The huge yellow sea of Valentino Rossi fans were excited to see ‘The Doctor’ back on the Mugello podium, as he claimed third position at the Grand Prix of Italy.
Sunday also saw Rossi become the second rider to compete in 300 Grand Prix races, joining fellow Italian Loris Capirossi as a triple centurian.
Earlier in the day, Capirossi had ridden an emotional tribute lap for the late Marco Simoncelli – now a MotoGP Legend – on a Honda Gresini bike. Rossi had also seen his protégé Romano Fenati triumph for the SKY Racing Team VR46 team in Moto3, as the atmosphere reached fever pitch before the MotoGP race.
Unfortunately a difficult Q2 had left nine-time World Champion Rossi down in tenth on the grid, which made for a tough first lap, allowing the leaders to break away and virtually ruling out any chance of a win.
Rossi eventually finished third behind Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo and race winner Marc Marquez.
Dani Pedrosa in fourth was 14 seconds down and offered no challenge. The gap in front of Rossi to the leaders was just over one second at its smallest as Lorenzo and Marquez fought hard, but the occasion nonetheless left Rossi with a typical huge smile on his face on the podium – despite things not going quite according to plan.
“The practice and the weekend were a little difficult,” he admitted afterwards. “I think I had a chance to fight with them, but we gave that away yesterday in qualifying. From the fourth row it is very hard to win. We had a problem in warm up so we couldn’t try a new setting. I was very lucky in the beginning and could overtake many riders who used the slip stream yesterday in qualifying. It is good to be back on the podium in Mugello, it is very special.”
Reflecting further on the result, he added, “It is always a great emotion, the podium in Mugello with the crowd. Already from this morning it was great with all the fans. Today was a great day for MotoGP, great track, great race with Jorge and Marc. I am happy because we are at a good level and I can always see Jorge and Marc. I of course want to do better, but from fourth row it is good.”