Of the four 2008 race winners, and title contenders, rookie Jorge Lorenzo suffered the most at Mugello. Rossi's Michelin-shod team-mate had qualified a career worst seventh on the grid, but was up to sixth and the tail of the lead group within a few laps of the grand prix. However, it all counted for nothing when the Spaniard lost the front and ran off track on lap 7, resulting in his first DNF as a MotoGP rider.
In Lorenzo's absence, Sunday's leading rookie was a surprising Alex de Angelis, who produced a brilliant ride to charge from tenth to fourth. The Bridgestone-shod Gresini Honda rider had hinted at what was to come by leading morning warm-up and even applied pressure to Pedrosa in the closing stages, the San Marinese crossing the line just 1.5secs from the #2 after a breakthrough performance.
Colin Edwards recovered from some slow opening laps to claim fifth position, just in front of Tech 3 Yamaha team-mate James Toseland. The double World Superbike champion was down in eleventh at the end of lap one but was soon back to his best as he carved his way impressively through the field to equal his career-best sixth at Qatar.
Front row qualifier Capirossi always faced a tough challenge to hang with the frontrunners on his home Suzuki debut and - despite a strong early showing - the ever-fighting Italian faded from third to seventh, just in front of countryman Andrea Dovizioso.
Joining Lorenzo on the DNF list were Randy de Puniet, Marco Melandri and John Hopkins - de Puniet fell from an unlucky 13th on lap 6, forcing an even unluckier Melandri off in the process, while Hopkins made his first race mistake as a Kawasaki rider moments later.
Nicky Hayden was battling Rossi for fourth on the opening lap, but dropped ever backwards thereafter and eventually finished a demoralising 13th - one place ahead of wild-card team-mate Tady Okada, who took the pneumatic-valve Honda to 14th on its race debut. Anthony West claimed the final point by finishing 15th and last for Kawasaki.
In the world championship standings, Rossi will take an increased 12 point lead over Pedrosa into Dani's home Catalan Grand Prix next weekend, with countryman Lorenzo now 28 points from the top and Stoner a further 18 points back in fourth.
Italian Grand Prix:
4. de Angelis