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Rossi’s dilemma

Rossi’s dilemma

Lorenzo may have had to put up with towing Iannone, but Rossi suffered the most in Qualifying and has several hurdles to overcome.

For the seventh time in 2015 Valentino Rossi will start from the third row of the grid. Meanwhile his Movistar Yamaha teammate and Championship rival starts on the front row and has a reputation of breaking away. Jorge Lorenzo needs to win the Australian GP, he’s 18 points down and three second places would grant Rossi a tenth crown. Rossi’s dilemma will come in the opening laps as he attempts to pass some of the most defensively strong riders in the MotoGP™ World Championship.

“Starting from the third row is always difficult and we expected a little bit more. During today we tried some different things to improve our speed, but we haven‘t found a good solution. I remain consistent with my lap times, but they are not fast enough, so at the end we arrived at qualifying not being ready,” he said after Q2. The opening laps will be critical to avoid an Aragon repeat.

With the likes of Andrea Iannone and Dani Pedrosa in a strong run of form, a poor start could rule Rossi out of both victory and podium contention. The points difference to Lorenzo is comfortable, but it’s by no means big and failing to finish on the podium would be devastating for Rossi. Passing each rider will be a hurdle to overcome.

One place ahead of Rossi is Maverick Viñales; the Catalan GP showed that the Suzuki GSX-RR struggles off the line, Aleix Espargaro’s pole position granting him little advantage then. Development work has continued throughout the year, Rossi will be hoping this isn’t the case. Although Viñales is only a rookie in the premier class, having cut his teeth in the vicious Moto3™ and Moto2™ championships he certainly knows how to battle and defend his line. As the first rider to race in both the Moto3™ and Moto2™ championships to reach MotoGP™, Viñales is of the new school and despite Rossi's knowledge he has little experience battling with this new breed.

In fifth Cal Crutchlow presents a very similar challenge to Viñales, he may not have the pace to run with the likes of Lorenzo but can make himself very difficult to pass.The pair had battles frequently throughout the 2013 season when Crutchlow was still with the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team. Each second that Rossi is unable to gain on the leaders is potentially devastating, if Lorenzo wins and Marquez or Pedrosa is second, the gap would be cut in half.

Dani Pedrosa presents an interesting challenge for Rossi as he has the ability to break away at the front. Pedrosa has struggled in recent rounds during the early stages, coming strong at the end. This could potentially be an aid for Rossi, able to tuck in behind Pedrosa and cut through what remains of the field together. In their last battle together in Aragon, Rossi came off second best to Pedrosa and with his vast experience the Spaniard will be difficult to pass. The Repsol Honda man could also split Lorenzo and Rossi on the podium, either dramatically increasing or decreasing the gap.

But it is Rossi’s greatest friend that presents the biggest hurdle of all. Andrea Iannone and the Ducati GP15 are a demonic combination to pass, late on the brakes and incredibly aggressive. The Italian is one of only a handful of riders to beat Marquez in a straight fight in the Moto2™ class; if Rossi comes upon him and can’t quickly pass Iannone may prove an immovable object. The Italian pair might be friends off track, but when the lights go out and the visor comes down you’re alone on track and fighting only for yourself. There are rare few reasons for a racer to deliberately let another rider through, and friendship is not one of them.

All of these riders, especially Iannone, could also come to Rossi’s aid. Strong starts could see them swallow Lorenzo and drag him back into the clutches of Rossi. Lorenzo needs victory more than Rossi.

On two of the previous six occasions Rossi has started down in seventh or below in 2015, he has recovered to take victory, and always finished on the podium. To even be in podium contention Rossi will have to pass four incredibly difficult and aggressive riders and pray Lorenzo and Marquez haven’t already disappeared across the Bass Strait.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2015, PRAMAC AUSTRALIAN MOTORCYCLE GRAND PRIX, Q2, Valentino Rossi

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