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GP Week : Issue 49
>>Moto GPINSIGHT unishment unpredictable. At Motegi in 2005 Rossi ran Melandri off the track in a very similar impetuous attack, leaving him hurt. No disciplinary action was thought necessary, in spite of an official protest by Honda. On the very same afternoon, however, Jorge Lorenzo was suspended for one race, for an exactly similar incident against de Angelis. This severity to the then- rising 250 rider and now challenger to Rossi was at least a precedent for the selection of a future star as needing to be taught a good lesson, as in Simoncelli’s case. There is very little other consistency to be found in the history of suspensions. Two years earlier, at the same Japanese circuit, the same committee had been in vengeful mood. In the race, Makoto Tamada and Sete Gibernau clashed at the same downhill corner (the last before the second underpass) where Rossi had skittled Melandri. Gibernau fell, Tamada didn’t, but was disqualified. Earlier in the same race, a similar misjudgement by John Hopkins after the start triggered a first-corner pile- up. The American was also clobbered, with suspension from the next race. Yet when Loris Capirossi caused a carbon copy turn-one crash one year later, nothing further was said about it. To many, this underlined the arbitrary nature of the system of justice. “They make it up as they go along,”commented one observer, adding that in F1 fully independent stewards would hear a case like this, rather than race management. But it doesn’t matter much who makes these judgement calls, they will always be controversial. Similarly other penalties. Rossi’s most costly punishment came for having overtaken under a yellow flag, twice, in 2003. On both occasions it was obviously inadvertent, and in the first a retrospective time penalty cost him the win he had just achieved. To avoid further outrage, it was deemed that riders must be notified of such penalties immediately, to give them a chance to make up for it. Rossi’s win in Australia that same year came after a breathtaking ride, overcoming the time penalty by pulling out more than 15 seconds on the pursuit. Trying to apply “more rigid” standards was, admitted Butler, “making a bit of a rod for our own backs, because we will always be accused of double standards. “We have to be unbiased, and in Marco’s case he admitted an error. Well, riders do make errors, and I would have been content just to give him the yellow card, without a fine as well. “But basically we debate each case long and hard, and we are undivided in our decisions.” If nothing else, it demonstrates how fine is the line between normal racing and dangerous riding. 39