Jorge Lorenzo's team manager Wilco Zeelenberg dismissed the claim Marc Marquez didn't attempt to win the final grand prix of the 2015 season at Valencia, and stated “there was never a moment to dive through.”
Marquez's tactics and performance have come under scrutiny after the season finale, which saw Lorenzo win the championship after resisting the Repsol Honda man's advances in the final laps.
For one, Valentino Rossi claimed Marquez deliberately avoided overtaking Lorenzo, riding defensively to spite the Italian in light of their recent history, which has included clashes in Argentina, Assen and Sepang.
Yet Zeelenberg explained he didn't see anything untoward in the final laps, just Lorenzo defending his line and ensuring there wasn't sufficient space to cleanly get by.
“He protected it as much as possible,” said the Dutchman. “Exactly in the moment we wanted to say 'P2 OK' then Marc was coming up so we didn't say that to him. Finally P3 he would have been no champion. He kept on pushing for the victory, which is nice to get.
“I think Marc was pushing very hard in the first ten laps to follow Jorge. I think he couldn't because he had a little gap – 0.5/0.6s – to be a little bit further away because we had a better pace. But I think in the halfway season race he could have done that, to push more and harder in the beginning, but I think here it was a big risk.
“It's Valencia, there are many tight corners. It's easy to lose the front as we have seen around this track before. He kept hanging in, the pace dropped and he kept coming closer and closer. There was never a really good moment to dive into the gap and he didn't do it. Also I think if it was possible he would have done it. It was quite clear in the beginning of the race. Anyway I can't answer that. You need to ask him.”
Marquez stated his intention was to attempt a move in the closing laps, a plan that was scuppered by Dani Pedrosa's move at turn eight, a view that Zeelenberg echoed.
“In the beginning not. He had mirrors on his bike? I see different. Marc tried. He had one chance once but that would have been tricky because he had to brake hard and this was also their problem area. I don't see that they were playing around and staying behind easily. Then they should have let him go and bring it home easily but they did not.
“Pedrosa did a 1m 31.5s which is not so far from what he was doing. When you start there is 20 litres of fuel. Sometimes you only get slower. Sometimes when the fuel is gone you're able to get a better balance and make the next step. This is race-by-race and tyre by tyre.
“Yesterday, with those three qualifying tyres one was half a second faster than the other. You know, it's not always so visible and clear. If they improve in the end they could go low 1m 31s again. It's clear Jorge couldn't and Marc and Dani were able to do so.”
Speaking of the boos Lorenzo faced on the podium, despite winning his third world championship in front of Spanish fans, Zeelenberg said that he felt the three-time premier class champion's emotions are not always appreciated.
“In that area he made some mistakes. As he said, the thumbs down on the podium. This doesn't' help. Anyway, it comes right from the heart. When he's angry you can see that he's angry. When he's disappointed you can see that he's disappointed. When he's happy you can that he's happy. That's the guy inside of him and he can't resist that. The others are able to handle those emotions a little more.”
Looking at 2016, when Lorenzo will share a garage with Rossi for the fourth-consecutive year, Zeelenberg doesn't foresee any working problems between the pair.
“I don't see why [it will be difficult to manage]. I think they are clever enough to start the season fresh. I can imagine Vale is very disappointed. This is part what our side of the garage had to deal with. Finally there were two riders that deserved to be champion in my eyes and they were both in one camp and this is always quite tough.”