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)

Un et Deux – the French reign at Doha

Round two under the Qatar lights found some riders floundering and some soaring. If it was thought to be a repeat of last weekend then audiences were in for a shock.

The qualifying had the biggest surprise which came from the rookie, Jorge Martin who took pole! With a 1.53.106 second lap, snatching it from Vinales, who was confident he had done enough at the flag. Next position went to Martin’s team-mate and Vinales ended up 3rd to round off the front row. The Suzuki’s still seemed to have issues with qualifying and ended up in 8th and 9th. Rossi made changes to his bike which turned out to hinder his chances at getting another 4th in qualifying this time and ended up 21st on the grid.

Martin takes pole on Saturday. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

All riders started Sunday on both rear and front soft tyres again, with the exception of Oliveira, Binder, Lecuona and Petrucci. Perhaps they had thought a different strategy may help them in the closing section of the race. Once again, the wind was blowing and causing sand to go across the track, meaning the tyres would degrade quicker.

The two front Ducati’s got a flying start, with Martin leading Zarco but it was Vinales that went backwards as Aleix Espargaro came through and took 3rd place from the Spaniard, a very surprising Oliveira, who was 12th on the grid, shot into 4th . The next 22 laps were sure to be exciting!

By lap three, Rins had already made the fastest lap, eager to make it to the front early on, now in 3rd place, he started putting pressure on Zarco.

Lap four was Bagnaia’s turn to take fastest lap. But it was the Suzuki’s that were looking menacing as Mir came through to 5th place and Rins took 2nd from Zarco. However, the Ducati took back the position on the straight.

Meanwhile the factory Yamahas were sticking to their plan, which was to conserve tyres and were in 9th and 10th place.

With 17 laps to go Martin was still leading, in only his second Moto GP race, from Rins and Zarco.

Martin leads Rins. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Performing well in the flowing corners, the Suzuki was putting pressure on the rookie, but the straight, once again was the time for Zarco to pounce, re-gaining 2nd.

Trying to hunt down Martin, Rins took back 2nd place from the Frenchman on turn 10 – lap 8. He knew he had to breakaway from Zarco before the straight. With 13 laps to go Oliveira started to go backwards, unfortunately, the tyre choice didn’t seem to be any better.

The two Petronas riders were struggling as well – not even in the top ten.

The top nine riders however, were starting to breakaway from the rest of the pack and were creating their own race. Martin still lead, now half-way through the 22 laps, whilst Vinales was bringing up the rear. The first six bikes were all four Ducati’s and the two Suzuki’s. Espargaro on the Aprilia, was the only bike not with it’s teammate, out in front of the two factory Yamaha’s.

Mir and Miller were battling for 5th place on lap 13, Mir touched Miller going underneath him to take the position. But, coming onto the straight Miller (43) went wide and and seemed to go straight into Mir, forcing him to go all the way back to 9th. There was an investigation from the stewards but both times were seen as racing incidents.

Things went from bad to worse for Alex Marquez who had a second DNF in a row as he crashed on lap 14.

However, things were looking good for Quartararo (20), who was moving through the front pack and was now 4th, behind the Ducati’s, with 8 laps till the end. Battling for the position alongside Rins, he knew he had to create a chance in order to get on the podium. His teammate was now in 7th with Mir still in 9th place. It seemed the Yamaha’s tactic was paying off.

With six laps till the end, 20 took 3rd place from 43, it was taken straight back on the start-finish line but a mistake going into the first corner from Miller meant Quartararo re-took 3rd once more. The battle for the podium was heating up.

The two Frenchmen then fought for 2nd on lap 18. Zarco tried to defend but Quartararo’s Yamaha had conserved tyres better and was stronger on the corners, meaning he was able to take 1st place as well on turn 14, leading into turn 15, from Martin. The rookie had shocked everyone by leading for most of the race. Martin wasn’t going to give his position away easily and on the straight the Ducati roared past the Yamaha. But, Quartararo re-gained first place soon after.

With four laps to go it was anyone’s call who would win. Quartararo now lead Martin, Zarco and Vinales.

Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Top Gun’ briefly took 3rd place from Zarco, which took Zarco out of the top three for the first time the whole race.

‘El Diablo’ started to pull away from the two satellite Ducati’s and with Vinales putting pressure on Zarco, Zarco decided he needed to try and make a pass on his teammate. Martin went defensive with two laps to go, not wanting to give away his position. Vinales couldn’t keep up with number 5 and Rins took 4th place from him into turn one on the last lap. The penultimate corner of the last lap was Zarco’s last shot at 2nd, after admitting in the post-race interview he was acting as a “… bodyguard for Martin…” he decided to over-take his team-mate to finish 2nd.

It was Quartararo that took the chequered flag, taking his fourth Moto GP victory alongside fellow Frenchman Zarco. The first time in 67 years that two Frenchmen have stood first and second on the podium in the premier class. Martin finished an impressive third to round off the podium. Fourth was Rins, fifth Vinales, sixth and seventh place were the factory Dukes and Mir managed to make up two places since the collision with Miller to finish seventh.

Zarco stood on the podium for the 50th time and now leads the championship with 40 points. Proving to be consistent with two second places in a row.

This thrilling battle was the closest Moto GP race in 73 years. Teams learnt from last weekend and everyone seemed far stronger.

There is now a two week gap until the next event, but the big news is Marc Marquez is said to be making a return in Portugal, which leads into the many European races. Will we see a fit, strong and hungry Marquez? Will the other riders be too far ahead of him? Or will we witness a masterclass performance?

Whatever the outcome, it is sure to be a thrilling ride.

