Alberto Puig, Honda’s MotoGP™ boss has controversially claimed Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi is "having a hard time accepting" that he is no longer a benchmark MotoGP™ competitor.
Rossi is a longstanding legend of the sport achieving seven world championships in the premier-class, but the 39-year-old has not claimed a MotoGP™ title since 2009.
The Italian has consistently raced at the highest level, securing third in the 2018 MotoGP™ World Championship behind Andrea Dovizioso and Honda’s own Marc Marquez.
Rossi and Marquez have developed a strong rivalry since the Spaniard entered the MotoGP™ ranks in 2013.
Marquez sealed a fifth MotoGP™ World Championship from six attempts in 2018, his last loss in 2015 was the closest Rossi has been to the title since 2009, missing an eighth championships by a mere five points.
Rossi and Marquez have continued to enjoy a strained relationship after colliding at the Argentina GP earlier in the year, tempers flared in the paddock as Marquez attempted to apologise to Rossi but was turned away.
Marquez was again refused when offering a handshake to Rossi at the press conference following the race.
The 2018 #ArgentinaGP was full of talking points from start to finish...
— MotoGP™ (@MotoGP) July 27, 2018
Puig has suggested that Rossi has been the main contributor to the rider’s rift.
"Valentino has been a terrific rider," Puig told Spanish daily La Vanguardia. "He has all of my respect.
"At his age , he still has the desire, the talent to go fast and he doesn't accept not being able to win.
"But he's having a hard time accepting that his moment is over. Sometimes the methods he uses are not the right ones.
"At no time have I seen Marquez out of line, doing anything malicious towards Rossi. It was always race incidents.
"I respect Rossi, but in life everything has its moment. And like it or not, Marc is number one [now]."
"Marquez doesn't care at all about the tide of opinions that is being generated from Vale's environment," Puig continued.
"On the contrary, we have sensed weakness in their actions."
"Marc doesn't act like a superstar, he doesn't pretend to be someone he isn't," Puig said.
"He has the humility and curiosity to listen, to learn and to have respect. When he gets on the bike, he is a real killer, which is what he has to be. He's a machine programmed to go at full speed.
"Perfection doesn't exist, but he is quite close. Perfection is being the best, and he is. As to how much better he could be - given his age, he still has room for growth."