Jorge Lorenzo won his third MotoGP title and fifth world championship today at Valencia in the way he typically wins.
First, in Spain. He won four of his seven victories this year in his home country. Second, by setting a seemingly impossible qualifying time, putting in what he called the best lap of his life to knock almost a full second off his previous best time to secure pole position. Third, by getting a good start and getting up to speed faster than anyone else in the field, something he is known for doing. And fourth, pounding out laps with mechanical consistency. In the first half of the race, his laps fell within a half-second range.
Valentino Rossi did all that could be expected of him and provided the excitement in the first half of the race. He passed 10 riders on the first lap and continued slicing through the field to fourth place, but by then the other three aliens, Lorenzo, Marc Márquez and Dani Pedrosa, were 11 seconds ahead. You don't make up 11 seconds on those three, even if you're Valentino Rossi.
Then it was up to the front three to take the spotlight in the second half of the race. It came down to whether the Hondas could get past Lorenzo. Both would have to pass him for Rossi to win the title. Pedrosa put on a late-race charge that made it possible, but it was no surprise that Lorenzo could hold on. He was the fastest rider this weekend.
It only takes a quick glance at comments on social media to see that this will not end the bitterness and even ugliness that marked the end of this otherwise great season of racing. People saying Rossi was cheated of a title outnumber 10-1 those graciously congratulating Lorenzo. Rossi fans will still insist that Márquez helped Lorenzo secure the title. Others will wonder how the Rossi fans can cling to that belief, given Márquez's superhuman last-lap performance at Phillip Island that could very well have cost Lorenzo the championship. The two sides will never meet.
Sports figures, like other entertainers, develop public personas that are not always totally of their choosing. Márquez seems destined to be the villain in the eyes of many fans, possibly for the rest of his career. I predict a lot of boos for him, no matter how much he wins or smiles.
People will say "if." If Rossi hadn't been penalized...
But in every racing season there are hundreds of "ifs." If Lorenzo's helmet foam hadn't come loose in Qatar or his visor hadn't fogged at Silverstone. If Rossi had gone down instead of Márquez in Argentina. If Rossi had crashed going through the gravel on the last corner at Assen. If all those things had happened, Lorenzo might have wrapped up the title in Phillip Island and the Sepang incident would never have happened.
"Ifs" are ultimately pointless because they are so numerous.
Many people, including Rossi fans, dismissed Nicky Hayden's 2006 title by noting that Rossi won more races and Hayden got the title through the more boring virtue of consistency. This year, Lorenzo won more races and was dominant more often than anyone else. By any measurement, he is the fastest man on the planet on a MotoGP bike in 2015. Rossi stayed ahead most of the year by consistency. Yet many of the same fans that said Hayden didn't deserve the 2006 title say Rossi does deserve the 2015 title.
"Fan" is a derivation of "fanatic" and fanaticism doesn't have to be consistent or logical.
So we have a (mostly) great season but we all go home a little disgruntled. Maybe it will all feel better in four months, when a new season opens.