Oct 27, 2009

A tale of two racers

In one corner, Jenson Button who clinched the F1 world championship in the season’s penultimate race in Brazil a week ago. In the other, Valentino Rossi, who clinched the MotoGP title in Sunday's penultimate round in Malaysia.

Button qualified 14th for his race to the title, albeit in changing conditions. Button’s effort was aided immensely by a pair of first lap incidents that eliminated four cars in front of him. And yes, he made a couple of good moves to climb to fifth by the end, although that was also helped by a flat tire suffered by Rubens Barrichello near the end of the race.

But after dominating the first half of the F1 season, no one could argue that Button did anything but back into the title.

Rossi’s story was a bit different. He also clinched with one event to go but his race was slightly different from Button’s.

While Rossi started on pole, he made a giant mistake at the start and ran wide in the first corner, which found him mired in 10th spot. From there he passed seven bikes to climb to third with about one-third of the race left and then reeled off several fastest laps in an effort to get to second by the end. One of the riders he overtook was title challenger and teammate Jorge Lorenzo. Once past, Rossi powered away to take third. That was a significant move as Rossi could have simply followed Lorenzo to the line and still won the title by virtue of the fourth place he would have picked up.

But it’s not really a fair comparison. Rossi took his seventh MotoGP/500-cc crown in 10 tries and his ninth world title overall, while it was Button’s first championship in 10 F1 seasons.

Rossi is perhaps the greatest racer in any sport, including seven time F1 world champion Michael Schumacher. The numbers don’t lie: Rossi has seven titles, 77 wins, and 58 poles in 10 seasons of MotoGP/500-cc competition, and a world title in both 250-cc and 125-cc. And he is only 30.

If Rossi races six more seasons to match Schumacher’s 16 in F1, the numbers say that even if he only had average years, “The Doctor” would have 123 wins, 93 poles, and 11 world championships in MotoGP/500-cc competition.

Unfortunately, Rossi does not get the recognition he deserves.

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