Spain’s Dani Pedrosa cruised to victory in the Malaysian MotoGP on Sunday, with Jorge Lorenzo snatching second place to cut into championship leader Valentino Rossi’s points lead.
The result at Malaysia’s Sepang track sets the stage for a thrilling climax to the season, as Yamaha teammates Lorenzo and Rossi will battle it out in the season finale next month at Valencia in Spain.
But controversy marred the result as Rossi was penalised for a collision with defending world champion Marc Marquez, further endangering the legendary Italian’s hopes of securing his 10th world championship next month.
Lorenzo and Pedrosa accused Rossi of lifting his leg as Marquez sought to overtake him, possibly impeding the Spaniard. Marquez had to retire from the race after the collision.
Race officials said Rossi, 36, will have to start from the back of the grid in Valencia.
Lorenzo said Rossi received a slap on the wrist because of his teammate and rival’s superstar status.
“If it was another rider, he may be punished much harder. I did not expect this to happen. I am disappointed,” he said.
“It think it is unfair. Valentino got 16 points and Marquez got nothing. I cannot believe anyone will do this kind of thing.”
Lorenzo, who has steadily whittled away at Rossi’s championship lead, is now just seven points back.
Pedrosa started from the pole position and never relinquished the lead for Honda.
“It was a fabulous race but I was not aware of the problems behind me,” he said.
He clocked 40 minutes 37.691 seconds – 3.612 seconds ahead of his fellow Spaniard Lorenzo, and 13.724 seconds faster than Rossi.
Lorenzo had begun from the second row, and 11 points behind Rossi for the world championship, but he burst ahead into second place on lap 2 and held it the rest of the way.
Lorenzo, 28, seeking his third world title, had earlier gained ground on Rossi in the Australian Grand Prix, finishing second, to the Italian’s fourth place.
Rossi and Marquez waged a tense, see-saw fight for third.
Seeking to bulldoze his way past Rossi on lap 7, Marquez crashed into the right side of the Italian’s bike.
The incident happened on a corner just after Rossi appeared to taunt Marquez, gesturing at him to open up his throttle.
Rossi has nine career world titles, but has yet to win since 2009.
Lorenzo and Marquez have rubbished Rossi’s allegation that the two Spaniards colluded during the Australian Grand Prix, where Marquez won and Rossi managed only fourth place.