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Oct 26, 2015

​Debate Rages Over Rossi/Marquez Incident During Malaysian GP And Resulting Penalty

Valentino Rossi (46) chases Marc Marquez (93) during the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.

A confrontation occurred between current MotoGP World Championship points leader Valentino Rossi and defending MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez during the Malaysian Grand Prix held October 25 at Sepang International Circuit. As a result, Marquez crashed and Rossi received a penalty that will significantly reduce his chances of winning the 2015 World Championship.

The situation is now a topic of hot debate around the world. Some feel that Rossi is being treated harshly for defending himself while Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo, the only remaining Championship challenger, are not being punished for their behavior and infractions. On the other side, some feel MotoGP officials were correct to penalize Rossi for his actions whether he was provoked by Marquez or not, and some feel Rossi should have received a greater punishment.

The new Rossi vs. Marquez feud was brought to light during the pre-event press conference Thursday, October 22 at Sepang. There, Rossi claimed that during the previous week’s MotoGP race at Phillip Island Marquez “played” with him and attempted to slow him down and prevent him from challenging Lorenzo for the lead.

“Marquez was a step above everyone, but instead of trying to try to battle Lorenzo, he stayed with me to fight with [Andrea] Iannone and others,” Rossi told reporters at the press conference. “He knew that I was losing out to the Ducati on the straight. And so every time I tried to pass him, he re-overtook me (super-aggressive, but that’s the way it is). But then he slowed to create a gap to Jorge.

“His bad luck was that on Sunday Jorge was not so strong, because otherwise it would have been over already. Instead, he always kept Jorge in check, knowing that he could catch him within three laps, and then tried to slow me and Iannone, perhaps trying to put other riders between me and Lorenzo. And in the end, that's what he did.”

On the last lap at Phillip Island, Marquez pulled away from Rossi with the fastest lap of the race, caught and passed Lorenzo, and won. Lorenzo finished second and Iannone took third ahead of Rossi in fourth. As a result, Rossi’s Championship lead shrank from 18 to 11 points.

When asked why Marquez would do this, Rossi said, “Because he would prefer Lorenzo to win. 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 for him is for Lorenzo to win.”

Marquez denied Rossi’s allegations at the press conference.

The war of words turned into action early in the MotoGP race at Sepang. On the second of 20 laps, Marquez ran wide in a corner, which allowed Lorenzo to pass Marquez for second place. That dropped Marquez to third, right in front of Rossi, and the two began passing each other, sometimes multiple times each lap. In fact, on lap four Rossi and Marquez passed and repassed each other nine times in one lap, and each pass got closer and closer. Pedrosa and Lorenzo, meanwhile, pulled away.

The action continued until lap six, when it escalated. Rossi was third when Marquez passed him on the outside in Turn 13, a sweeping right-hander that leads to a tighter right-hander, Turn 14, and then onto the back straightaway. With Marquez on his left and the outside, Rossi blocked the line, ran wide, slowed and looked over at Marquez. Marquez kept trying to lean into Rossi and eventually lost the front and crashed. About the same time, Rossi’s left foot came off his footpeg.

After the race, MotoGP Race Direction reviewed the incident, heard from both Rossi and Marquez and then decided to assess Rossi three penalty points for “irresponsible riding causing danger to other competitors.”

(Note: Rossi did not have Championship points taken away, as some individuals are claiming on social media.)

When added to the one penalty point he received earlier this season at Misano (for riding slowly near the racing line during practice) that gives Rossi a total of four penalty points, which requires him to start the next race from the back of the grid.

The next race is the MotoGP World Championship finale at Valencia.

Considering Rossi now holds a seven-point lead over Lorenzo in the World Championship and if Lorenzo wins the race Rossi must finish second to win his 10th World Championship, starting from the back at Valencia will significantly handicap Rossi’s title chances.

Meanwhile, the Rossi vs. Marquez incident at Sepang is being debated around the world and probably will be forever!

Rossi supporters contend that he was provoked by Marquez and did nothing to cause Marquez to crash because slow-motion replays from overhead views show Rossi did not kick at Marquez, and that Rossi’s foot came off his footpeg after Marquez was already falling. Rossi supporters are also claiming that officials failed to penalize Lorenzo for passing Rossi under a waving yellow flag early in the race at Sepang and that by not penalizing Lorenzo or Marquez, officials from Dorna, (the Spanish company that runs MotoGP), is showing favoritism for Spaniards Lorenzo and Marquez. Rossi is Italian.

Marquez supporters, meanwhile, are saying he is innocent and has simply been racing at the limit at Phillip Island and Sepang while dealing with set-up issues and that Rossi intentionally knocked him down in Malaysia.

In the post-race press conference at Sepang, Lorenzo went a step further and said he felt Rossi should receive a stiffer penalty and have the Championship points for his third place at Sepang taken away because Rossi’s actions caused Marquez to get zero points. If this action were taken, Lorenzo would go into the season finale with a nine-point lead in the Championship instead of a seven-point deficit.

Some moderates in between the two sides are saying that in spite of being provoked, Rossi went too far when he ran Marquez wide and put him in danger. And that’s exactly the view MotoGP Race Director Mike Webb expressed in an interview published on a British website.

In that interview, Webb said he believed that Marquez was riding in a manner intended to change the race for Rossi, but Marquez did not break any rule in doing so. Webb was quoted as saying that in spite of being provoked a rider cannot react in a manner that will cause another rider to crash, and that’s exactly what Rossi did, in the opinion of Race Direction.

Rossi appealed Race Direction’s decision, and a jury of FIM Stewards heard the appeal. The FIM Stewards unanimously confirmed the penalty handed down by Race Direction, and no further appeal may be lodged.

The FIM MotoGP World Championship finale is scheduled for November 6-8 at Circuit de la Communitat Valenciana, in Valencia, Spain.

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