MotoGP: Rossi has never looked so happy to finish third
There was a sense from the way Rossi celebrated that he will look back on the Sachsenring as one of the pivotal moments of the season.
I can’t recall a time when I’ve seen Valentino Rossi so elated to finish third behind Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa like he appeared in Germany last weekend.
I certainly can’t remember seeing Rossi so animated after any of his previous 35 premier class third place finishes.
Should he go and win a 10th title in 2015, there was a sense from the way Rossi celebrated that he will look back on the Sachsenring as one of the pivotal moments of the season.
Once it became obvious that the Honda Empire was poised to strike back, with Marquez and Pedrosa both in their strongest form of the season, the German Grand Prix became an exercise in damage limitation for Rossi.
Knowing full well that his chances of denying Marquez a sixth straight win were slim at best, his mission focus centered exclusively on ensuring he defeated closest title rival and teammate Jorge Lorenzo.
And it was another tough examination he passed with flying colors.
Inflicting another defeat on Lorenzo was not only valuable in terms of his points advantage (he now leads by 13 points), but even Rossi admitted it was psychologically crucial to go into the summer break with the upper hand.
That seemed a remote possibility just two races again when Lorenzo left Barcelona in the form of his life and with a fourth straight victory secured for the first time in his career.
Rossi kissed goodbye to 28 of his 29-point lead in the World Championship, but he has seized the momentum and initiative back when Lorenzo has stumbled again.
And for me that has been the story of the opening half of the season. Rossi has been better at damage limitation than Lorenzo. When he hasn’t won, he’s finished on the podium. And in Qatar, Argentina and Assen, when he’s been in a position to win, he’s grabbed it with both hands.
Lorenzo hasn’t rescued the top three from his bad races and it is that inconsistency that could threaten to blunt his challenge. Lorenzo has missed the podium four times in nine races but I still think the title fight is between him and Rossi.
Marquez looked in ominous form in Germany and I wouldn’t bet against him winning at least six of the last nine races. But I think the gap to Rossi of 65 points is still too big even for him to bridge in the second half of the season.
He has certainly got nothing to lose and seems back to his best since reverting back to the 2014 RC213V chassis. Rossi and Lorenzo will definitely be glancing over their shoulder should his winning form continue, but the Yamaha duo haven’t looked like making a big mistake in the opening nine races and Marquez needs at least one DNF each from them to boost his hopes of pulling off one of the greatest comebacks in history.
One man who could play a big role in the destiny of the title is Pedrosa. If he can keep finishing ahead of Rossi and Lorenzo, and Marquez goes on a big winning streak, then suddenly the title race might have a different complexion to it.
Marquez already clawed back 13-points on Lorenzo in Germany and a couple more big swings like that and Marquez would become much more than the outsider for the title that he is now.
Hopefully the drama that’s had us all on the edge of our seats in the opening nine rounds will be repeated when the action resumes in Indianapolis.
While Rossi and Lorenzo head for holidays in the summer break, Marquez and Pedrosa are lapping Misano on the first prototype of the new 2016 RC213V.
Rossi and Lorenzo have definitely earned their relaxing time on the beach. HRC meanwhile is showing in Misano that they aren’t taking Yamaha’s brilliant revival lying down.