Things just changed. Massively. This is what happened:
On the third lap at Turn 4 Marquez’s Honda did one of those vicious snaps that has put him on the floor several times. This time it put him right of the edge of the track and allowed Lorenzo to go past and gap him. There were other little bits of misbehaviour but this was the one that detached Marc from Pedrosa and Lorenzo and put him into the clutches of Valentino Rossi.
From number-46’s point of view, he must have imagined his prediction of thursday coming true. He saw Marquez reversing towards him, favouring Lorenzo by allowing him to escape. There followed three laps, well nearly four, of frenzied passing and repassing. It was hard but mostly fair. Check the lap times: from 2min 01.360sec to 2min 02.107 by Marc. No one can call that slow.
On lap 7 going into the righthander before the back straight, Rossi looked to his left several times and (judging by the on-board sound) on a closed throttle deliberately ran wide, taking Marc out to the edge of the track. Marc lent into Valentino, Vale stuck a knee out to prevent contact and then snagged Marc’s handlebar. Down he went. Rossi’s leg was wrenched back and his foot came off the rest but he did not kick out at the Honda.
It looked bad. Race Direction thought so and gave Rossi three points on his license, and as he already has one that took him to four and a compulsory start from the back of the grid at Valencia.
This are the bare facts as I see them. Race Direction said that they judged that Valentino did not want to knock Marc off his bike but his actions were culpable. They also decided that Marc had contributed in some way with his riding. A deliberate attempt to knock a rider off his bike (Hanika on Bagnaia in Moto3 at Brno) would have attracted five points.
I’ve just got back from both riders’ press conferences. I’ll tell you about that after I’ve got home (got to get a plane) but suffice it to say, any mutual respect they had has evaporated. Both are completely sure they are in the right. Marquez is coldly furious; Valentino is combative but his attitude defensive.
For what it’s worth, I think Race Direction erred on the lenient side but got it about right. Valentino made a massive error of judgement. And I think he talked himself into it on Thursday.