A twist in the tale at Catalunya

Qualifying:

It is a home track for many of the riders but it was a Frenchman that claimed pole.

During Q1 Marc Marquez (Honda) decided to follow and gain a tow from Jack Miller (Ducati). Unfortunately, given his best efforts, this didn’t help Marquez and he couldn’t manage better than 13th  place.

Marquez follows Miller. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Miller on the other-hand made it all the way through and finished on the front row. Even a crash didn’t interfere with his result.

Viewers may have noticed that Alex Rins (Suzuki) wasn’t out on track, this was due to a cycling accident that occurred off-track where he went into a Dorna vehicle and hurt his wrist. He would also not participate in the race.

Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) would start from pole (his fifth pole in a row this year). Miller second and Zarco third – finishing the front row.

Race:

The Catalan circuit always produces some entertaining races and this one was no exception. But there was a twist in the script book, which saw it  be thrown completely out of the window.

Prior to the race, Jorge Martin (Ducati) had an accident and was made to start from the pit-lane, from 15th slot on the grid.

Once the lights turned green it was all go – Miller and Miguel Oliveira (KTM) managed to get past Quartararo on the straight. Knowing they had to make a break for it and disrupt Fabio’s rhythm.

All riders were so close together, quickly creating battles between: Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) and Brad Binder (KTM). Miller and Quartararo. Joan Mir (Suzuki) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia).

Mir got a fantastic start and went from tenth to fourth by turn seven, lap one.

All within the first three laps Quartararo and Miller tussled for second place but Quartararo came out worse and made a mistake causing the other riders to take full advantage, pushing him down to fifth. Mir passed Espargaro. Oliveira got fastest lap. Zarco passed Quartararo. Bagnaia then took fastest lap. Quartararo re-took fourth position back from Zarco and Binder went into the rear of Vinales – both riders remained on the track and un-hurt and finally fastest lap went back to Oliveira.

Quartararo soon gained his composure back and started to hunt down the riders in front. He passed A. Espargaro and Mir was next on the radar. On the same lap, Pol Espargaro (Honda) crashed out of the race, turn 5, lap 5.

Courtesy of: Moto GP website

All the riders knew they had to conserve their tyres as much as possible but it was hard to think this was in the fore-front of their minds as all top 6 racers (bar Oliveira) were constantly battling for positions. By lap 7, Quartararo re-gained second place, managed to get fastest lap in the process and was soon hot-on-the-heels of the KTM.

Meanwhile, Danilo Petrucci (KTM) crashed turn 9.

Riding well was Marc Marquez, with 17 laps left in 7th position chasing A. Espargaro and Zarco down. But then disaster struck and he crashed out (for the third time in a row) on the infamous turn 10. With Pol, his team-mate already out, neither factory Honda riders gained any points at their home race.

It went from bad to worse for Honda, with Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) receiving a long lap penalty for taking a shortcut through turns one and two. Alex Marquez (Honda) would take the best finish result for the manufacturer in 11th.

With 15 laps to the chequered flag Oliveira still led Quartararo, Mir, Miller and Zarco.

The next local boy to have a DNF was A. Espargaro, same turn as Marquez a few laps earlier.

Meanwhile at the front of the pack positions were being swapped again. Quartararo passed Oliveira on turn 5, half-way through the race. But the Portuguese rider had other plans and soon re-took the lead. Zarco passed Miller for fourth and Miller and Mir had a mini battle which saw Miller win.

Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Turn 10 soon took out yet another rider, this time it was the nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) who took to the dirt, with 8 laps until the end.

Iker Lecuona (KTM) then tumbled, turn 13, lap 18.

Six laps until the race finish gapping had started to appear between the racers. Oliveira and Quartararo were out on their own in 1st and 2nd. Zarco, Miller, Mir and Vinales were in another group fighting for the last podium position.

