You don’t have to be an avid MotoGP fan to remember the stunt Romano Fenati pulled in 2018 at the San Marino GP. As well as being all the TV commentators talked about for the rest of the race, the entire internet went bonkers about it. It was all over social media, with everyman and their dog suggesting varying levels of punishment; from a slap on the wrist to imprisonment for attempted murder.
For those that can’t remember what happened, let me remind you. Half way through a Moto2 race at San Marino, Romano Fenati got upset with Stefano Manzi (who’d run him wide a time or two), so he drew level with him down the back straight, reached over and squeezed his opponents front brake lever. Luckily Manzi managed to hold onto his bike and avoid a crash, but only just.
Anyway, Fenati quite rightly had his racing license revoked, and it looked as though his racing career was over. But it wasn’t. Because rather than giving him a lifetime race ban (which is what many called for at the time), he was allowed to race in Moto3 in 2019.
And now, after three years racing in Moto3, the 25 year old Italian is set for a return to Moto2. But has enough water passed under the bridge for us to forgive Fenati for his previous wrongdoings? Should we just put it down to the folly of youth, put it behind us and forget it ever happened? I’m not sure we should.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not normally one to worry about what-ifs, and near-misses. And if someone fucks up and is genuinely sorry for their mistake, I’m usually the first to forgive them. But this is a little bit different, isn’t it? Because it wasn’t a mistake. He deliberately yanked his competitors front brake lever on, which could have (or possibly should have) caused Manzi to hit the deck. And they were both doing well over 100mph at the time. It might have been absolutely bloody horrible.
If you ask me, the FIM (Federation of International Motorcycle [racing]) were right to immediately revoke his race license. But they gave it back to him in time to compete again in the 2019 season, albeit in Moto3. Perhaps they saw that as a demotion, and appropriate punishment, but I didn’t. And I still don’t today. And putting someone like that in a championship full of kids, a championship that’s already dangerous enough, was bad form.
Anyway, as it happens, he’s had three years back in Moto3 now, this time without grabbing the headlines for all the wrong reasons. In actual fact, he’s done very well, chalking up three wins and fifth overall in 2021. He’s a bloody good rider, and if it was anyone else I would say he definitely deserves a ride in Moto2.
But I don’t think he’s paid for his crime yet. What he did wasn’t just unsportsmanlike, it was downright dangerous. Horrendously dangerous. As if bike racing isn’t dangerous enough.
If I’m being honest I think a lifetime ban from racing would have been too much, and unnecessary. Why take it away from him forever? But if it was up to me, I think I’d have suggested a five year ban, at least. As it was, apart from sitting out the rest of the 2018 season, there was no real ban dished out. His crime went woefully under-punished.
And it’s for that reason that I’m sad to see him back in Moto2. I don’t think he deserves to be there. Not because he isn’t fast enough, or talented enough. But because he doesn’t have the integrity.
Perhaps I’m being an old stick-in-the-mud and I should lighten up and put the past behind me. But when I think about what Fenati did that day, I still struggle to comprehend what when through his head. What was he thinking? What was he playing at? There’s absolutely no way you can justify that behaviour.
Am I being unreasonable? Or do you think they’ve let Romano Fenati off the hook, too?