Valentino Rossi feels MotoGP rival Marc Marquez 'betrayed' him last year and the damage done to their relationship is irreparable, as the pair gear-up to meet on track again next weekend.
Two of the sport's biggest stars famously clashed several times during the 2015 world championship, their rivalry exploding at the pre-event press conference for the Malaysian MotoGP when Rossi accused Marquez of intentionally blocking him at Phillip Island to try and help the Italian's title rival Jorge Lorenzo.
Rossi and Marquez then tangled on track at Sepang, resulting in the Italian being handed a back of the grid penalty for the season finale in Valencia. The nine-time world champion was unable to chase down the leaders in Spain, which allowed team-mate Lorenzo to win the race (just ahead of Marquez) and take the world title.
After a winter to allow tensions to settle the pair are set to recommence their battle on-track at the 2016 season opener in Qatar next weekend, but Rossi feels he can never be friends with Marquez again after being 'tricked' by the Spaniard.
“After what happened we can no longer have a relationship,” Rossi said in an interview with Italian publication Gazzetta World
. “However, we must be opponents on the track, for some years I hope, and we have to respect each other. That is important.”
The Doctor, who recently claimed his controversial pre-Sepang outburst was an attempt to prompt Race Direction to intervene, added:
“More than anything I allowed myself to be tricked by Marquez. He really betrayed me. He said he was a fan but those were all lies. I almost believed him and I was ready to have a rivalry with him, giving 100 percent on the track, but those were all lies on his end. At Assen I realised he was only my friend when he beats me.”
Perhaps ominously, when answering the next question about posting Prost and Senna pictures on Twitter, Rossi made reference to an infamous act of on-track revenge by the Brazilian:
“When Senna raced I didn't like him. I cheered for Nigel Mansell, and when he joined Ferrari, I cheered for Prost. But I really liked what Senna did at Suzuka in 1990 [when Senna deliberately took both himself and title rival Prost out at Turn 1]. He was 'worked over' the year before and then he did what he had to. He showed some balls.”
Marquez denies ever trying to assist Lorenzo last season.
The pair are set to come face-to-face at next Wednesday's Qatar pre-event press conference, where they will be joined by Lorenzo, Marquez's Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa, Ducati's Andrea Iannone and Suzuki's Maverick Vinales.
It will be the first time Rossi and Marquez have sat in the same room since Sepang. Next Sunday's race is also expected to be the first time Rossi and Marquez will fight one another on track since Malaysia.
Commenting on his future in MotoGP, the 37-year-old again confirmed that (just as the last time his contract was up) he will gauge his competitiveness in the opening rounds and then, if all goes well, sign another two-year contract with Yamaha.
And with the 2016 M1 strong during winter testing, with the new Michelin tyres and unified ECU, Rossi is already 'fairly convinced' he will continue.
“I'll take five or six races [to decide whether to race on] but I'm fairly convinced I'll spend the next few years with Yamaha,” he said. “Then that will be enough as I am getting white hair. However, at 39 I could take part in a few car races like the 24 Hours of Le Mans or the Dakar Rally.”