Jorge Lorenzo secured victory in Qatar in the opening race of the 2012 MotoGP season, his first in the MotoGP class at that particular circuit. 2011 world champion Casey Stoner led for the majority of the grand prix but was overtaken by a resurgent Lorenzo with three laps to go. Stoner then slipped back to third after being overtaken by teammate Dani Pedrosa.
Britain’s Cal Crutchlow finished in 4th place, equalling his best-placed finish in the premier class. The race was uneventful, and with Stoner suffering from muscle spasms in his forearms as a result from the braking forces, the viewers were denied of an exciting finish.
Many would have predicted Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Stoner to be on the podium or to at least finish in the top five, which has of late, been absent of one particular name. Valentino Rossi, a seven time MotoGP world champion, has struggled to adapt to life at Ducati after being dumped by Yamaha at the end of the 2010 season.
Despite making a spectacular start to his final season at Yamaha, Rossi broke his leg in a practice session for the Italian Grand Prix, after a high side crash at the Mugello circuit. This allowed Lorenzo to storm to the championship and consequently Yamaha started to look to the future by ousting Rossi and hiring young American Ben Spies. However, we shouldn’t take anything away from Lorenzo; he finished on the podium in all but two races in 2010 and was a fully deserved world champion.
Rossi’s relationship with Ducati has suffered since its inception. Casey Stoner and Honda dominated pre-season testing for the 2011 season and Rossi was 1.8 seconds off the pace of the eventual champion. Rossi’s season saw him only finishing in the points for the majority of the races, unfamiliar territory for the Doctor, who had won a race in all his 15 previous seasons of motorcycle racing.
The 2012 season doesn’t look promising either after Rossi finished 10th at Qatar, the last of the Ducati bikes that managed to complete the race. Since the massive slump in his performance many have began to wonder if Rossi will finally hang up his helmet at the end of this season.
He can blame his injuries, the Ducati bike (which is notorious for its handling issues) but the king can only stay on the throne for a certain amount of time and perhaps it’s time for the 33 year old to take a look at himself and consider whether he is really still physically and mentally able to continue mounting a challenge to the younger riders of Lorenzo and Stoner. Many thought Rossi’s days were numbered in 2006 and 2007 when Nicky Hayden and Casey Stoner became world champions after a period of dominance in the first half of the decade by the Doctor.
However, Rossi bounced back in 2008 and 2009 and added another two championships to his tally. He dominated his rivals Stoner and Lorenzo in the respective seasons, proving he still had the racing spirit after memorable performances in Laguna Seca 2008 and Barcelona 2009, and that he still had a few droplets of gas still in the tank. That tank is now, unfortunately, empty.