8 Apr 2013

Valentino Rossi is back where he belongs

Valentino Rossi is the bike racer who's won nine world championships in the top flight.  He's that unique personality who transcends the sport in which he participates - and for two long years he's been on a poor bike, and at the back of the grid.

Rossi spent two unhappy and unproductive years at Ducati on a bike that seemed stubbornly slow and unrideable.  So he hopped off the red Ducati and back to the yellow fold at Yamaha.

But Yamaha is now home to Jorge Lorenzo, the current world champion and a man blessed of supreme talent and self confidence.  Too much self confidence for some.  Lorenzo might be an incredible racer but he doesn't have the joie de vivre of Rossi.  His self confidence can come across as arrogance.

It was a risky move for Rossi.  Would he do a Schumacher and prove to be a complete flop on his return to the limelight, or would he do a Mike Hawthorn and beat the youngsters?

Rossi rode well in practice but fluffed qualifying and started the race in seventh place.  He risked all at the start and rose to fourth, then overcooked an overtake and ended up back in seventh place by the end of the first lap.

That was when the charge began.  Seventh became sixth, then fifth, then he was fourth again - and behind the two factory Hondas, one of which is ridden by a future-superstar-with-no-personality, 20 year old Marc Marquez.

Rossi despatched them both.  It was classic Rossi.  Pounce, place the bike, hold on, show them who's boss.  Make it stick and move on.

By this point there were only three laps left and his team-mate, Lorenzo, was a blip in the distance.

So Lorenzo won the race and Rossi finished second with Marquez third.  On the podium Lorenzo pumped his fist and congratulated himself.  Rossi looked as happy as the cat who got the cream

The crowd, and the Yamaha mechanics, cheered louder for the 34 year old returnee than for the 25 year old incumbent.

The Doctor is back.  Lorenzo is favourite for the title.  But the vast majority of people would be happier to see Rossi take his tenth championship.