We caught up with MotoGP Race Director Mike Webb in the Sepang paddock to discuss the punishment handed to world championship leader Valentino Rossi for 'deliberate contact' with Marc Marquez in Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.
Rossi was given three Penalty Points for causing the clash that put Marquez down and out of the race, after which the Italian rode to third behind Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo.
“I'm not going to quote what the riders said in the hearing but I can give you a general idea,” Webb began. “So from what we saw it would appear to be a deliberate move on Rossi's part to push Marquez off the track, or push him wide.
“We heard from both riders. Marquez told us that he was just riding his normal race and minding his own business, making passes on Valentino without contact. Which is true. And that he had no intention of disturbing Valentino.
“Valentino on the other side said it was clear to him that Marc was deliberately slowing down the pace and making it difficult for Valentino to race. That he deliberately ran wide in the turn in order to give himself an advantage in order to get away from Marquez.
“Finally, we actually believe there is fault on both sides.
“Despite what Marquez said we think he was deliberately trying to affect the pace of Valentino. However he didn't actually break any rules. Whatever we think about the spirit of the championship, according to the rule book he didn't make contact. His passes were clean. He rode within the rules.
“Valentino reacted to what he saw as provocation from Marquez and unfortunately his reaction was a manoeuvre that was against the rules. It's irresponsible riding, causing a crash. So he's been penalised for that. We believe the contact was deliberate. He says he did not want Marquez to crash, but he did want to run him wide.”
No decision was taken during the actual race as Webb said he wanted to speak to both riders and watch the video replays at length.
Asked about Rossi appearing to kick-out at Marquez, causing the fall, the New Zealander replied:
“Rossi's evidence is that his foot came off the foot-peg as a result of the contact. From all the video evidence there is no clear shot that definitely shows that his foot slipped off the foot-peg because of contact or that he deliberately kicked. I don't have that as a 'smoking gun' if you like.”
Because Rossi already has one Penalty Point he will be forced to start the Valencia season finale from the back of the grid.
In terms of the actual punishment, Webb was asked to explain why Rossi received three Penalty Points - not more or less.
"It's a precedent. The last time this happened where a rider deliberately made a manoeuvre that ended up in a crash was at Jerez this year [Hanika against Guevara]. In that case we awarded five Penalty Points because the rider [Hanika] admitted he did it deliberately and it was as a result of him being frustrated with the other rider.
“So in this case Valentino maintains he did not deliberately make the manoeuvre. However our view of the whole situation - looking at all the evidence - is that he deliberately ran wide and therefore deliberately caused the contact by trying to run Marquez off the track.
“Hanika was a blatant 'Yes, I tried to hit the other rider, I wanted to hurt him'. This case was 'I did it by mistake' but the end result was still a crash."
When deciding on the penalty, Race Direction also took into account some 'provocation' from Marquez.
"It's my opinion on the way he was riding, the lap time, my perception is that as many riders do he [Marquez] was trying to change the race," Webb said. "But I was very clear with him that he didn't break a rule. So he's not been penalised.
"However we took that into account when making the penalty on Rossi, that he certainly had some provocation. But, as I said to him, it doesn't matter what the provocation is. You can't react in a way that causes a rider to crash."
Even if Rossi had received five Penalty Points at Sepang it would have had the same back-of-the-grid outcome for Valencia. Only if Rossi had been given six or more Penalty Points (to add to the Penalty Point from Misano) would he have triggered the next level of punishment, which is a pit lane start.
Rossi will take a seven point lead over team-mate Lorenzo into the title showdown.
Lorenzo described Rossi's punishment as "unfair" and believes he should have faced a much harsher sanction, while Rossi felt "disappointed" at the penalty.
The Marquez-Rossi feud had been simmering since the Italian slammed the Spaniard in Thursday's pre-event press conference, claiming Marquez had tried to help Lorenzo at Phillip Island.
“We weren't really concerned with [Marquez's] Phillip Island race, especially given what Marc said about having problems with his front tyre, then things came back and he went as fast as he could and won the race," Webb said.
“So it's hard to understand that was a deliberate attempt to slow Rossi down. We didn't see it that way.
“I have a different opinion about today's race. I think he [Marquez] was doing something like that, but many riders in many classes do the same thing and there isn't a rule against it.”
Later on Sunday the official statement announcing Rossi's penalty was issued:
Mr. Valentino Rossi, Rider No. 46 of the MotoGP Class.
According to Article 3.5.5 of the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix Regulations, we confirm our decision.
On 25th October 2015 during the MotoGP race of the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix, you deliberately ran wide on Turn 14 in order to force another rider off line, resulting in contact causing the other rider to crash.
This is considered to be irresponsible riding causing danger to other competitors and is therefore an infringement of Article 1.21.2 of the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix Regulations.
You were requested to attend a Race Direction hearing. Both riders involved were present at the hearing, both gave testimony, and video evidence was reviewed.
For the above motive, Race Direction has decided to impose on you the addition of 3 penalty points on your record, according to Article 3.2.1. of the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix Regulations.