Valentino Rossi sent a shockwave through the pre-event press conference in Malaysia by accusing outgoing MotoGP champion Marc Marquez of helping Rossi's title rival Jorge Lorenzo.
The Italian starts this weekend's penultimate Sepang round with a reduced 11-point lead over his Yamaha team-mate, after Lorenzo finished second and Rossi fourth in Sunday's thrilling Australian MotoGP.
Marquez, Lorenzo, Rossi and Andrea Iannone were covered by just one-second at Phillip Island: Marquez delivered the fastest lap of the race on the final lap to snatch victory from Lorenzo, while Rossi lost out to Iannone for third.
The race has been universally praised, with no less than 52 passes between the lead quartet. But after watching the action back on TV, and checking the lap times, Rossi declared that Marquez had been “playing” with them and labelled him as "Jorge's new supporter”.
The Doctor paused often to smile between each sentence, but never looked at Marquez and his words were carefully chosen:
“If we have another race like Phillip Island we have to speak with him, with Marquez, because during the race it was more difficult to understand, but after when I saw the race later it was very clear that he play with us very much," Rossi said.
“Because mainly I think that his target is not just to win the race, but also help Lorenzo to go far and try to take more points on me. So I think that from Phillip Island it is very clear that Jorge has a new supporter. That is Marc.
“So this changes a lot, because for sure Marc has the potential to go away alone [at the front] and maybe for sure can be another type of race.”
Rossi then leaned back from the microphone, glancing briefly at Lorenzo on his right hand side (who had been stroking his chin whilst listening to Rossi). Again Rossi did not look at Marquez, who was sat smiling on his left, and instead reached for a drink.
Asked if he felt Marquez had helped him, Lorenzo quipped: “Yeah, mainly on the last lap.”
But Iannone agreed with Rossi that Marquez had been “playing” with the pace, although he stopped short of suggesting a reason.
“It was an incredible race for sure. I also think Marc played with us! Because after 15 laps, after corner five, going really slow and I pass him easily. But I don't know why. For sure [he] have a really good pace and if it was a strategy, I don't know.”
Then came Marquez's turn to respond: “Of course no. Of course I did my race and in fact if I want to help Lorenzo I wouldn't pass him on the last lap, not push to the limit and not take the risk. I don't why they say [that].
“I've already said and also we saw on the data that the Honda is pushing a lot the front tyre and at that race it was the softest compound we have. I was struggling a lot doing 27 laps in a row. It's true that I tried to manage well the tyre and that in the middle of the race I tried to push and open a gap, and it was not possible.
“But you already know that my race [strategy] will never be push [flat out] from the beginning to the end in first position. I did my best. I did the best race for my team and the most important for me is that we won.
“Of course sometimes you try to manage the race, but I just will help [another rider] if it is my team-mate. If it's not my team-mate I will push for the victory. ”
The once cuddly Rossi-Marquez relationship has already been soured by this year's clashes at Argentina and Assen. But with the Honda rider out of title contention most expected Rossi to focus his formidable on- and off-track attention purely on Lorenzo.
So why did Rossi choose to bring Marquez into the battle?
Perhaps, already suspicious that Marquez harbours a grudge from their earlier clashes and aware of the huge role the #93 could play in the title outcome, Rossi wanted to put the spotlight on the Spaniard.
After today's words, Rossi knows that Marquez's every move will be closely examined for anything that could be interpreted as favouring Lorenzo in the last two rounds.
Speaking to Italian media after the press conference, and carrying a print-out of the lap times, Rossi gave further details as to why he is sure Marquez was against him at Phillip Island:
"Marquez was a step above everyone, but instead of trying to battle Lorenzo, he stayed with me to fight with Iannone and others. 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 thats 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 3 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. It is clearly quite worrying, but it doesn't worry me too much."
“He would prefer Lorenzo to win," Rossi claimed. "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 is for him is for Lorenzo to win.”
Rossi added: "If I win another title, then [Marquez] knows that he will have to win one more to overtake me. If instead Jorge wins, then they have more or less the same."
Looking to the final two rounds, Rossi warned: "If he's faster yet slows down to get involved in the battles further back, it could become difficult. Because he has nothing to lose, but I do. I have to be wary. I'm sorry and I'm quite angry. I did not expect that Marquez was an obstacle for this Championship, I thought I was only fighting against Jorge, as it should be.”
The Italian continued his salvo by saying: “At Laguna Seca  he wanted to do what I had done to Stoner five years before, when he could easily have passed three corners later. It was the first signal. And I said so, but I did not want to believe it. To think evil, it takes forever.”
And to remove any doubt about how angry Rossi is with Marquez, the #46 declared: "Did he really idolise me? Did he really have my poster at home? I'm not so sure. I'd like to go back in time and see...
"In the long run, I prefer more [Max Biaggi's] behaviour. We were obnoxious to each other, but at least it was clear and honest."