 

Featured image courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Monaco 2018 Driver Ratings

The principality of Monaco is the jewel in the crown of the Formula 1 season. It’s one of the triple crown of motorsport, the others being the Indianapolis 500 and Le Mans 24 Hours. The tight and twisty track leaves little room for error, giving a full punishment for hitting the wall, as some experienced this weekend, one in paticular. There was without a doubt a driver of the weekend no one can argue with that.

Ricciardo – 10

? courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Super from the Honeybadger, his best win without a doubt, the first time he has won a Grand Prix starting within the first two rows. He was fastest in all practice and qualifying sessions on Saturday. On Sunday he once again in a different league, he got off the line well, and pulled away from the field. The problems came with his engine many thought the curse had struck again but with a car much less power he kept his cool to win! Redemption from 2016, a great drive, his best win out of the seven wins. He led every lap of the race and without a doubt driver of the day!

Vettel – 8

A solid drive and took points off Hamilton. His start was great but Ricciardo just closed the gap so was unable to overtake. Kept Ricciardo within distance but does seem Ferrari are harder on their tyres. Coasted to second late on as he struggled to get back up to pace.

Hamilton – 7

An uneventful weekend for the Championship leader three points lost a damage limitation race leaving a 14 points gap between him and Vettel. Mercedes knew that this wasn’t a good track for them and felt they had the third fastest car. Hamilton nearly caught Vettel midway through the race but fell away late on. Good haul of points.

Raikkonen – 7

In the battle of the number two drivers Kimi won this time. He was close to getting ahead of Hamilton and Vettel in qualifying. At a stage all three were 0.005 apart, but others improved whilst he didn’t. The cool Finn kept it out the walls and helped Ferrari outscore Mercedes.

Bottas – 6

He was off pace all weekend and at one stage it was touch and go in Q2 whether he would get through as Mercedes tried a different strategy. He left it really late to get in to the shootout. Due to his choice of tyres he had better grip which allowed him to close the gap, he didn’t have a lunge to even test Raikkonen with his better traction. 

Ocon – 9

Best of the rest from the Frenchman, only 5 seconds behind Bottas. Force India tend to not be known for their downforce and more their top speed hence previous results at Baku. Great qualifying and racecraft, a seasoned veteran now.

Gasly – 8

Pierre continues to impress, technically still a rookie season as he only drove for a few races last year from Round 15 onwards. The Honda engines not as bad in previous years, especially Monaco hiding the disadvantage. He battled with Alonso and Hulkenburg whilst keeping it clean. A long stint on the hypersoft gave him this chance, an opportunistic driver.

Hulkenberg – 7

A points finish after his two DNF’s in Baku and Barcelona. Just what he needed, he may of been out qualified on Saturday but a strong drive on Sunday gave him what he more often than not achieves for his team, points!

Verstappen – 6

The Dutchman needs to learn that sometimes you don’t need to go 100%. This was costly for him over the weekend when clearly Red Bull had the fastest car. A crash in FP3 in the swimming pool section, identical to a crash in 2016 cost him action in qualifying. The car was not rebuilt in time after a deeper look and had to start last. Max was more like himself on Sunday from great overtakes to score points but feel he was thinking about race win prior to third practice. Disapointing once again, involved in a collision somehow in the last six Grand Prix weekends.

Sainz – 6

The Spaniard had an unimpressive Sunday and left the principality with only one point after qualifying so well. He did a great job to defend his position from Ericcson at the end. 

Ericcson – 7

A good race in the streets of Monaco for the Swede. Finished in a solid P11, and was right up Sainz’s gearbox for the final stages. Seems a Sunday driver more than a Saturday, made the most positions up besides Verstappen.

Perez – 5

Finished 47 seconds behind his team mate which would of dented his confidence within himself. He had great pace as got through to Q3 but only went backwards on Sunday. Great potential, left with nothing.

Magnussen – 5

Out performed his team mate in a poor weekend for the Haas team. Hopefully just a blip for the Dane, has raced well at upcoming tracks but no joy in Monaco. Rather little happened to comment.

Vandoorne – 5

Another performance where very little was seen of him. Finished the race behind his starting grid position. He did have the pace it seemed in practice but it fell away on Sunday.

Grosjean – 4

Romain was already in hot water as he carried a three place grid penalty over from Barcelona. Haas where of form and couldn’t get their car in the sweet spot, so much so they ran 19th and 20th for the early laps. Grosjean seems to be in a rut and this race did him no favours.

Sirotkin – 6

The result hides what a great early weekend he had. He blitzed his team mate and made Q2. He suffered from two punctures but seems to be finally getting to grips with the Williams.

Stroll – 5

Sirotkin made Stroll look silly as a whole this weekend. The Canadian qualified P18 and was nowhere to anyone in the race. Finished last of who took the chequered flag. Williams as a whole hope Canada, a more power influenced track will push them up the grid.

Leclerc – 7

His record at Monaco isn’t that hot, and it continues. He failed to finish in both Formula 2 races last year. A brake failure ended his day early as he collided with Hartley. He couldn’t avoid the incident so unlike Verstappen his rating wasn’t hindered by it. Once more made it into Q2 and qualified strongly.

Hartley – 6

A waste of such a good weekend for Toro Rosso and on this side of the garage. Seventh fastest in practice as he failed to get out of Q3. He collided on the first lap damaging his car. Taken out by Leclerc but the pressure continues to mount.

Alonso – 6

I wonder if Fernando would of liked to be in America once again rather than Monaco. A gearbox failure on the front straight whilst battling with Gasly late on ended his race. He was deep into the points and raced well. Not a fan of Monaco this year and had a few choice words to say to the media.

We go from the heavily downforce influenced track of Monaco to the more power influenced track of Montreal in Canada in 2 weeks time. Renault and Honda are bringing substantial upgrades to their engines which should help the teams that use them. 

The main questions are if this would help Red Bull still keep the top step of the podium or will Mercedes bounce back to the top?