Having been branded the 'team-mate from hell' for taking out MotoGP championship leader Nicky Hayden in a clumsy collision at Estoril, Dani Pedrosa has pledged to be the American's best friend in Sunday's Valencian title showdown.

Hayden began the Portuguese Grand Prix, the penultimate round of the 2006 season, 12-points ahead of reigning champion Valentino Rossi - who took the early race lead with Camel Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards riding shotgun in second and Repsol Honda riders Pedrosa and Hayden third and fourth.

Pedrosa and Edwards then began tussling for second, before Dani lost third after a firm move from Hayden on lap four of 28. There were no Honda team orders, due to Pedrosa still having a very slim chance of the title, but of most surprise was that there also appears to have been no warning to ensure that Pedrosa was extra cautious when racing with Hayden.

Whatever the pre-race discussions, or lack of them, Hayden later claimed that Pedrosa intentionally leaned on him as he made that pass for third and Dani then seemed especially anxious to re-pass his team-mate as soon as possible - but it all went disastrously wrong just one lap later. Whether Pedrosa was trying to overtake Hayden or, as he claims, made a mistake under braking and was forced to dive for the inside, is a matter for debate - but the bottom line is that the Spanish rookie never even got alongside Hayden before losing the front wheel of his RCV and slamming into the side of the Kentuckian.

Both riders were eliminated on the spot, making it arguably the biggest mistake by a team-mate the sport has ever seen, with Hayden's agony then transmitted around the world as he punched the ground and screamed in frustration. Meanwhile, Pedrosa was widely criticised for making a speedy exit (with a broken finger) instead of checking on Hayden and whether it was possible to help him rejoin the race. However, Pedrosa did at least personally apologise to Hayden afterwards.

Rossi went on to finish second, behind Toni Elias, handing the Italian an eight-point lead over Hayden heading into Sunday's Valencia season finale. That means that even if Hayden wins, Rossi can take the title just by finishing second. But if Hayden wins and another rider, such as Pedrosa, takes second, then the title will go to the American... and that's exactly what the under-fire Pedrosa plans to make happen, as he seeks to make amends for his Estoril error and restore his damaged reputation.

Over to Dani...

Q:
How did you feel when you woke up on Monday morning?

Dani Pedrosa:
I thought that it had been a heavy blow, especially for my team-mate Nicky, but also for me, for Honda, for Repsol, for the mechanics and for all the fans that have been following us throughout the season. I'm very sad about what happened in Estoril. I know that there's nothing I can change now, but there are still many chances for my team-mate Nicky Hayden to become world champion. Repsol Honda is one team and we are going to show it in Valencia, as we always do. I'll do everything I can to help him. We have a big challenge ahead but we can make it.

Q:
Once he had cooled down, Nicky behaved like a real gentleman - considering that he'd lost the championship lead for the first time since round three. Have you thought about how you would have reacted if the situation was reversed?

Dani Pedrosa:
I've thought a lot about it. He didn't want to start any kind of controversy through the media and despite everything that had happened and how angry he was, he managed to calm down and behave like a great professional. Nicky has taught a lesson of professionalism behaving in an excellent way. He accepted my apologies when I went to see him in his motorhome and he didn't foster the media, nor did he want to make a big deal out of this. I know what he told the media and despite them trying to get good headlines, Nicky didn't say a single negative word about me. And to tell you the truth, I would have understood. It was his right.

Q:
Let's look at the incident itself in detail, what can you tell us about it?

Dani Pedrosa:
I made a good start; I passed Nicky and put myself behind Rossi who was pushing hard. I knew that Rossi wouldn't be able to escape and also that Edwards was there and that he would try to stop us to help Rossi. Suddenly Edwards passed me, almost taking me off my line and I had a big fright. Shortly after it happened again with Nicky, so I decided not to take part in the battle so soon and stayed fourth, waiting. There was a lot of race left and it wasn't the time to start absurd fights. Valentino was not escaping and being fourth was alright. My plan was to control Valentino and let the laps go by to attack towards the end.

Q:
So, you were only thinking about victory?

Dani Pedrosa:
Yes, that's right. Alberto [Puig] and I had talked about the different possibilities and our aim was scoring 50 points in the two remaining races. Honda had given us freedom to decide and we had mathematically chances. Nicky could fail in one of the races and the Yamaha had already shown along the season, that the engine is fragile. So our plan was to score those 50 points, considering that there were two circuits ahead in which we could be very competitive, and just watch what Rossi and my team-mate Nicky would be doing. I'm a race rider and I obviously want to win, but all those who follow me and know me, know that I have never done it by trickery. I had never knocked down anyone in the six years I've been in the world championship. Not even in my worst dreams would I have thought that something like what happened on Sunday could ever happen to me. I wanted to win, but in no way hindering my team-mate from continuing with his fight for the title. He has been working very hard this season, he has been very regular and he had big chances to win the title. I also race to win and as long as Honda wouldn't say anything different, I had to try.

Q:
From what you've said, you weren't trying to overtake Hayden at the time of the accident and were waiting for later in the race to attack...

Dani Pedrosa:
Yes, that was my plan, to control the situation, to observe and to play my cards towards the end. But suddenly, in corner six, a left-hander after the second longest straight of the circuit, I arrived too fast at the braking point and my rear tyre was up while I was operating the brakes. It was only a question of a few seconds; I noticed what was going to happen, I went through the inside looking for space enough to brake and when the front tyre lost grip I just prayed to God to be the only one to crash... It was an instant, some tenths of a second, but I remember perfectly well how my team-mate was on the asphalt and his despair.

Q:
Unsurprisingly, a lot has since been written about the incident, including speculation about what it means in terms of your character, what do you have to say?

Dani Pedrosa:
I just can say that I'm terribly sorry about what happened. Nicky didn't deserve something like this. I have already apologised to whom I had to, and I publicly commit myself to doing all I can to help my team-mate to achieve the title. I will be Nicky Hayden's best help in Valencia.