Bitter MotoGP rivals Valentino Rossi and Sete Gibernau went a long way to burying their long-running feud after a very public and shock reconciliation in Qatar today.
The pair shook hands and embraced at the end of the pre-event press conference in Qatar, ironically the same track when in 2004 their previous harmonious relationship suddenly turned sour.
Sitting less than three feet away from each other and split by only Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso during today’s press conference, both were inevitably questioned on their feelings about renewing what was previously a fierce and bitter rivalry that dominated MotoGP in 2004 and ’05.
After a brief pause, 30-year-old Rossi spoke first and told a packed press conference: “Sincerely I am very happy that Sete is back because I look at him here in the press conference and it is something familiar.
"I remember a lot of great and hard battles. Our sport has changed a lot from 2003, 2004 and 2005 when I fight very, very hard with Sete and I think I make my toughest battle of my career – sometimes with Loris (Capirossi) – but especially with Sete, so I’m happy and I say to him good luck.
"I hope to see him in front. Not in front of me, but in a good position.”
Once good pals in the paddock, Rossi and Gibernau haven’t spoken since 2004, but eight-times world champion Rossi said he did see a time in the future when they could be friends again. “Yes, I think it is possible,“ added Rossi.
Spaniard Gibernau, making a shock return to the MotoGP world championship with a new satellite Ducati squad after his retirement at the end of 2006, asked for the question on his feelings to be repeated before he began his reply.
He said: “I am very proud of what I did in the past and I think I had very great races and I enjoyed the races that I won and also the races that Valentino beat me because he is still winning.
"Maybe all of us say he is the best rider ever and I have been able to fight with him and that is a big honour for me. I don’t know if I will be able to fight again with Valentino or the other guys having stopped for two years.
"But I comeback to enjoy again and if I can enjoy it on the track or outside the track like with Valentino in the past after things happened, then this is good.”
It was in Qatar five years ago that Rossi and Gibernau fell out when the Italian was relegated to the back of the grid.
The punishment followed complaints from Gibernau and the Gresini Honda team that Rossi’s crew had illegally cleaned his grid spot ahead of the race.
Their relationship completely deteriorated when they tangled at the final corner of the 2005 Spanish GP in Jerez, Gibernau complaining about Rossi’s aggression after he was forced into the gravel trap.
Rossi has since denied claiming to vow that Gibernau would never win another race after the Qatar controversy.
What do you think of Rossi and Gibernau burying the hatchet? Post a comment below.