Valentino Rossi Marc Marquez Drama at Sepang
Only occasionally do I take the time to photograph the Thursday press conference. To me this event is usually not all that interesting, as the riders receive fairly standard questions and over the 20-30 minutes the session can have the feel of a chore that must be endured. But sometimes I go if I think something might come up in the interchange between the riders and journalists that might lead to interesting photos. Those used in this article are from Brno, by the way.
But the Sepang Thursday press conference was one of those that suddenly got very interesting. I think most fans realize that a lot of things happen in the MotoGP paddock that go unreported, things that remain private or known only to a small number of people. But occasionally such things bubble to the surface and we get a glimpse into the complexities of those battles that rage off track.
Love him or hate him, Valentino Rossi is often at the center of such battles and has been since he became the dominant rider in MotoGP. Rossi is not only an elite rider but a character, and a character not in spite of himself as some riders are but a character of a sophisticated and calculated nature. While things happen to other people, Rossi seems more often an agent of those things that happen than he is a subject of those things.
Fighting with teammate Jorge Lorenzo for the 2015 title, Rossi has once again made things happen to people around him. In the Thursday press conference (those with a MotoGP.com video pass can watch here) Rossi was asked if we might see another race like Phillip Island this coming Sunday. He replied that to answer this question they’d need to speak with Marc Marquez. Rossi continued to say that Marquez had played with them (Rossi, Lorenzo, Iannone) very much, and that his goal was not merely to win the race. Rossi proposed that Marquez wants to help Lorenzo claim as many points as possible, and that Jorge has a new supporter in Marquez.
Lorenzo was then asked is he felt Marquez had helped him at Phillip Island and in that wonderful Lorenzo sarcasm that occasionally shows up, he replied that yes, Marquez had helped, especially on the final lap (when Marquez passed Lorenzo to claim the victory).
Marquez passed on his first opportunity to comment on Rossi’s claim that he’d played with the other leaders of the Phillip Island race, but Iannone agreed when he next spoke. As Iannone struggled in English, I could only wonder what he might say on the subject in Italian.
Later in the press conference a Spanish journalist asked Marquez the question that everyone wanted asked, had he played with the field and intentionally helped Lorenzo? Marquez laughed and said, of course not. He pointed out that he hadn’t helped Lorenzo by passing him to take the victory. He said he had managed the tires as he managed the race, had tried to open a gap but it was not possible, and that he would only ever help his teammate. Otherwise he would try for the victory.
The issue seemed settled at least for the time being. But when speaking to the Italian press later Rossi expanded on his earlier statements. You can read Rossi’s remarks for yourself via that link (which goes to an English translation of his comment made in Italian). Some highlights are: “…the case is that [Marquez] isn’t playing fair (something that a professional rider has to do in these situations).”
“I feel disappointment, regret and worry, because surely [Marquez] will try to do it here and also in Valencia.”
“He is angry at me for a personal matter. Although he never said it, he thinks that in Argentina I made him crash; and then at Assen he is still thinking about the last chicane, in his head he feels he should have won that race. Since then he has been angry and thinking like a child: I do not win, but you do not win either. At this point, the lesser evil is for him is for Lorenzo to win.”
“…at Laguna Seca he wanted to do what I had done to Stoner five years before, when he could easily have passed three corners later. It was the first signal. And I said so, but I did not want to believe it. To think evil, it takes forever.”
If you have an opinion, you can either keep it to yourself or you can express it. If you’re going to express it, you choose to whom and when and where. Expressing a controversial opinion in a press conference and then to members of the Italian media is an act sure to cause things to happen. But what is Rossi trying to make happen?
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