It was never a kick… how can you not see it?
There’s been a lot of talk these two days about the incident between Valentino Rossi (VR) and Marc Marquez (MM) at the Malaysian GP. Most of the debate swirls around VR’s alleged kick. The consequences of the “kick” are factual… MM lost the front and crashed.
But it was NOT A KICK. It was MM’s front-brake touching VR’s lower-leg (probably his calf) that caused the crash.
The consequences are the same, MM crashing, but the reason helps one better understand the mindset of the riders when riding at this level.
Their mindset is to beat the other guy. I’ve set it many times before, top sportsmen are NOT nice people. Without a question, they would beat their own mother in competition. Top sportsmen do not think long-term. They do not think short-term. They think immediate-right-in-front-of-me-term. That’s why it is so extraordinary when you see some sportsmen think slightly beyond immediate-term. When you see them actually strategize. Sure, you’re probably thinking… but wait, I hear them talking about setup, and strategy for the race, etc, etc. Who? The top 5 guys in MotoGP? What about the other 20 in the MotoGP class? Are they not top sportsmen? Ask them what they were doing during the race and the answer will be fighting for every inch of tarmac.
Yes, when you hear the top 5 in MotoGP talk about strategy it is because they have the luxury to do that, it is not because that’s not how they actually think. No, what we saw on Sunday in Malaysia was a perfect example of two top-sportsmen going at each other. Fighting for every inch of tarmac.
Now that we understand their real motives, let us understand what happened. It is important to understand the lifespan of a sportsman. VR is 36 and MM is 22 years old. That is a gap of 14 years. And most importantly, VR’s lifespan in MotoGP is dwindling. VR is the old-guy now. Without a single doubt, VR is the greatest road racing rider we’ve ever seen, at least when measured by statistics in the current era. Most championships, most wins, most starts, most podiums, etc, etc. (I know Ago has more wins, but that is not considered the modern era, I’m sorry, I don’t make the rules). But being the greatest is not forever. Here is a list of his championships and his age:
- 18: 125cc – 1997
- 20: 250cc – 1999
- 22: 500cc – 2001
- 23: MotoGP – 2002
- 24: MotoGP – 2003
- 25: MotoGP – 2004
- 26: MotoGP – 2005
- 29: MotoGP – 2008
- 30: MotoGP – 2009
Did you see the pattern? The older the get, the more difficult it is to win championships. At 36, this may very well be his last opportunity to win a MotoGP championship. Championships are a combination of skill, equipment, and luck. Not only your luck, but also the luck of your competitors. I know, you’re going to say luck does not play a role in racing. Really? If you really believe that, then you’ve never raced in you life. And without all three favoring you, you are NOT going to win (remember, we’re talking MotoGP, not your local series). Simple.
This year, VR was lucky. Does he have the skill?, Absolutely, you don’t get to be the GOAT without it. Does he have the equipment? Certainly. The M1 is the best bike on the grid. Did he have good luck? Yes. Dani’s injury at the beginning of the season meant there were only 3 top riders. The Honda’s chassis this year was too stiff and MM crashed his brains out and until Honda went to the 2014 chassis MM was always on the ground. That left him to fight only with his teammate, Lorenzo. The proof is in the pudding. Who is the constructor’s champion? Yamaha? Who is the team’s champion? Movistar Yamaha. Enough said.
So Rossi knows it is now or never. If he does not win this championship, the likelihood of another such year is pretty dim, not impossible, but as he’d say “veri, veri, difficult”.
This meant that he needed to use all of his skills to have the best chances possible to fight at Malaysia. And it started on Thursday at the press conference where he accused MM of interfering. The goal being of psyching out MM into being “nicer” to him. It backfired and MM decided to take him the fight.
The next step was to take the fight back to MM as he did for about three laps on Sunday, unfortunately it did not work as MM was just was strong as he was… and cleaner.
The next step? Take him out. Yes, his purpose was to take him out. It was not to slow him down so he’d loose time. Absolutely, he didn’t want to have MM crash the way he did. What he wanted was for MM to crash on his own. By pushing him to the edge of the track, he was hoping that MM would have been more cautious and farther away from him. That’s why he looks at MM twice. The first time to understand how close he is to him while also assessing how close they are to the edge of the track. In the second look, he slows down even more. Watch the helicopter replay and you’ll see he slows down twice. The second time was to scare/force MM even more and hopefully off the track. Unfortunately, MM did not give him any room and hit VR’s leg with his handlebar.
Sure, right now you’re probably thinking, why didn’t MM pick up the bike and run off? That’s exactly what VR is thinking (and was hoping). Had that happened, I will bet you anything that VR would have gotten away with it. VR is VR. Let us not forget he’s MotoGP. Unless the offense is blatant, he can do anything. Unfortunately for him, it was this time.
So it was not a kick. It was VR trying to run MM off the track. The two touched and MM went down.
Finally, for those thinking MM should have “let” VR go. Please, these guys are under immense pressure to win. There is no facking code of ethics. We want to believe that. We want to believe they “play” fair. Really? Ask Nicky Hayden how “fair” it is to have an under-powered MotoGP? Really? How come there are only 6 factory MotoGP bikes on the grid (2 Ducati, 2 Honda, 2 Yamana)?
MM gets paid to win. If winning on that day means finishing 2nd, 3rd, 4th, whatever, then that’s what it means. During contract negotiations, that 4th does not come with an asterisk (it was when xyz was fighting for the championship and I let him pass).