Valentino Rossi battled from 10th through the first lap to finish fifth, his best dry track result of the season so far.
A stunning charge in the second half of the Italian MotoGP race came close to securing Valentino Rossi a brilliant home podium for Ducati at Mugello. The 33-year-old ended the first lap in 10th before he embarked on a brilliant attack that almost presented Rossi with just his third podium in 26 races on board Ducati’s factory Desmosedici machine.
Eight of the 23 laps had been completed and Rossi was lying in seventh position but six seconds behind compatriot Andrea Dovizioso’s Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine in third position. A podium in front of his passionate home support seemed highly unlikely at that stage of proceedings but under immense pressure from British rider Cal Crutchlow, Rossi began to reel in teammate Nicky Hayden, rookie Stefan Bradl and Dovizioso who were battling for third.
Rossi started the last lap sixth but capitalized on an aggressive move by Bradl at Turn 4 that pushed Hayden wide to claim fifth. But he couldn’t close in on Bradl and Dovizioso to claim what would have been only his second dry race podium for Ducati.
The nine-time world champion though was just over a second away from Dovizioso in third and said: “It was a good race for us. Fifth place is not so bad but especially because I had a very good pace to the end and it has now been two races where I can stay on a good rhythm until the last laps. This is very important for me. The race was very positive except for the start, which was very bad. Also my start position is bad because we struggle in practice because the other guys and especially the other Ducatis are able to improve their performance with the soft tire. I always have some problem with the front end of the bike and many times when I put in the soft tire I am not able to use the extra grip and advantage in acceleration because the extra grip on the rear makes the problem at the front worse. We are struggling very much in practice with this. With a better position on the grid and a better start I can fight for the podium and it is a great pity because it is important to make a podium with Ducati in Mugello. But at the same time it is positive for me and the team because we are more optimistic because we have a better pace to improve the bike.”
Talking through an exciting final two laps Rossi added: “From halfway I started to have a good pace, because we made a good change to front after the warm-up and I had the front in a perfect position, especially to brake and enter on the right corners. I was very strong, especially at Turn 12. I could push a lot on the front and make a better pace. I knew that Cal was behind but it was never possible for him to really attack me. He was in the slipstream but not faster than me. I checked my board and saw the distance to Nicky was coming down two or three tenths a lap and I tried to make a calculation if I can arrive to him. But two laps from the end I say, f**k, maybe it is difficult. Maybe I can arrive but I don’t know if I can overtake. But after Nicky tried for the podium with Bradl and he lose out in the fight I could make up one position. It was funny.”
Rossi Denies Influencing Ducati on Rider Choice
Rossi has denied he is trying to influence Ducati to re-sign current factory teammate Hayden over British rider Crutchlow for next year’s MotoGP world championship. With speculation high on the Ducati rider configuration in 2013 and beyond, The Doctor denied he had said that his preference would be to partner Hayden, should he agree to remain with the Bologna factory next season.
Rossi hasn’t yet decided where his own future lies but Ducati has been negotiating with Crutchlow for a two-year contract. Crutchlow was anticipating getting a written contract to mull over at Ducati’s home race in Mugello but that is not going to happen.
Hayden’s future remains unclear while Ducati negotiates with the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team rider, but Rossi has an excellent relationship with the Kentucky rider. Rossi was Hayden’s teammate when the American first came to MotoGP at Repsol Honda in 2003 and they have been together at Ducati for the last two years.
Rossi has yet to decide where he’ll ride in 2013 and wants to continue talks with Ducati and Audi representatives.
Rossi said of his potential teammates: “No, this is not true (that he endorses Hayden). I said that I like Cal very much and I have a very good relationship with him. He is one of the funniest guys in the paddock. But I also very much like Nicky and I know him better because we share time together and a team for longer. He is a good guy and very fast. But I don’t give real advice to Ducati. For me Crutchlow or Hayden is the same.”
Rossi denied Italian media reports that he had made his mind up what and where he will be riding in 2013. But with Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa confirmed at HRC and Ben Spies appearing favorite to keep his factory Yamaha ride, Rossi was asked whether he felt his options for 2013 were vanishing fast.
Rossi had positive meetings with senior Audi executives during last weekend’s German Grand Prix. Audi is in the process of finalizing its takeover of Ducati and Rossi said: “I have to speak more with guys from Ducati and Audi about the future. I spoke in Germany with the Audi guys and they have lot of enthusiasm for this project. We have to speak more deeply but it can be an option for the future.”
Rossi said the issue is that he would put his faith in Audi to spark a dramatic turnaround in his on-track fortunes with no assurance of success. Rossi has only scored two podiums in 26 races for Ducati and he said: “The problem is I have to trust that the situation will improve in the future with the help of Audi to fix the problem of the bike. But it is just a bet. I don’t have any insurance about if we are able to fix the problem of the bike because in one and half years we have not been able to do it. It depends on a lot of things.”