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GP Week : Issue 84A
GPWEEK OPINION >> A utter in Rossi's dovecoat? Three races into this slow starter of a GP year is too soon to predict much. But it's soon enough to get an inkling of what might be coming up. The view is intriguing. The lay of the land is such that Rossi has been getting his backside kicked by his team-mate Lorenzo. Given the length and variety of the season, this is likely to be a purely temporary situation. Or is it? For while Rossi is getting beaten, he is not alone. His crew chief Jerry Burgess is taking a pounding as well. And after Le Mans, there were hints (if only oblique) of each one pointing the finger at the other. Were there not a wall down the middle of the pit, those on Lorenzo's side would be peering across, wondering if they were seeing the first cracks in this hitherto uncrackable alliance. What's the evidence? It's there to be interpreted. At Jerez we saw Valentino lie down and accept defeat when Jorge came by. He did have a little fight back at Le Mans, but it was (he said later) "just for a bit of fun". He didn't exactly make himself easy to pass thereafter, but next time Jorge attacked he did not resist. This is not the Rossi we have come to know over the years. After the race, he resolutely declined to blame trouble from his previously injured shoulder. It was the same as at Jerez, he said: they had missed the boat on the bike settings. (This, by the way, was the opposite of what he'd said the day before, after qualifying on pole. Which proves that all his remarks need to be tested in the light of psychological warfare against his rivals. Perhaps ignoring a real injury problem is part of this.) Burgess, crew chief for a dozen World Championships running from Wayne Gardner via Doohan to Rossi, contradicted any suggestion that the bike he'd prepared for Rossi was in any way inferior to that which the less famous Ramon Forcada had put together for Lorenzo. Burgess put the blame squarely on to Rossi, and the rider's lack of shoulder strength, so important for braking and changing direction. Neither amounts to a direct attack, but the different viewpoints do pose the question: with Rossi under unprecedented pressure from within, will the alliance between rider and his blunt Australian helpmeet survive? That's what Jorge will be wondering, MICHAEL SCOTT MotoGP Editor opinion attacked -- but instead of pulling out a seven point lead over Vettel, (assuming of course Webber had led the pair across the line to victory), he now enjoys a 15 point lead over his team mate and is still leading overall by five points (Button is now second). At the end of the year, Turkey could result in Webber winning the title. A colleague did joke with me that Webber is like The Black Knight in Monty Python's Holy Grail. "But I've had your wing off..." "It's just a flesh wound". Certainly, coming back from a contact like that to collect third place shows a never- say-die attitude. This has really shaken up RBR, which was looking unbeatable, and it could make the team fragile. This will be very interesting. If inner- team rivalry can destroy old hands like McLaren (see 2007) just think what it could do to a team that's just five seasons old. Christian Horner will need to summon all of his management skills to navigate these choppy waters. Despite what he says about it all being resolved before Canada, I think Turkey will play on both drivers' minds for as long as they're under the same roof. In other news worth discussing, I'm quite excited that F1 will be visiting Austin, Texas, as I lived there for a time. It's a fun city, full of bars, some great live music, and fantastic Mexican food -- the F1 circus will love it. Unlike the rest of Texas, Democrats outnumber Republicans, for there's a big tech crowd, student campus and hippie community there. But I still think Las Vegas, New York City, Long Beach or South Beach would be better suited. Austin won't have the halo effect the other venues could have offered. The most important thing, though, is that Austin and F1 stick together for the long term. F1 needs a permanent base in the US. Let's hope this Tavo Hellmund fellow doesn't turn out to be another Simon Gillett (of Donington fame). After Indianapolis 2005 and USF1, another failure could be the death knell for F1 in America. RBR; new hope in the US 23