Valentino Rossi has issued a warning to MotoGP rookie Johann Zarco after the Frenchman’s opportunistic lunge during Sunday’s Grand Prix of the Americas nearly caused to pair to collide and forced the nine-time world champion off the track, for which he received a time penalty.
38-year-old Rossi was running in third position early in the race on his factory Yamaha when a slow exit from turn one allowed Tech 3 Yamaha rider Zarco to close in through the sweeping turn two and make a lunge up the inside into the quick turn-three left hander, only for Rossi to take his usual line into the corner.
With Zarco’s bike on the apex, Rossi had to take evasive action and cut across the run-off, remaining ahead of the reigning Moto2 world champion. Despite not being at fault for cutting the corner, Rossi was penalised with a 0.3 second time penalty, though this would not hamper him as he managed to catch and pass Dani Pedrosa for second place before gapping the Honda rider to hold on to the position.
However, after following defending world champion Marc Marquez home, Rossi took offence to the move and warned Zarco that he needs to learn that such moves that would have been acceptable in the second tier of motorcycle racing are not in the premier category.
"For me it's not right, because I had two choices," Rossi said. "I do it like this [using the run-off] or we touch and we crash.
"I read that it's 'gaining advantage', and for sure I gained some advantage and 0.3s is OK [as a penalty]. But for me the problem is not race direction, the problem is Zarco.
"He's always very fast, he rides the bike very well, has great potential. But this is not Moto2. If you want to overtake, you have to overtake in another way."
The Italian’s message to Zarco was “he has to stay more quiet” during races in order to keep his nose clean, but Zarco defended his overtake attempt after the race and, having come home in fifth behind Britain’s Cal Crutchlow, admitted that his only regret was to lose touch with the leaders.
"He [Rossi] was not so fast in corner two, because of the mistake in corner one," Zarco said.
"You need to anticipate it a lot and I said 'this is the opportunity to go for it in corner three', but he was able also to come quite fast. I took the decision to do it, I did and it was on the limit but it's OK."
He added: "The worst thing was we lost contact with the Honda guys.
"[Rossi] was able then to catch them in the end, I lost contact and could not follow him anymore."