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo. Dani looked awesome all weekend and Jorge had some incredible passes on the first lap to dow hat he needed to have a chance to fight for the title and close the points gap. Rossi and Marquez insured that he did.