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Pressure and mistakes sank Rossi

Pressure and mistakes sank Rossi

Before the Italian Grand Prix we were wondering which of the three Italians in 500cc, Max Biaggi, Loris Capirossi and Valentino Rossi, would best handle the pressure of their home race. Based on past experience, it seemed like it would be Valentino, who seemed more concerned about dealing with his fans and admiring the new Hawaiian colours on his Honda. We thought that Max Biaggi would probably be the rider under the most pressure, after his win in Le Mans in the previous round had risen hopes, whilst the spotlight was also on Capirossi, the only one of the three who has yet to win this year. We were wrong. The most nervous of the three was, in fact, Rossi. His two falls on Sunday made sense of his comments over the weekend, which were prudent, and respectful of his rivals even though he had dominated the qualifying sessions.

Rossi, despite being conscious of having a very fast bike in Mugello, was worried about the battle with Loris and Max. He was scared to the point that he couldn´t focus properly or concentrate sufficiently in the important moments of the Grand Prix. He wasn´t focussed on the sighting lap, when he fell at low speed (Biaggi once had a similar incident in Jerez but he had touched with Laconi), nor on the second start, understandably, nor in the decisive moment of the race when he should have been content with his position after overtaking Biaggi and Capirossi.

Mick Doohan, who at the end of the day still works for Honda, defended his young protégé in his excellent ´Expert Eye´ section, forgetting to mention the mistakes and pinpointing him as a sure winner had it not rained. They are just words though and for me there was no probable winner on the dry track. The 2001 Italian Grand Prix was one race and it took place in the rain. There was only one winner and his name is Alex Barros.

Maybe Rossi could have won in the rain, but he shouldn´t have fallen on the sighting lap, he shouldn´t have had to battle with extra nerves because of it and, ultimately, although he was unlucky to fall after overtaking Loris and Max, he shouldn´t have been pushing so hard instead of settling for the position he had. In other words, he shouldn´t have shown the same arrogant attitude which made him try and overtake Max on the outside at Suzuka, a sad incident which caused controversy between the two.

Sometimes Mick also used to enjoy annihilating his contemporaries and the crash which ended his career in Jerez was a result of this philosophy. If he could turn back time, I think that not even Doohan would risk anything like that again.

Paolo Scalera (Corriere dello Sport)

500cc, 2001, Valentino Rossi

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