The number 88 (Oliveira) started to pull away from 20 (Quartararo) and Zarco was soon on his rear. Lap 22 Zarco passed his fellow Frenchman on the start-finish straight. Moments later Fabio lost the front of his bike a-little and he went off track but rejoined in-front of Miller. Slotting into third.

Then a very unusual thing happened, Quartararo’s leathers were suddenly open and he had pulled out his chest protector. Both things had become a safety issue but the race officials did not bring out a black flag for the rider. Instead he was allowed to carry on racing. The rules clearly state that “…equipment must be worn, correctly fastened, at all times during on-track activity”. This has caused controversy already. When asked at the end of the race Fabio was hesitant to give an explanation and said that enquiries were already being held on the matter and that the incident wasn’t his fault.

Courtesy of: Moto GP

However, on the last lap he received a three-second penalty for a different rule-break – a shortcut on turns one and two, just like Nakagami earlier on in the race. Meaning that his position in third was given to Miller.

Oliveira went on to win his third ever race in Moto GP, from Zarco and Miller.

Oliveira consistently putting in the laps. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

As there were only 15 riders to finish the race, everyone got at least one point towards their championship positions.

Championship results:

First

Quartararo

121 points

Second

Zarco

101 points

Third

Bagnaia

88 points

Fourth

Miller

87 points

Race results:

First

Oliveira

Second

Zarco

Third

Miller

Fourth

Quartararo

Fifth

Mir

Sixth

Vinales

Seventh

Bagnaia

Eighth

Binder

Ninth

Morbidelli

Tenth

Bastianini

Sachsenring (Germany) is next on the calendar – Sunday 20th June – Marc Marquez has never been beaten there. Will we see a miraculous win from the Spaniard or will there be a new King of the track?

 

 

Wishing all the best to Alex Rins and Suzi Perry in their recovery.

 

 

(Featured image: Celebrating with the fans – Courtesy of Moto GP)

Bologna Bullets take first and second in Spain

Another pole for Fabio in Qualifying:

Everything seemed to be carrying on from the previous race weekend for Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha), who managed to gain another pole, this time at Jerez, from his old teammate Franco Morbidelli (Yamaha) who claimed a solid second and Jack Miller (Ducati) clinching third.

During the qualifying Marc Marquez (Honda) however had another big accident on turn 7, ending up in the air barrier at the side of the track, coming out of it seemingly unscathed with a bruised leg and neck. He was cleared to race for Sunday, starting on the grid in 14th place.

Marquez. Courtesy of: Motorsport.com

Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) lead the second row alongside Taka Nakagami (Honda) and Johann Zarco (Honda) taking sixth.

Jerez Moto GP Race:

The Bologna Bullets take first and second in Spain, in the fourth round of the 2021 season.

It is a track not known to favour the Ducati’s, but from the start Miller went straight into the lead, from Morbidelli and teammate Bagnaia. Quartararo went backwards into fourth. But it was Joan Mir (Suzuki) who shot up four places into sixth position. Unfortunately, Alex Marquez (Honda) made a quick exit from his weekend, falling on lap one.

Lap two, turn two, Brad Binder (KTM) found himself in the gravel, but he was soon back on his bike and back in the race.

Taking fastest lap – Quartararo quickly took third place from Bagnaia.

Making it twice in a row for Alex Rins (Suzuki), he made a swift exit on lap three, sliding off the track.

With 22 laps until the chequered flag, Quartararo forced his way into second place and started to hunt down Miller, who couldn’t seem to use the Ducati power to its full advantage and hadn’t managed to break enough away.

Down in ninth place, Zarco had great race pace and took fastest lap from Quartararo.

Fabio took prime position to begin lap 5. The Ducati tried to take it back on the straight but it wasn’t quite enough and slowly had to watch as the number 20 steadily pulled away, quickly taking back fastest lap, getting into his rhythm and pulling further and further from the Australian.

Courtesy of: Moto GP website

All the top six riders had picked medium front and rear tyres, creating an equal battlefield out on the track, but it was Bagnaia who seemed faster than Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) in fourth place and on lap 9, took the position from him.

