- Idolising Rossi soon turned into competitive fuel for six-time MotoGP champion Marquez
- Marquez ‘destroyed our sport’ – Rossi
From idolising Valentino Rossi, to becoming friends with the nine-time world champion, to then having one of the more heated rivalries in MotoGP history, here’s a look back at what went wrong between Marc Marquez and the adored Italian.
The 2022 Mugello MotoGP gets underway later today, an event that was heavily dominated by Rossi in the early 2000s.
Although success dried up for Rossi at his home round during the later years of his career – failed to win any of the last 12 MotoGP races held in Mugello – it remains one of the race tracks where he delivered stunning performance after stunning performance.
On the other hand, it’s one of Marquez’ worst rounds statistically, if not the outright worst (based on circuits he’s competed at since 2013 in MotoGP).
While it’s no stretch to say that Marquez has been unable to conquer Mugello (has just one premier class win), the eight-time world champion has often made up for any so called ‘weak’ circuits by being historically great at others.
Take Sachsenring, COTA, Aragon and to a lesser extent Termas, as examples of Marquez being a step above throughout the majority of his career no matter the competition or level of his machine.
Both riders have arguably had the two most dominant stretches of success the premier class has ever seen, and after witnessing the two greats battle it out for several years – Marquez did most of the winning during that time – it’s no surprise that the two remain the sport’s biggest icons, even with Rossi having retired at the end of 2021 and Marquez enjoying very limited success of late.
But with that said, their time spent on-track together went through various difficult patches, including an incident at Malaysia that will live long in the memory.
Idolising Rossi soon turned into competitive fuel for six-time MotoGP champion Marquez
After having posters of Rossi on his wall as a kid, the relationship between Marquez and Rossi began with the two posing together for photos. That was before Marquez was anywhere close to becoming a MotoGP rider.
The most notable photo was of Marquez as a child meeting Rossi and getting a diecast model signed by the charismatic Italian.
But once Marquez progressed through Moto3 and Moto2, a competitive desire to beat his idol was already evident in his rookie MotoGP season (2013).
Despite being a rookie, Marquez won the world championship before consolidating his success with a dominant 2014 campaign.
While racing was hard between the two, it never got out of hand as Marquez would often draw back to how much he respects and admires Rossi during press conferences or interviews.
But then came 2015, a season where Rossi was going for title #10 (eighth in MotoGP), while a somewhat difficult Honda to ride, along with mistakes from Marquez left the Spaniard out of contention.
Instead, the 2015 title fight was an all-Yamaha affair, and that’s when things became interesting, let’s say.
After taking points off Jorge Lorenzo in Australia when he pipped the Yamaha rider to victory, things turned sour at the next race when Marquez and Rossi came together in Sepang.
In what was quickly becoming a personal battle, Marquez was putting very aggressive moves on Rossi, which in-turn generated similar overtakes from the Italian.
Clearly of the belief that Marquez was doing his utmost to help Lorenzo and as a result cost him the world championship, words the seven-time MotoGP champion used after the events of Malaysia, Rossi famously went to the inside of Marquez at turn 14 before appearing to purposely knock Marquez off.
With replays available, it was clear that Rossi’s leg got caught on Marquez’s bike and that it was not an intentional move, but Rossi going slowly alongside him and Marquez then falling off his RC213V when contact was made, a penalty that would see Rossi start from last was awarded for Valencia.
As expected, Lorenzo went on to win the race after setting a new lap record, leading to Rossi missing out on a tenth title he craved so much.
Malaysia 2015 wasn’t the first major incident between the two, as a coming-together in Argentina (same season) was also a big turning point in their relationship. Attempting to beat Rossi at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit, Marquez crashed out after clipping the rear of Rossi’s M1.
But this was nothing compared to Argentina 2018 when another huge incident occurred between the pair…
After stalling his Repsol Honda on the grid, Marquez was able to retake his grid place. But after several laps, the Spaniard was hit with a ride-through penalty.
With Marquez the fastest rider on the circuit, the now 29 year-old began a mighty charge through the field, however, aggression was getting the better of the Honda rider.
Following several moments of contact with other riders, one of them being an incident where he ran into the back of Aleix Espargaro and pushed the Aprilia rider wide, Marquez came up behind Rossi for sixth.
As he tried to set up a move into the final right-hander (penultimate corner), Marquez went late on the brakes with Rossi still ahead, which led to Marquez making similar contact to that of his clash with Espargaro, but this time it caused Rossi to crash. Marquez was subsequently hit with a 30-second time penalty.
Marquez ‘destroyed our sport’ – Rossi
Following the incident, Marquez walked to the Yamaha garage but was told to leave immediately, and it goes without saying that the relationship has never been repaired.
Speaking about the incident, Rossi delivered strong comments after the race: “This is a very bad situation, because he destroyed our sport, because he [doesn’t] have any respect for his rivals, never.”
“You can make a mistake in braking, you can touch the other guy – it happens, this is racing.
“But from Friday morning, he [did] this with [Maverick] Vinales, [Andrea] Dovizioso.
“He [did] this with me on Saturday morning, and today in the race he went straight into four riders, because he [does this] purposely.”
A response from Marquez was quick as he dismissed any notion of it being intentional, and that it was simply a ‘mistake’.
“About this [incident] of course I am completely disappointed. In my career I never go straight to one rider thinking that he will crash, always I try to avoid, of course.
“Sometimes [when] you overtake, it is closer, sometimes it is clear. Today what happened to Valentino was a mistake, [a] consequence of the track conditions because I [locked] the front.”
One of the final moments of controversy between the two was during the same 2018 season as Marquez was blanked in his attempt to shake hands with Rossi at Misano.
Asked if there could be peace between them during the pre-event press conference, Marquez claimed ‘that would be nice’ and offered his hand, to which Rossi shook his head and said ‘we don’t need to shake the hand’.