The advice he gives is not unlike that you'd give your own flesh and blood after they suffer a life-altering episode of bad luck: Suck it up, move forward, realize the opportunity is still in front of you, and above all, fight!
That's the counsel King Kenny Roberts gives Nicky Hayden after last Sunday's implosion of the Repsol Honda team caused by Dani Pedrosa colliding with points leader Nicky Hayden, bringing them both down and seriously endangering Honda's MotoGP championship title hopes.
Roberts, reached at his home in Spain this afternoon, said of the incident and the aftermath, "I suppose you can look at it from (a number of perspectives): "Hey, that's racing," or, "Yeah, there should have been team orders," or maybe even, "Dani just messed up." The press over here's come out today and said that Nicky shut off too early, or put on the brakes too early. So I'm sure there's going to be a lot of controversy either way."
The fact that there were no team orders issued before such a pivotal race is something fans around the world have focused on with laser-like intensity. Roberts coments: "As far as HRC goes, I think it's been so long since anybody expected something like that, or thought that something like that was going to happen - I don't know, maybe there just wasn't enough effort put on it. I'm not sure. But I know that it would've been difficult for team orders, with two guys that were going for the championship. Dani had very little odds, but at least he had odds. He was in there if something happened."
The corner in question at Estoril is a tricky one, says the three-time world champion, a decreasing radius left which the entrance is difficult to get right. "Junior almost did the same thing in qualifying. Dani just got in a little bit too hot. It wasn't drastic. Of course, if Nicky wouldn't have been there, he'd have went wide and continued on. But Nicky was there. I think that that probably had a lot to do with it, was that Dani saw Nicky. If it would've been somebody else, he probably wouldn't have panicked as bad."
Roberts himself faced a similar situation in the last year of his career. At the 1983 Swedish Grand Prix Roberts all but had the race won when in the final corner his title rival, Freddie Spencer, pushed his way through in a controversial move to win the race. Roberts said for years afterwards regarding that incident that he underestimated Spencer's willingness to endanger both of them in pursuit of a win. While some expected Roberts to attack Spencer after the race, he didn't, and by all reports was realistic about the incident. "I never had a teammate that came close to doing something like that," Roberts said. "Freddie ran me off the track and won the race. And the World Championship, as it turned out, by a point. There's not a lot you can do. You can yell at him, you can scream at him, you can take a swipe at the guy, but what's done's done. I was pissed off at Freddie, but there was nothing I could do about it. The next race, I had to keep going."
A point Roberts made today is that for the most part MotoGP bikes have become very similar in terms of handling and power, and this makes passing at times problematic as many of the riders are on the same racing line. "They're not as wild a beast as they used to be. So everybody's virtually on the same line, give or take a bike length. Passing is becoming more critical and more difficult. They all have a tremendous amount of grip, and you're all racing inches apart. This particular race was no different from any other race. At that part of the race, there's a lot of guys close together. And you just cook it in a little bit too hot, and there's somebody stopped in front of you. It's just that kind of a beast nowadays."
Roberts has always been an uncompromising realist abut his own racing and that of his team and he says that his advice to Nick Hayden today is to one, basically let go of what happened and two, realize the potential of the situation still in front of him.
"He's got to pick himself up and get focused back on being the fastest guy on the racetrack. He needs to forget about what happened, because there's nothing he can do about what happened. Nicky's got to suck it up."
"Some riders might give a finger off their braking hand to be where Nicky is in the championship right now with one race to go," Roberts said. "Only Valentino has a better scenario than Nicky for the championship, so he needs to realize that and I'm sure he does. He's racing against a guy who's the best in his generation, and is at the top of his game. What he's got to do is just step back and come out swinging, and let the chips fall where they may." "Yeah, it was a tragedy, but hey, there's nothing you can do about that."