A wonderful defeat, though difficult to accept, is better than a mediocre podium.
This is what Valentino Rossi was thinking, having led the race for sixteen laps before crashing just four laps from the end of the Malaysian GP. A clear response to those who might think he's on the way out.
I can assure you that as soon as his Yamaha showed signs of waking up, the nine-time champion rolled up his sleeves again and sat down for long meetings with the Japanese engineers. With his characteristic smile that sees him through the tough times, he pulled a rabbit out of the cylinder, coming so close to a spectacular victory. It would have been immensely satisfying for him, perhaps one of the best of his career, because it was at Sepang that his arch-enemy Marc Marquez did him out of a tenth title, making all kinds of incorrect moves on the Italian during the early laps of that particular race.
A real pity, it would have been an amazing achievement, considering the incredible pace that Valentino demonstrated up until the time of the crash, not bad for 40.
The Malaysian public (almost 110,000 ) was behind him, eighty percent of the crowd painted yellow, the colour of his life. It was like being in a football stadium when he moved into the lead along the straight.
Vale does come away from Sepang with one some results though, having won his first title with his SKY VR46 team, Francesco Bagnaia crowned the Moto2 champion. Then, if that wasn't enough, his half-brother Luca Marini also won his race. Rossi's own win would have been the cherry on the cake, an incredible triple.
The public was happier about Valentino's race than Marc Marquez's win, the bad memories of the 2015 GP persisting.
Marc is a true phenomenon though, with his very own riding style that goes beyond the laws of physics and a corner entry that is sometimes at the limit. Never has anyone ridden in this way. For this reason, riders tolerate him up to a certain point, though there is controversy at times.
Think back to when Spanish riders had so much to say about Marco Simoncelli, accusing him of being aggressive and dangerous. So today we could talk about the pot calling the kettle black.
It's not an accusation towards Marc Marquez, but it is a fact that his riding is often on the limits of sportsmanship, so much so that in certain situations you can never know what will happen.
In Malaysia, for example, he was ahead of Andrea Iannone on lap three, he entered the turn, losing the bike and risking a crash, in turn forcing the Italian to make a mistake, as he crashed while pinning the brake, compromising a probable podium result.
It's a pity about the difference in age between Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi , I'm sure that if they were the same age, whether forty or twenty-five, we'd see some of the best and most intense duels ever.
We only wish we had a magic wand to make it so.