Valentino Rossi’s a wildly popular racer and that may partially be because he’s a ruthless Machiavellian bully.
When we heard that Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo may need bodyguards to protect them from his fans, we felt vaguely uneasy. Things don’t normally get this heated off the racecourse, so when a racer’s devotees could potentially resort to violence, there could well be a sinister side to his influence. Examining the quarrel Rossi has with the two Spaniards only casts his character in an increasingly questionable light. He’s been accusing them of sabotaging his chances at Philip Island, allegedly because both were showing him up on the track and refusing to roll over and play dead for him.
Rossi’s talent and popularity have masked a long history of psychological abuse and intimidation against his fellow racers. Even in the early stages of his career, he showed his rivals no mercy. His targets at the time were Max Biaggi and Sete Gibernau. He harassed the two both off and on the track, robbing them of a MotoGP title and ultimately ending their careers for them. However, he couldn’t get rid himself of the next generation of rivals so easily. Jorge Lorenzo’s rising star forced him out of Yamaha into Ducati, where he endured a bit of a career draught for two years. He never quite recovered his stature even when he returned to Yamaha.
But the real thorn in his side and primary recipient of his ire was Marc Marquez. The Spaniard’s youth and skill were starting to make him look a little bit old hat. Furthermore, Marquez’s fiery demeanor meant that he would not meekly succumb to Rossi’s usual machinations. The two battled it out both on and off the track for six years, which Rossi lobbing barbs at Marquez and being ignored. This meant that Rossi had to up the ante significantly.
Rossi brought tensions bubbling to the surface at the Malaysian GP pre-event press conference, when he publicly accused Lorenzo and Marquez of their Philip Island conspiracy. When that failed to rile Marquez enough for his liking, Rossi took his bullying to the next level. In a gesture that no one could possible minimise, he kicked Marquez off his bike during the race itself.
While he’s unlikely to lose an entire body of admirers overnight, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to ignore his godawful behaviour towards competitors. The results of his heinous conduct are now showing, with him being knocked all the way to the back of the grid at Valencia for his attack against Marquez. We guess that he didn’t really need either Lorenzo or Marquez to conspire against him. He’s his own worst nightmare, a volatile tyrant who can no longer hide his exploits from an adoring public. Now, it’s up to us as fans to decide if we will continue to live under his sway or weaken his chokehold over MotoGP by lending our strength to his beleaguered rivals.