Lap 10, on the flat turn two, Enea Bastianini went into first gear, let the brake off, creating the front to fold and he fell. Meanwhile, the front two riders focused on pulling away from third and fourth. Bagnaia was doing faster laps than fellow countryman Morbidelli, this allowed him to take third place with 11 laps till the end.

Brad Binder crashed for the second time, on turn 13, but this time was unable to carry on.

With 12 laps till the finish line Quartararo led Miller by 1.434 seconds. Miller to Morbidelli gap was 2.705 seconds. On lap 15, the gap suddenly dropped to 0.438 seconds between Quartararo and Miller. Then to 0.205 seconds. Then 0.063 seconds. Miller took the lead, passing Quartararo on turn 1, lap 16. The Australian started to immediately pull away from the Frenchman. With no seemingly physical problems, Quartararo fell towards the clutches of Italian rider – Bagnaia.

The gapping that had started to be created then turned back into a concertina effect, as the group closed up. It wasn’t soon until Bagnaia was on Quartararo’s rear and soon passed him with 8 laps to go. Morbidelli was next in line to pass the Frenchman on lap 18. Claiming the last podium place.

Courtesy of: Moto GP website

It was now only a matter of time before the rest of the pack claimed their positions from Quartararo. Who definitely seemed to have a problem, some speculating that he may be suffering from arm pump.

Nakagami was fighting with Aleix Espargaro for 6th place and took it alongside 5th from Quartararo, almost in the same pass. Then it was Mir’s turn to to go up to 5th place from Quartararo and Espargaro. Vinales then took no mercy on his teammate and also claimed a position on lap 19.

Things went from bad to worse for Fabio as another two riders went past him on lap 20. Going from first to tenth in just two laps.

Meanwhile the Dukes eeked further away at the front. The normal racing at Jerez was being thrown-out-the-window, with the Ducati’s finally going good at the track.

Pol Espargaro was the next rider to pass Quartararo, this time for 10th place.

Morbidelli was faster than Bagnaia and was giving it everything he had to try and pass him for second place. Riding on the 2019 Petronas Yamaha however, meant Morbidelli can’t always use his full potential.

Then it was Oliveira’s turn to pass Quartararo to take 12th place, which also saw Fabio’s championship lead taken from him and given to Bagnaia. Another pass from Bradl gave further points to Bagnaia for the championship lead and with 2 laps to go Quartararo had fallen to 13th place, staying just inside the points.

But, it was a masterclass performance from Jack Miller, who gave us a ‘Thriller’ victory. His first in the dry for Moto GP. Claiming “…the last 7/8 laps were the longest of…” his career. Audiences will now be hoping this won’t be his only win of the season. The last time Miller was on the top step of the podium was at the Dutch GP in 2016. This wasn’t the only surprise for Ducati for the weekend though, as Bagnaia stepped onto the second podium spot.

Miller showing all his emotion. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Third place went to Morbidelli who “…gave more than the maximum…” and “… risked a lot and finally…was rewarded with the podium…”.

A brilliant fourth place went to Nakagami (who equalled his best race finish in Moto GP), with Mir in 5th, A. Espargaro in 6th, Vinales 7th, Zarco 8th, another impressive ride for Marquez, who finished 9th and 10th place went to P. Espargaro.

Updated championship:

Position

Rider

Points

First

Bagnaia

66

Second

Quartararo

64

Third

Vinales

50

 

Le Mans (next race) is one of the next three race tracks which are typically good for the Ducati’s. Will we see another Ducati whitewash? Or will someone else step up to the plate?

Thank you to everyone who has taken part in the Social Media black-out this weekend, together we can #DrawTheLine and #StopTheHate.

 

(Featured image, courtesy of: Getty Images)

F1 2020 Season Preview

After a winter of anticipation and expectation heading into a new season, will the new decade bring in a new era for Formula One?

