Rossi/Stoner: Cooler Heads Prevail in Jerez, but Tempers Still Simmer When Words Are Exchanged in the Pit Box

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We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about the incident between Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi at the Spanish GP (if you haven’t seen the race yet, stop reading now). Charging to overtake Stoner at Turn 1, Rossi found himself going too hot into the turn, and too heavy on the brakes. With Stoner swinging wide to let Rossi through, the Italian went up the inside of Casey’s line, tucked the front, and the rest is history.

While Stoner would later call the crash a “racing incident” in his press debrief, he still chastised his counterpart for making a rash move and an apology that seemed more like a media stunt than a sincere gesture. For the Australian that got shunned by the marshals in the gravel trap, and watched a few laps from behind the guardrail, this weekend certainly seemed like a rough result because of an incident where he made no fault.

Insult was perhaps added to injury as Rossi continued on with his race (Stoner clapping as the Italian came by Turn 1 the very next lap, a sarcastic gesture for Rossi’s move and outcome), and then went on to finish the race with a fifth place result. Coming into the Repsol Honda garage with several TV cameras in tow, Rossi apologized to Stoner, with the following interaction occurring between the two riders (find it after the jump).

Stoner: “How’s your shoulder? Is it okay?”
Rossi: “I’m very sorry.”
Stoner: “Okay. You have some problem with your shoulder?”
Rossi: “I make a mistake”
Stoner: “Yeah. Obviously your ambition outweighed your talent.”
Rossi: “Eh?”
Stoner: “Ambition is more than the talent.”
Rossi: “I’m very sorry.”
Stoner: “No problem.”

While TV cameras always follow the nine-time World Champion wherever he goes in the MotoGP paddock, the point was made in the post-race debriefs that this is something Valentino is acutely aware of, and has so cleverly manipulated over the years. While Stoner would have preferred a gesture behind closed doors (very much in his own style and private character), Rossi instead put on a show for everyone to see (very much a part of his style and character).

Having perhaps some more time to think about the situation, the two riders made the following comments in their press releases:

Casey Stoner: “We made a good start to the race and the bike felt good for the first few laps, then the tyres seemed to move a little so we tried to conserve them in case it rained again. I really wanted the chance to fight the Spanish riders here in a dry race, so it was disappointing for me that that it was wet.  However, we were competitive here in the wet and dry and this is very important for us – at a track that hasn’t been that great for me in the past. After so much hard work, I hate to have a race like this because the team did a great job all weekend and now we go home empty handed. With the accident, I heard Valentino arriving and I wasn’t worried about anyone passing me at that point in the race so I gave him plenty of room. It was a racing incident and there’s not much we can do, what is more frustrating is the reaction of the stewards and their assistance for Valentino and not for me, it was unbelievable. I want to just get to the next race now in Estoril, where I’m sure we can be competitive again.”

Valentino Rossi: “Today in the wet we had a great chance for me to make my first podium with Ducati, or even to get my first win. I felt good, both with the bike and my shoulder, because I could brake where I wanted to rather than where I’m forced to in the dry, since I still don’t have the necessary strength. The bike is very fast in the wet. I was advancing really well, and I’m sorry to have made that mistake and thrown away such an opportunity. While braking for the first corner, I entered a bit long, and although I tried to stay to the inside, I lost the front and couldn’t stay up. I’m sorry, because I also took out Stoner, and I certainly didn’t want to do that. I apologized to him, and I’m truly sorry; it was a mistake. It’s a shame because we really could have gotten some satisfaction, but we’ll keep trying. We’re still not so fast in the dry, but we’re working hard. Anyway today’s fifth place gave us eleven points that are very important in the championship.”

While the cooler heads prevailed later in the day, and we doubt we’ll see the two riders slapping each other in the paddock anytime soon, both have made their points, and racing is racing. We’ll see how much fire this gives Stoner come Estoril in four week’s time. We imagine the Australian will be out to prove a point, and Ducati will be out with new parts for the GP11. Good stuff all around, but we have a feeling the Spanish and Italian press aren’t done with this story yet.