Valentino Rossi has expressed regret over pushing Marc Marquez wide during the penultimate round of the MotoGP World Championship at Sepang in Malaysia.
Rossi received three Penalty Points for the incident, which was deemed as 'irresponsible riding' by Race Direction. Coupled with the Penalty Point he picked up at Misano, the 36-year-old will be forced to start Sunday's title showdown at Valencia from the back of the grid.
Unsurprisingly, given the implications of the punishment on his title chances, Rossi said in hindsight he wished he had 'followed my normal line'.
Instead contact was made between Rossi and Marquez, with the Repsol Honda rider crashing out of the race. But even if Marquez hadn't fallen, Rossi's extreme move cost him almost two-seconds over the same sector the lap before, contributing to an insurmountable six-second gap to race leaders Pedrosa and Lorenzo.
“At the end, unfortunately [I didn't] have any other choice, I just regret to go wide and not follow my normal line, but except from that it's better that we speak about this weekend,” said Rossi during Thursday's rider debriefs, held instead of the traditional pre-race press conference.
Rossi's request to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) for the Sepang penalty to be suspended while his appeal is in progress was rejected on Thursday, confirming his last place start.
Reflecting on the CAS decision, Rossi – who holds an advantage of seven points over Lorenzo – said he would give his maximum to try to overcome the massive disadvantage he faces by starting at the rear of the MotoGP grid.
“Unfortunately, starting from the back of the grid makes everything very difficult. Already is difficult, but starting from last make the things in the race a lot more harder but I'm here and we have to try the maximum, stay concentrated and try to make good work during the weekend and arrive competitive and as fast as possible for Sunday for the race and see what happens,” he said.
“For sure a lot of people speak about the race in Malaysia and the incident and I decided to make the [appeal] to the CAS for try to understand if it is possible to fight for the championship in the normal way. The [final CAS ruling] has not arrived yet because the thing of today is just that I have to start last in this race because they need time for decide [their appeal].
“We have to wait and see what they decide, but the important thing is I have to start last,” he added. “Apart from that Carmelo [Ezpeleta, Dorna CEO] say to us 'don't say nothing more about Sepang' and I also agree because we have another race, the last race, so we have to try to focus on the target and give the maximum for this weekend.”
Asked for his thoughts on the possibility of crowd disorder this weekend, with a sold out 110,000 fans expected at Valencia and tensions running high in the aftermath of the Sepang clash, Rossi said he hoped for a 'normal weekend'.
“I think and I hope everything can go in the normal way like a normal race weekend; always in Valencia is a great weekend because it's the last race and sometimes it also decides the championships,” he said.
“There is a lot of people anyway and in this case maybe more, but I hope that all remains quiet and we can have a great support from the fans around the track without any problems.”
Rossi said he was unsure of how much of a chance he has of realistically forcing his way into a position to win his tenth world crown on Sunday, especially until he assesses his potential for the race during practice and qualifying.
“It's very difficult to say how much chance I have to win or lose. We have to see, we have to try,” said Rossi.
“When you start last it is very difficult to prepare some strategy. First of all you have to work well in the practice and be competitive. The race is very long, 30 laps, and for sure when you start last the risk is a lot more when I try to recover [places].
“It's very hard to say: I need to understand my potential, I need to do the right choice for the setting, for the tyres also, and we have to see the conditions and after try to give the maximum and try to recover on Sunday.
“In our team, all my guys we are focused, we have to try and we try to make this like a positive motivation.”
Rossi confirmed he will participate in Q2 if he is within the top 10 on Saturday, but has yet to decide on any special tactics given his penalty. Some are already speculating that Rossi should try and tow the likes of the Ducatis to try and help them qualify ahead of Lorenzo.
“We didn't speak yet [about qualifying tactics]. We have to make all our thinking and calculations and do what is the best,” he said.
“I will do exactly the same if I'm in the first ten – I will do the Q2. For me, it's good to do the normal way and after we see.”
Rossi added that he doesn't expect the other riders to behave any differently, or assist him, in the race: “Everybody else will do their own race. This is sport, it depends on me as normal.”
The nine-times world champion says the events of recent weeks have not dampened his enthusiasm for the sport and revealed he will make a decision on whether or not to continue racing in 2017 next season.
“For sure, my dream was to fight for the championship and after a very good season I can fight, but I will try to fight in a normal situation,” said Rossi.
“For the rest, this situation doesn't modify my passion or my thinking of the future. I will race next year because I have already a contract and during next year a lot of things will change [tyres, ECU] and maybe change also the level; after I will decide if continue or not.”