2021 will certainly deliver on that premise, but the big question heading into the 2020 season is just how competitive Red Bull and Ferrari will be as they try to finally knock the dominant Mercedes off their steep perch.

Testing gave us the sensation that 2020 will be largely the same as 2019, with Mercedes dominating the time-sheets and giving their rivals little to shout about. But truthfully, the focus has been almost exclusively on the battle further down.

At the Circuit de Catalunya for testing, Williams beat their, last year’s qualifying time by a second, while the midfield, asides from Haas, all solidly made it to the 1:16s. Haas, seldom aimed for qualifying runs, instead opting for runs largely on the C4 tyre but, inauspiciously for the American outfit, they only managed 649 laps over the six days in Barcelona.

Racing Point have essentially copied the Mercedes chassis, and they looked rapid as they attempt to recover back towards the top, accumulating experience and financial resources following the team’s takeover in 2018. McLaren’s Carlos Sainz even referred to the car as a “pink Mercedes.”

But the silver Mercedes, as they so often do, have made sure the headlines do not drift far away from Brackley heading into the new year.

Their controversial DAS system –  a steering device which pulls in the front wheels and reduces toe-out, making them quicker on the straights – has been known by the FIA since the end of last year, but has only been banned from 2021 onward. Mercedes were not as quick as Ferrari in the speed traps last year, but with the exquisite downforce possessed by their wonderful chassis, this is expected to be another imperious season for the six-time champions.

Ferrari’s chassis changes do not look as though they will be throwing the gauntlet down to Mercedes, while Red Bull’s change to the front nose, the sidepods, and the rear wing mean that they will be vying to topple the Scuderia in second in the Constructors’ championship.

In order to achieve that feat, however, Red Bull needs a second driver who is able to back up Max Verstappen. These were shoes which proved too big for Pierre Gasly to fill last year, while current driver Alex Albon, after half a season of learning and experience alongside the flying Dutchman, now needs to step up and display his capabilities of being a prominent part of Red Bull’s project towards returning to the top.

And, indeed, Albon simply could not be judged based on his first season in F1, at one of the biggest teams, and moving teams midway through the year. This is now the season of truth in a fledgling career.

We have already seen Verstappen’s innate and delightful ability to maximise car performance and take a slower car to the top of the timesheets, and a few more tenths in the Austrian team’s car, despite their deficit to Mercedes, could yet see the brilliant young star competing for the world championship.

But chassis and drivers have not been the only talk of the winter – even DAS has been dethroned as the talk of the town in the F1 paddock. The endemic that appeared last year over Ferrari’s 2019 PU has resurfaced, and this time it has been discovered that the FIA actually came to their settlement with the Scuderia last year, despite acknowledging the illegalities that lay within. This revelation has sparked numerous complaints and scathing press releases from rival teams, and it is a debate, and an arduous investigation, that will very probably rage on for much of the forthcoming season.

But looking at the aforementioned midfield tussle, just how close will it be?

Well, traditionally, testing has been very little to go by in terms of performance, but Racing Point, AlphaTauri – the rebranded Toro Rosso team – Renault, Williams and Alfa Romeo all made it past the 700-lap mark, while McLaren managed 804.

There were eight tenths between Renault, who had the fastest midfield lap, and Haas, who has the slowest. However, with the alternation between the C2, C3, C4 and C5 tyre, as well as vastly different set-ups and engine settings, it is so tough to judge just how close it is.

However, from the outset, it looks as though Haas’ struggles from last year are set to continue, while Renault and Williams may stage a resurgence back up the field. Those two have Esteban Ocon and Nicholas Latifi joining them respectively, and this could be a turnaround season for two historic teams who suffered a dreadful 2019.

At the start of a new decade and of a new season, is this the start of the changing of the guard in the pinnacle of motorsport? We will find out in just over two weeks when F1 heads to Australia for the opening round of the Formula One season.

(Pictures courtesy of Pirelli)