The 17th and penultimate round of the 2015 MotoGP season set up to provide another fairy tale battle in this hotly contested and brilliantly fought world championship. From the green lights aggressive and entertaining overtaking characterized the race, until a titanic battle between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez ended in controversy.
The first six laps of the Malaysian Grand Prix were the classic stuff of 2015, with Dani Pedrosa, Marquez, and Rossi trading places at the front while Jorge Lorenzo, the only man who could challenge Rossi for the world championship, carving his way up to them.
Lorenzo passed Rossi to take third, then Marquez for second and began chasing down Pedrosa, while Rossi and Marquez engaged in an epic, corner for corner battle for third. It was thrilling, edge-of-your-seat stuff, particularly in light of the disparaging comments Rossi made to the press this week concerning his allegations that Marquez was deliberating sandbagging to allow Lorenzo, a fellow Spaniard, to win the title.
At the starting line, Rossi admitted that he was not sleeping well, and appeared even more anxious than at the start of the last race in Australia. In Malaysia, Rossi surpassed Loris Capirossi as the man with the greatest number of MotoGP race starts, making him the most experienced road racer in modern history. Also, in his near 20 years of professional racing, he has never blamed another rider to explain his results. All of which makes the events of this week, and this race, so much harder to absorb.
On lap 13, after passing each other numerous times, Rossi inched ahead of Marquez and appeared to go wide and slow down, forcing Marquez to chose between contact and going off the track. Marquez did bump into Rossi’s Yamaha and crashed, while Rossi continued on to win third place, just behind second place Lorenzo and winner Pedrosa.
In the television footage, replayed endlessly and from many angles, Rossi can be seen looking over his shoulder twice, making long eye contact with Marquez, indicating that he clearly knew where the Honda man was on the track. Of course, Marquez could have braked, slowing down enough to tuck behind Rossi to resume the fight for the next corner, but history shows that Marquez does not ever back down even if it means crashing.
It is difficult not to judge Rossi badly. The 36 year old Italian spent a lot of energy leading up to today’s race publicly charging Marquez with unsportsmanlike conduct, while it is also clear that Rossi was not able to race at the same pace of either Marquez or Lorenzo, which makes the incident look like a desperate, deliberate attempt to eliminate a key rival.
At the same time, the video and race officials agree that Rossi did not push Marquez or force contact in any way, unlike Marquez who has bulldozed unapologetically into other riders several times this year.
In any event, race control penalized Rossi, who will have to start the final MotoGP round in last place. As Rossi said in a post race comment to Italian television :
“He [Marquez] made me lose the championship”.
Lorenzo said that he had “…lost respect for Rossi” adding that he felt the penalty Rossi received was light because of his famous name.
Rossi will begin his final race of the 2015 season in Spain, where the local press has scorched his name, calling the incident a “push” and accusing Rossi of kicking Marquez. Rossi will also stand virtually no chance of competing for the race, having first to get past the entire pack just to get into the points. Lorenzo, meanwhile, only needs 4 points to win the world championship.
Regardless of next weekend’s result, a brilliant MotoGP season is stained beyond repair. A Lorenzo world title will be forever marred by the fact that his rival didn’t race him for the final, while Rossi, if by some miracle, comes out ahead to win his tenth world championship, has shown the dark qualities of anger, bitterness and resentment that run at odds with his career as the jovial, optimistic champion.
|1||Dani PEDROSA||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||163.7||40’37.691|
|2||Jorge LORENZO||Movistar Yamaha MotoGP||Yamaha||163.4||+3.612|
|3||Valentino ROSSI||Movistar Yamaha MotoGP||Yamaha||162.8||+13.724|
|4||Bradley SMITH||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||Yamaha||162.1||+23.995|
|5||Cal CRUTCHLOW||LCR Honda||Honda||161.8||+28.721|
|6||Danilo PETRUCCI||Octo Pramac Racing||Ducati||161.3||+36.372|
|7||Aleix ESPARGARO||Team SUZUKI ECSTAR||Suzuki||161.1||+39.290|
|8||Maverick VIÑALES||Team SUZUKI ECSTAR||Suzuki||161.1||+39.436|
|9||Pol ESPARGARO||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||Yamaha||160.9||+42.462|
|10||Stefan BRADL||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||Aprilia||160.7||+44.601|