Valentino Rossi is the master of motorcycling race craft, but what happened between the Italian and Marc Marquez during the Malaysian Grand Prix was a step too far.
During the Sepang pre-event press conference last Thursday there was something bubbling under the surface.
Marquez, Rossi and even Jorge Lorenzo were all smiles as they took to their seats in what is usually a dull PR filled affair – this was anything but.
Over the course of the next 30 minutes Rossi fired accusations towards Marquez that quite frankly took the whole room by surprise, none more so than the bemused Spaniard who refuted the claims that just a week earlier at Phillip Island he had intentionally slowed down the 36-year-old – a big no, no for someone who is involved in a battle for the championship.
Fast forward to Sunday and if it was shots Rossi was firing earlier in the week the Italian had lit a bomb as Marquez hit the deck to the shock of the Malaysian crowd.
As the pair collided and tensions boiled over it was clear Rossi lost control in the heat of the battle, for the first time in his career this didn’t seem like a calculated risk – Marquez had got the better of him, he’d pushed him over the edge.
There is no doubt in my mind that the reigning world champion had been rattled by Valentino’s accusations on Thursday, so much so that he had taken it upon himself to intentionally mess with Rossi in the opening stages of the Sepang race.
After a number of seriously questionable manoeuvres from Marquez, Rossi saw the proverbial red mist.
Not thinking of his title hopes and not thinking of his reputation the Italian ran him wide on purpose, no-one is debating that it is as clear as day, but if for one second anyone suggests that Rossi attempted to kick the Spaniard off his Honda their notion would be ridiculous.
For me, Marquez creates the contact and falls because of one person, Marc Marquez. As Rossi runs him wide it is clear that the Spaniard re-opens the throttle just before the point of contact, thus causing the collision with Valentino in which his leg falls from the Yamaha‘s foot peg.
Many fans and pundits will have their own views but after taking a step back and reviewing the footage, that is the clearest cause of the resulting crash. I am not for one second condoning what Rossi did or saying that it wasn’t his intention to push Marquez off track but to accuse him of physically booting Marquez from his bike is quite frankly absurd.
Slow the footage down, take a glance at Marquez’s throttle telemetry and it is clear.
Rossi of course was reacting to some questionably dangerous moves from Marquez, notably the corner before the incident took place in which Rossi himself could have fallen had he not been paying attention to the 22-year-old’s actions, but you must question the fight the Italian chose on Thursday and why he decided to make the remarks he did.
As he peered back through his visor at the sight behind him with Marquez laying in the gravel, he must have been asking himself the same question.
Yes, Marquez slowed down intentionally to mess with Rossi’s race but he would never have done so had he kept his mouth shut earlier in the week – some called it pressure, others called it mind games.
Whatever you think, the resulting incident certainly didn’t favour the championship leader and for the first time in his career his so-called mind games backfired and in a big way.
Ultimately, they were both in the wrong and thankfully for the pair there idiotic actions didn’t result in further damage to themselves or other riders – it could have so easily been different.
Mess with the G.O.A.T and you get the horns as they say, but Marquez is far from innocent after clearly provoking the 36-year-old.
Rossi had a moment of madness and should rightly suffer the consequences of his actions. The sanction of three penalty points to his riding license and a back of the grid start seems fairly lenient given previous indiscretions by others on the MotoGP grid and maybe Lorenzo was right, his name had saved him.
But what do you expect with one race of the season to go?
Dorna wouldn’t dream of letting this year’s championship be decided by a race direction decision, Rossi is after all the one who puts bums on the grandstand seats.
One thing is for sure, Rossi's actions could well cost him a tenth world title, and if it does you can bet this will be an incident that the Italian regrets well into his retirement.