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GP Week : Issue 196
17 GPWEEK.com // 17 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: sebastian Vettel wins again. sebastian Vettel gets booed on the rostrum. Just for being so damned good. When did that start to happen? And, on two wheels, when will it start to happen to Marc Marquez? The history of racing, pretty much all racing, no matter how many wheels are involved, is for one dominant figure to poke his head up. What happens next depends on the way he does it. Some are adored for ever. Others get booed on the rostrum. And to be fair, some of them just don’t care. In fact, there is at least one recent example of a rider who used crowd hostility to give him motivation: Casey Stoner. For the rest, for those eager to expand on the vast merchandising and other fiscal opportunities, following the ground paved by Forbes rich-list regular Valentino Rossi (20th Athlete in 2012, by the way, at some US $31-million, dropping to 51st at $22-mill this year, with his pay cut returning to Yamaha) – for these people, there are some rules. And the most important is: don’t make it look too easy. This is probably Vettel’s biggest mistake (if you think it such); and it was certainly Mick Doohan’s. By making every other rider look, frankly, a bit amateurish, he won few fans, compared with the popularity he could have achieved, if he’d want do. His obvious superiority was too belittling to their other heroes. “What do you want me to do about it,” he once growled. “Slow down?” Well – actually, yes. Why not? Give the fans some fun. But, independent-minded to a fault, Doohan left racing only through injury, then turned his back on it to use his (considerable) earnings as the foundation for a successful business in aviation. Never courted fame, never tried to exploit it either. You have to respect that. It’s not a mistake Rossi ever made, during his reign. He showed his rivals an example not only of a clearly superior skill set, but also a superior understanding of how having the crowd on your side boosts your earning power. There were certainly times and probably most of them when he could have run away and hidden from rivals like Max Biaggi, Sete Gibernau and Loris Capirossi. Look with what ease he disposed of a 10-second time penalty at Phillip Island in 2003. But Rossi had more nous than that. You want to be popular, to maximise your fan appeal? Make a show of it. Looking back at other past heroes, there are those who got away with dominating – Mike Hailwood for instance, and Kenny Roberts. And those who engendered disapproval, just for being too good. Where does Marquez stand? We will have to wait and see. It looks certain that he is set for a period of domination. At least until the next boy wonder comes along. So far, however, his achievements have all been at maximum risk and displaying breathtaking talent. At the age of 20, he can get away with the ease with which he disposed of Rossi, Lorenzo and team-mate Pedrosa, because of the conspicuous daring involved. Ominously, he’ll bring a year of experience with him next year, along with a year of extra polish to his riding skills. Feats that were amazing in his first year will make less impact. More like second nature. The personality that has emerged since his English has improved (a matter of diligent studying, as any would-be international star requires) is quite distinctive: a mixture of good manners, impish humour and a maturity beyond his years. He appears to enjoy the fans, and clearly loves racing. Let’s hopes he copes cleverly with his domination. And if not – well, what do you want him to do – slow down? WORLD DOMINATION – AND HOW TO HANDLE IT! OPINION OPINION MICHAEL SCOTT MotoGP Editor