Valentino Rossi's leg-breaking practice crash at Mugello on Saturday morning has made Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo the clear favourite for the 2010 MotoGP crown.
Lorenzo will start Sunday's fourth round nine points ahead of Rossi, but with the reigning seven time MotoGP champion sure to miss at least several races, Lorenzo now has an effective 28 point title lead over third placed Andrea Dovizioso.
After qualifying second on the grid for Rossi's home race, behind Dovizioso's Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa, Lorenzo gave his reaction to Rossi's injury, for which the Italian is currently undergoing surgery.
"Firstly I want to say how sad I am for Valentino,” stated Lorenzo, who suffered lower leg fractures of his own during an accident-packed 2008 debut MotoGP season.
“I know how bad it is to be injured, especially at your home race, and it looks very painful for him. I hope he recovers quickly because the championship will not be the same without him," he added.
"We want to say how sorry we are for Valentino; everyone wants to beat him but only on the racetrack and all the riders and our team members are sad that he has so much pain and that he can't race,” commented Lorenzo's team manager Wilco Zeelenberg.
With Rossi out, the emphasis for Lorenzo is to keep his 'new' title rivals at arm's reach by avoiding any mistakes.
“I have a good race pace, the Bridgestone tyres feel good and I think I can make a fight tomorrow,” said Lorenzo, winner of the last two races. “We have to stay calm, focused and concentrated and hopefully it will be a good race for us here in Italy, at the home track for many of my team."
“Now is the time to keep focused and not make mistakes, we have a good race pace and now we will see what tomorrow brings,” added Zeelenberg.