Valentino Rossi took a significant step closer to a 10th world motorbike title at Misano on Sunday, but admitted that Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo can win all five remaining MotoGP races to overhaul him.
Rossi, who has won seven premier-class world championships and one each in the 125 and 250 classes, extended his lead by 11 points after he finished fifth and Lorenzo crashed out of an eventful dry-wet-dry San Marino GP.
It was the first time this season Rossi hasn’t finished on the podium, but he did lead the race convincingly before staying out too long on wet tyres.
With five races remaining, Rossi now leads by 23 points, but is acutely aware that Lorenzo has the potential to win all of those races, and Honda’s Marc Marquez could also beat him into third place on a regular basis.
“For me, the situation in the championship is this: Marquez is far, but with him, until he’s mathematically out, he’s still in the championship,” said Rossi. “We have to consider him.
“About me and Jorge, for sure 23 points is a good advantage with five races [to go]. Jorge has the potential to win everywhere.
“So it means if you start to think too much of the championship, you can lose nine points every Sunday. And nine points over five races is more than my advantage. I still need to try and arrive in front of Jorge.”
Points gained on Lorenzo but also lost
Rossi delayed his pitstop to return to his dry-weather bike, which cost him vital seconds and dropped him from first to fifth.
When asked if it was a race he could have won by pitting earlier and challenging winner Marquez, he replied: “For me, win the race no. Third or fourth, yes.
“To try to win that race, I’d need my mind free from the championship. It would only take one point of the track that was still wet on the slick [to crash], and I preferred to do what I did than try to win the race.
“With the rain tyres it was a good part of the race, because I was very strong and fast, and I enjoyed fighting with Jorge and Marc – and I was in front.
“To go back to the dry was a difficult decision for me. With me and Jorge fighting for the championship it was a bit more tricky, more difficult to make the right decision without risking too much.
“I stayed out a little bit too much, and I lost time for two laps. At the end, on the slick, I finished fifth and, for sure, I’d hoped for a better result – because I had good potential in the dry and the wet.
“I knew that if you committed to pit earlier, it’s better for the result, but it’s more risky. Two laps before I stopped, I wanted to stop, but it was still raining a little bit on the back straight. So if it rained again, it would be a big problem for me if I’d stopped.
“Jorge was behind me anyway, so when I pitted I had to do another lap and it was one lap too much. People who finished in front of me had nothing to lose. From this point of view, it makes it easier to make the decision.
“Marc made the change at the right moment, but [Bradley] Smith finishing second without changing tyres was a big, big, big gamble, because he could have finished 20th if it continued to rain.
“And with [Scott] Redding [who finished third], I understand he changed the bike for slicks only because he crashed his wet bike – so it was the right decision, but came from a mistake.
“For the championship it’s a very important result.”