Sky VR46 team boss Pablo Nieto has emphatically denied claims that Romano Fenati was involved in physical confrontations after Moto3 qualifying in Austria, and said the Italian's sacking was more down to “how he explained things” in an aggressive manner.
In the wake of the Austrian Grand Prix, reports in the Spanish media emerged detailing an explosive exchange between Fenati and first his crew chief Pietro Caprara, then Uccio Salucci, Valentino Rossi's best friend, who also works in the junior class set-up.
While Nieto accepts that Fenati possesses a strong character, and there were undoubtedly some aggressive exchanges inside the garage, the story describing the scuffles was “all wrong.”
“It's all wrong, and it wasn't like this. It's incredible. I saw that news in the Spanish newspaper also and I was... what? Nothing like this," said the Spaniard.
“The point was that Romano, we know his character is strong, but he didn't fight with anyone. He didn't push Pietro. He didn't push me. He didn't have a knife. Nothing like that. The only thing is that he has a very strong character and that was the biggest point for us.
“It could be that he was a little bit aggressive in how he explained things. That's the main thing. But normally with him we have a very good relation. This is clear. This was the main point now that we were a little bit sad to make this third warning that he get it, because in our team we have our rules. We must have that.”
Nieto's comments coincide with a statement released by Fenati's mother Sabrina on the seven-time grand prix winner's Facebook page.
It read: “There was no big fight [but] rather a confrontation between me and Pablo Nieto in the hospitality area of the sky racing team by VR46 about contractual obligations [and what had and had] not [been] fulfilled by part of the team.
“After there was a meeting with me, Romano, Pietro Caprara, Pablo Nieto and Alessio [Uccio] Salucci. The team said he didn't fulfill certain obligations. No one was beaten, no one threw anything at anyone. At the end of the meeting, Romano threw the [paddock] pass down on the table, but he didn't throw it at anyone.
“The debate is over," she wrote. "I repeat, there was nothing mad, like pushing, or anything."
Italian newspaper Gazetta dello Sport
reported these unfulfilled 'obligations' may have included certain dietary requirements and Romano's apparent refusal to move house to be closer to Valentino Rossi's ranch for training purposes.
According to the sports daily, Fenati was also unhappy that he was no longer going to be Sky VR46's sole rider for its new Moto2 project in 2017.
Yesterday it was announced that Mahindra Moto3 star Francesco 'Pecco' Bagnaia will step up to the intermediate class with VR46, but not to replace Fenati. The team's second rider has yet to be confirmed.
Asked about managing Fenati's temperament, Nieto insisted there were never regular rows, and he didn't encounter problems with his rider on each day of a race weekend.
“If I tell you the truth, for me it wasn't so difficult. Because the problem is in some points and it's not every day like this. It's maybe one time or something like that he's come a little bit on the limit.
“It's not the problem that every day we have the same problems, that he's really angry and he breaks everything. It's not like this. It wasn't like this.
“The only thing is, listen, you make one time, okay. You make two times, you get a penalty. If you make one more time, you are out of the team. This is the rules. It has to be like this.
“We know that here in this world sometimes you have difficult moments. In that moment I think the best thing is try to manage this moment and try to fix as soon as possible. To try to don't make the problem bigger. The problem for me that he makes is when he has a small problem, it's coming bigger and bigger and bigger. That's the only thing.”
On whether some time away from the grand prix paddock could be a good thing for the 20-year old, he added, “I hope so.”
“We wanted the best thing for Romano. He was here from 2014 and we give the best to him. We are not like, 'I hope that he is not coming back'. No, I want the best for him and try to think about the situation and try to improve, to grow up as a rider, like a professional. That's the best thing. I hope that happens for him.”