Rossi says riders must ‘improve’ attitude

The 9-time world champion was left shaken after Morbidelli’s cartwheeling Yamaha flew across the track just centimetres in front of him

SPIELBERG • Italian motorcycling legend Valentino Rossi said riders needed to “improve their behaviour” and show more respect after he and Yamaha teammate Maverick Vinales narrowly escaped serious injury in the Austrian Grand Prix (GP).

Rossi was left shaken after Franco Morbidelli’s cartwheeling Yamaha, travelling at around 300 kph, flew across the track just centimetres in front of him.

Morbidelli and the Ducati of Johann Zarco collided just seconds before the riders slipped through an early turn at Spielberg on lap eight of the race. Both men were unseated.

Zarco’s Ducati also bounced across the track and came desperately close to hitting Rossi and Vinales, who was just ahead of him.

The veteran argued that being aggressive was good, “because everybody tries to do the maximum”.

“But for me, we don’t have to exaggerate, because we need to remember that this sport is very dangerous.”

Rossi added: “You need to have respect for your rivals, especially at a track where you’re always going at 300kph.”

Rossi questioned the manoeuvring of Zarco, who, he said, went wide in braking, slamming the door on Morbidelli, a protégé of Rossi’s rider academy, VR46, who had no chance to brake.

“We were very lucky, but we hope this type of incident is a lesson for riders to improve their behaviour in the future,” Rossi said, hinting that Zarco would be facing even more scrutiny had there been a casualty.

“I spoke with Franco, he is okay, he is trying not to think, but when he thinks, he too feels scared.

“What makes the difference on this occasion is that nobody got hurt, all riders are okay, so this changes the situation.

Zarco, dubbed “almost a murderer” by Morbidelli, was quick to claim he was innocent, insisting his manoeuvre was “not done on purpose”.

The MotoGP drama followed a sickening crash in Sunday’s earlier Moto2 race when Malaysia’s Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah ploughed head-on into the bike of Italian Enea Bastianini, another VR46 graduate, which was lying in the middle of the track after a fall.

Rossi’s Factory Yamaha team director Massimo Meregalli said both incidents were “heart-in-the-mouth moments for all spectators, but especially for the riders”.

Meregalli went on to praise both Rossi and Vinales for having the nerve to restart after such a horrifying near-miss. — AFP