Motor racing's most successful eras have been built around rivalries.
Everyone likes a two-way tussle for the title or a meeting of styles
and characters. It's what makes sport so rewarding for the most die-hard
fan, and so easily explained to the casual observer.
The excitement comes from the image that we project on to the riders
and the importance of the event; some kind of human identification with
the emotions and sensations involved in competing at the highest level
taking a viewer on a journey of sorts with the riders. Knowing how hard
Stoner is riding the Honda, or how much Lorenzo wants to pass Rossi, or
how crushing a blow a last-lap crash is for a race leader.
Rivalry is an aspect of racing with which it is easy to identify.
However, the 2011 season has seen so much of it that maybe it is time to
cool things down.
The current climate of feuds and sniping could prove damaging in the long run, says MotoGP expert Duncan Bishop.
The last round at Mugello was another race in which tempers flared.
The weekend began with the second most talked about recent phone scandal
from a curly haired protagonist - Marco Simoncelli's text message to
Dani Pedrosa - all the way through to a squaring up between Stoner and
Karel Abraham in post-race testing. It doesn't seem like there is much
provocation required to get a rider in a rage just lately.
It's a difficult situation to reverse, and one fed by quotes,
stirring and criticism. The MotoGP press pack loves a conflict,
particularly when the on-track action hasn't been so gripping. They like
to get the wooden spoon out in the press conferences, and would surely
get equally as criticised were they to not push the personal angle. But
it forces riders to formulate an opinion and doesn't encourage
For me, the decision to have Simoncelli and Pedrosa's first
encounter since their Le Mans incident happen in front of the worldwide
media was not mere coincidence and ultimately an error of judgment from
the organisers. We saw the same thing with Pedrosa on the other side of
the scenario at the 2006 Valencia Grand Prix, after he had taken out
team-mate Nicky Hayden
in the previous race, and the theoretical convenience of only having to
answer the questions once is outweighed by the awkwardness of the
Sure, it was Simoncelli's home race and Pedrosa's comeback GP, but
only a fool would say that the two were put together as a matter of
Of course, the riders could do their part to ensure that they had
actually seen each other beforehand. Former rider and prominent paddock
figure Randy Mamola has been vocal about something that makes a lot of
sense, especially in light of the current atmosphere: a Thursday meeting
at every grand prix.
At the moment, they are firing shots at each other from afar or,
worse still, taking easily resolvable issues into the public domain.
Most of the premier class men only see each other at press
conferences, pre-events and on-track. The Safety Commission meetings on a
Friday have seen an increase in attendance recently, although they have
descended into a kangaroo court at times. Talks in a more relaxed
environment would make for more opportunity to clear the air, and
provide for a more unified standpoint on some of the issues that really
Remind the riders of who ultimately holds the power in MotoGP,
inform them of the bigger picture and reduce the more unnecessary bad
blood from the World Championship. Petty feuds grab interest in the
short term - particularly when there is a lack of variety at the head of
the field - but at the current rate they will end a long-term negative.
And the rivalries once so special for being infrequent could become as
boring to fans as the most processional of races.