Casey Stoner says he was impressed by Valentino Rossi's performance on his comeback in the German Grand Prix but reckons the media has over-hyped the champion's return from injury.
Rossi and Stoner waged a spectacular battle for third place at the Sachsenring –which was Rossi's first MotoGP appearance since breaking his leg in a Mugello practice crash in early June – before Stoner grabbed the position at the last corner of the race.
While underlining that Rossi deserved praise for his German GP performance, Stoner suggested that other injured riders would not have got the same credit.
"Everybody's going on like he's a crippled hero," Stoner said. "He has a pin in the leg, and the only problem is a bit of muscle. We've all been through injuries – myself, Jorge [Lorenzo] and Dani [Pedrosa] – and nobody ever talks about this. But when Valentino has an injury, everybody talks about what a big difference it is.
"He did a fantastic job all weekend – he was getting faster and faster, and he did a really good job. But I think his biggest problem would've been just time off the bike. Even if you ask him, the leg wouldn't have been such a problem, it was just that he wasn't on the bike. Like for me last year, all the muscles are a little bit sore and this was probably the more difficult thing for him."
Stoner believes Rossi would not have risked returning to racing unless he was confident he would be competitive.
"He didn't come here just to roll around!" said the Ducati rider. "We saw the lap times he was doing at Misano and at Brno. He was pretty fast enough at those tests. With a whole weekend's riding underneath his belt, it was impressive to see him fast enough and in the race he stepped it up again, maybe got the settings dialed in a little bit better and he was running a lot faster than us."
The two made slight contact as Stoner took third place from Rossi at the last turn.
"He made a big mistake blocking a lot at the bottom of the hill, so I went the other side, got a good run on the exit," Stoner explained. "On the last lap we knew we could outbrake him there. He just tried to tip in as early as possible, and I was already there. We had a bit of a touch and I tried not to hit him too much."
The Australian added that he had thoroughly enjoyed their dice.
"There were a lot of nice passes during the race there," said Stoner. "We were back and forward. I was trying to brake as late as I could and he was still coming past, and I'm sure it was the same for him. It was pretty much whoever got a good exit out of the previous corner was able to overtake."