“Me? Nervous? Why?” Valentino Rossi seemed surprised when was asked if the increase in tension seen at Misano - that flared up again at Aragon - was related to the fact that we are approaching the final part of the 2016 MotoGP season.
The verbal crossfire between the two Yamaha team-mates following the Italian’s pass on Jorge Lorenzo that animated the post-race press conference at Misano was another highlight of the Aragon GP.
On Friday, Lorenzo reaffirmed that after having reviewed Valentino’s overtake in Misano, he was even more convinced that it was an aggressive manoeuvre. The pass became a joke in the paddock as Valentino replied: “When I re-watched the race, yes, it was a great pass! If this pass is considered against the sporting rules, this means that overtaking isbanned in MotoGP. We waste our time if we have to speak again about this pass. It’s a joke! If we want to analyse a pass, when you overtake it is very important the point where you overtake in respect of the corner.
“The more late you brake, the more the pass is aggressive. And if you touch the other rider, it’s more than aggressive. But I overtook Lorenzo with the length of my bike 20 meters before the corner. Looking at the TV images, it’s very clear that he saw me, but he wanted to try to cross my line. He expected me to go wide and his idea was to cross my line. But in reality he had already seen me.”
It has never been a secret that Rossi and Lorenzo have never liked each other and that the competition has always been extreme. In six years that they have shared the garage, three times Rossi has finished ahead of the Spaniard (2008, 2009, 2014), the remaining three has been vice versa. On the eve of the Aragon GP, Valentino is currently second in the championship with Lorenzo third, 18 points behind The Doctor.
With five races to go, the battle for the world title remains the priority, the second one is between the two team-mates.
“Of course, until we are not mathematically out, we will fight for the title, but we go on with the points we have gained in the last races where he has finished in front of Marquez, we won’t succeed to reduce the gap. Then, there is the battle to finish second. It has not the same importance or the same taste, but it’s a question of honour,” said Rossi.
Shall we expect a crash-bang finale as last year? “For me the situation has changed after the last three races of the 2015 season and the situation has never been fixed and it is like this. For sure the last part of the season hasn’t helped to come more closer and to become more friends. But the situation is better then 2009-2010. We have grown up compared to the year of the wall that divided the garage. We are more mature, professional. We both like to be in this team and that we have to work together. Important is that your relationship and what you think remain off the track and you try to make the maximum always, in a very professional way. After that, it's impossible to like each other if you don't.”
"After the accusations he launched at Sepang, to me the relationship is non-existent," said Lorenzo at Aragon. "I don't know what will happen in the future, but right now the relationship is zero after he accused me and Marquez.”
It’s clear that there is an internal competition inside the Yamaha garage and at Misano a battle of nerves began, at least from Lorenzo side. It’s not a case that at Aragon he wore a special helmet with a shark. A clear remind to the helmet used by Rossi last year in Misano that featured a small yellow fish threatened by a big shark.
Guest in the Spanish TV, Lorenzo put more fuel on the fire, saying: “I’m only focused on myself. I don’t look at the others. If I’m not winning, I don’t care who wins. On one side Marc (Marquez) is Spanish, while Valentino (Rossi) is a Yamaha rider. I think that Marquez is going to win, and if it will be Rossi, he will have deserved it.”
With the MotoGP circus ready to face the three overseas races, all riders have been warned with an email from IRTA that a penalty fee will be demanded should hand signals be used on track. The last episode dates back to Misano where Valentino Rossi and Aleix Espargaro exchanged middle fingers.
“In Misano Aleix did a big mistake because he stayed on the line and then he sent me the fuck off. My mistake was to show the finger. In this I exaggerated, but apart from that I was right. To be careful on track about the other riders is more important,” said Rossi.
In addition to preserve the image of the sport – and well aware of the escalation of tension from last year - IRTA and Dorna want to prevent an all-out war that with TV coverage has a worldwide echo. Or do they as ticket sales for Valencia went through the roof after Sepang last year…