Valentino Rossi saw a golden opportunity to pull back points on MotoGP title leader Marc Marquez slip away in the closing stages of Sunday's Sachsenring race.
While Marquez dropped to ninth after running off-track in the early wet stages of the grand prix, then down to 14th after pitting for his dry bike, Rossi was in the thick of a five-way victory battle.
But the intensity of the contest seemed to lull the frontrunners into waiting too long before pitting for their dry bikes, allowing the charging Marquez to complete an unlikely victory comeback.
Things went from bad to worse for Rossi, who emerged on intermediates and couldn't keep pace with the podium battle, leaving him in eighth place.
“It's a great shame because I think that we can be competitive in a dry race and also in a normal wet race I can fight for the victory,” Rossi said. “But unfortunately it stopped raining and became dry. So we lost a good opportunity to make good points.”
Rossi - like race leader Dovizioso, Cal Crutchlow and Hector Barbera - made his pit stop on lap 23 of 30. Given Marquez's speed on slicks, and Andrea Iannone's on intermediates, they undoubtedly stayed out longer than their teams wanted.
But Rossi's biggest issue was the lack of speed after his pit stop, the Yamaha star losing almost ten-seconds to eventual podium finishers Crutchlow (2nd) and Dovizioso (3rd) in the space of three laps.
“The biggest problem was that I was very slow in the second part of the race with the intermediate on the drying track,” The Doctor confirmed. “I had no feeling with the bike. I was very, very slow in the first lap, ten seconds, because I didn't feel the bike. I didn't feel the tyres.”
With Marquez in spectator form on slicks, some were quick to state that fitting intermediates to Rossi's bike had clearly been a mistake.
But while all the riders that finished in front of Rossi had at least a slick rear tyre, only the Hondas - renowned for working the front tyre - went for slicks front and rear.
Indeed, Jorge Lorenzo's team manager Wilco Zeelenberg believes only the combination of Marquez's hard-riding style and the Honda's tendency to (over) load the front allowed the Spaniard to get away with such an early change to slicks.
“After the problems we had [getting temperature into] the front tyre on Friday we decided to put the intermediates,” Rossi explained. “We make the decision together with the team, because on Friday for us the soft front slick was too hard.
“I don't know if it was a wrong choice and it would be interesting to try the slick if we can go back in time. But on paper the slick can also be more difficult because in the first lap I had no feeling even with the intermediate tyres and I was very slow.
“I think in these conditions first of all I'm not very strong, but also our bike is very difficult to ride because it doesn't give enough feeling to push from the beginning, and at the end I finish just eighth and I lost a good opportunity to make points.
“It's a great shame because in the normal conditions, dry or wet, we can arrive on the podium. But it's like this, and we try next time.”
Team-mate Lorenzo struggled even more than Rossi, finishing in just 15th place.
Rossi has closed to eleven points behind the reigning world champion, but is now 59 points from Marquez as MotoGP heads for its mid-season break.
“It's very difficult,” Rossi said of the championship situation. “In these first nine races I don't take the amount of points that I can take, because I did some mistakes. So the distance with Marquez, to the top, is very hard.
“But anyway, we have another half of the championship. Nine races is very long. We need to work well, try to be competitive, make the maximum and after we will see.”
Rossi will be back on track alongside most of his rivals during this week's private test in Austria.
By Peter McLaren