We've become used to runaway victories in Grand Prix racing, but this past weekend we had a challenger running away when still in with a chance of the title. Maverick Viñales' decision to ditch his team and return to Spain was one of the most curious incidents of the entire season, and seems even more bizarre the more you think about it.
You know the story by now: On the eve of the opening practice session of the weekend, the 17 year-old decides that his team is 'second division,' that continuing with them for next year is not the right move and that he must leave with immediate effect. As someone who has been driven to despair by Blusens products before (one MP3 player in particular could only dream of being second division), I could kind of understand his point, but the reaction was completely inappropriate, for a host of reasons.
Viñales is still very young, but he will find out the hard way that such actions have serious repercussions in the paddock. It is the latest demonstration of immaturity from the Spaniard, who has increasingly vented his frustrations in the press rather than behind closed doors this year. He has slammed Sandro Cortese, Álex Rins and his bike on numerous occasions, in addition to refusing to even give a quote to Repsol - one of his main sponsors - for a pair of post-race press releases. It's one thing showing that you are at World Championship level on the track - riders nowadays have to behave likewise off it.
He has apologised and asked to finish the season with Blusens, but the damage has already been done.
The accusation that Viñales' personal and team manager, Ricard Jove, had not informed him of offers from Ajo Motorsport and the Aspar team are also slightly curious. I don't doubt that those two teams would be very interested indeed in a proven race winner. Why, then, would Viñales himself not have been aware of any approach before committing to Avintia Blusens again? Was he really expecting nobody to come in for him and didn't think it worth investigating beforehand?
The riskiest flight by someone called Maverick since that MiG interception mission over the Indian Ocean will make teams think twice before stumping up cash for the youngster, even if (or when) the contract situation is resolved. His team may have had a reputation for being rough around the edges, but when there is a 'return of the Mack' he may see that the grass isn't always greener on the other side.
Rounding up the other talking points from Sepang, you can't really fault the decision to red flag the MotoGP race. Conspiracy theorists have pointed to Jorge Lorenzo having the pull to stop the race after almost crashing out, but Race Direction were under no obligation to take any notice of his plea and conditions were clearly unrideable for more than another couple of laps (the required amount for a crash or a Stoner pass on the Yamaha rider to make any difference to the standings).
The support for the Malaysian wildcard riders was fantastic to see, as was the general turnout for a race that has previously featured empty grandstands.