The MotoGP title race will go down to the wire after Dani Pedrosawon a dramatic Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday, but the big story was the controversy involving championship leader Valentino Rossi.
Rossi finished third behind title rival and Yamaha team mate Jorge Lorenzo to allow the Spaniard to close within seven points, but the seven-time premier class champion will be forced to start from the back of the grid in the final race of the season in Valencia after he was involved in an extraordinary tussle which saw Marc Marquez end up in the gravel.
Prior to the race, Rossi had claimed former champion Marquez “would prefer (fellow Spaniard) Lorenzo to win” the championship and the pair took their war of words onto the Sepang International Circuit in stunning fashion.
— BT Sport MotoGP (@btsportmotogp) October 25, 2015
The once friendly relationship between Marquez and Rossi had turned sour prior to the Sepang race when Rossi vehemently criticised Marquez’s riding in the preceding Phillip Island event, accusing the Spaniard of helping Lorenzo’s title bid and bearing grudges from clashes earlier in the 2015 season.
They then became embroiled in a ferocious battle for third place in the opening laps in Malaysia, repeatedly passing and repassing each other in a series of tight moves.
Rossi gesticulated at Marquez in frustration after one pass, and then after the Honda went around the Yamaha’s outside at Turn 13, Rossi appeared to slow, look towards his rival and drift wide into him with his knee outstretched.
An incensed Marquez fell to the ground and then retired in the pits, while Rossi continued to finish third.
Rossi said it was a racing incident and regretted his rival had crashed out. A post-race enquiry did not agree: Rossi was allowed to keep his points, but will have to start from the back of the grid in Spain on November 8.
“I lost a lot of time fighting with Marc and tried to go a little wider on that turn but unfortunately he crashed at that moment,” Rossi said in an interview. “It cost us both a chance to fight with Jorge so Valencia will now be difficult,” he added, looking ahead to the season-ending race in two weeks’ time.
Rossi is on 312 points ahead of the Valencia Grand Prix, seven ahead of Lorenzo with 25 available for victory in Spain.
There was more drama on the podium as the pro-Rossi Malaysian crowd booed Lorenzo when he picked up his second-place prize, with the Spaniard storming off immediately after the anthems and not waiting to pose for post-race photographs. Repsol Honda team principal Livio Suppo had said in a televised interview: “For me it’s clear, Valentino kicked the bike of Marc … but we need to wait until the end of the race before the officials make a decision.”
Reporting via Autosport and Reuters