The VROOM Blog #BritishGP – Bagnaia makes it back-to-back wins with victory at Silverstone
After a summer break that felt much longer than five weeks, MotoGP was back this weekend for the British GP at Silverstone. A fair amount of the talk heading into the weekend was about the long lap penalty that Championship leader Fabio Quartararo would have to take during the race following his mistake in the Dutch GP which also impacted the race of closest championship rival – I know, I still can’t believe I’m writing that! – Aleix Espargaro.
I spoke quite a bit about the penalty last time out, so I wont bang on about it again, but it does appear that the vast majority of Fabio’s competitors are of the same opinion as me – the sanction is nonsense. Aleix Espargaro, Jack Miller, Pecco Bagnaia and Alex Rins were all asked their opinion of the penalty in the pre-GP press conference and all four of them agreed on two points – that Fabio didn’t deserve a penalty, and that the stewards need to be more consistent in their application of penalties.
There has been confirmation over the summer break that Suzuki have reached an agreement with Dorna to leave MotoGP at the end of the season. They will also be leaving the World Endurance Championship too, which seems wilder to me than their decision to leave MotoGP – they are reigning champions and look on course to retain the championship this season.
In light of this news, LCR announced that current Suzuki rider Alex Rins will join them in place of Alex Marquez (who is off to Gresini) for the 2023 and 2024 seasons. When asked this weekend about the second LCR seat – currently held by Taka Nakagami – team boss Lucio Cecchinello said that the decision regarding that seat is with HRC, and that the seat is reserved for and Asian rider. Lucio said that there are currently two clear options for the seat – Taka or Ai Ogura – but that there may also be a third option who he declined to name, but is presumably Ai’s Moto2 team mate Somkiat Chantra.
Sylvain Guintoli reported over the weekend that should Taka lose the LCR seat, he has already agreed to move to a test rider role, but whether that be at the end of this or next season remains to be seen. I can see Taka staying for one more year in the LCR squad – Ai Ogura has already said that he feels he needs another year in Moto2 before moving up to MotoGP, and to be fair if he and his management have any sense, they’d hang back this season to give HRC the time to develop the bike, because I certainly wouldn’t want to be jumping on the Honda in its current state as a rookie!
Talking of Honda, Marc Marquez has been cleared to “enter the next stage of his recovery and begin physiotherapy with the right arm and cardio training”. He will undergo another check in around three weeks.
Andrea Dovizioso announced ahead of the weekend that he will retire this season, but rather than seeing the season out, his final race will be at Misano with Cal Crutchlow stepping in for the remainder of the season. While it may have come as a surprise to some that Dovi is leaving before the end of the season, the Italian explained that he has never felt comfortable with the bike, and quite frankly you can understand why he is choosing to walk away early. Yamaha have now found themselves in a situation similar to Honda – their once rider-friendly bike is now much more challenging and it seems that only one rider – Quartararo – is able to extract anything from the bike. It isn’t as though Dovi (and Franky for that matter) have suddenly lost all of their talent and ability on a motorcycle.
I think it’s nice that Dovi will get to bow out at his home race in front of his home fans, and I wish him all the best in whatever comes next for him.
Track action finally got underway for the first time in five weeks with FP1 on Friday morning, and Aprilia duo Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales were lapping together early in the session while Fabio Quartararo set to work cleaning up the long lap loop area with multiple laps of the penalty area throughout the session.
The early part of the session saw a crash for Pecco Bagnaia and a break down for Quartararo, who was helped back to pit lane by none other than Jack Miller and his taxi service!
Johann Zarco topped the session in spite of a crash, ahead of Pecco Bagnaia, Alex Rins and Fabio Quartararo.
FP2 saw crashes for Darryn Binder and Jack Miller, before the first appearance of some new aero on the Ducatis of Enea Bastianini and Jorge Martin. Dubbed the ‘stegosaurus’, the new aero features four fins on the back of the seat unit, and it did appear on the Factory Ducatis of Miller and Bagnaia as the weekend progressed.
The session was topped by Fabio Quartararo ahead of Joan Mir, Maverick Viñales, Johann Zarco and Aleix Espargaro. The only rider not to have improved his time from the morning session was Tech3 rookie Raul Fernandez, who was 24th (and last) on combined times at the end of Friday.
There were no changes to the top 10 in the first half of FP3 on Saturday, but the second half of the session saw riders begin to set faster lap times as they attempted to secure a top 10 position and direct access to Q2. Johann Zarco had another crash with only 40 seconds on the clock, bringing out the yellow flags and potentially ending last gasp attempts to improve lap times for his rivals.
It was Aleix Espargaro who set the fastest time of the session, and he would be joined in Q2 by Martin, Miller, Zarco, Viñales, Quartararo, Bagnaia, Mir, Marini and Rins, while the remaining riders would have to do battle in Q1.
The early stages of FP4 saw Raul Fernandez being taken back to his garage on a taxi-bike following a blow-up for his KTM. With just over 20 minutes to go in the session, Aleix Espargaro had a monster high-side that slammed his legs onto the ground. The Aprilia rider stayed on the ground, clearly in pain and had to be stretchered to the side of the track where he was then able to get to his feet and walk – albeit very gingerly and with support from marshals on either side of him.
Aleix was taken straight to the medical centre and just after the end of the session, news filtered through that he had been declared fit and was planning to attempt to ride in qualifying.
Back on track, Fabio was once again trying out the long lap as he worked to ensure that he would lose as little time as possible when he took the penalty in the race. There were crashes in the session for Taka Nakagami and Darryn Binder, and the session was topped by Zarco from Viñales and Miller.
The Q1 session kicked off a bit like a Moto3 session with riders cruising on their out laps, although Franky Morbidelli was off on his own as he attempted to join team mate Quartararo in Q2. After the first couple of laps, Franky was in 2nd place behind Marco Bezzecchi. Alex Marquez crashed all on his own after a bit of to-and-fro with Bezzecchi, and the Spaniard appeared to be furious with the Italian, throwing a fist full of gravel and waving his arms around. I’m not sure what Alex’s problem was, but that crash was all his own doing and there was no need for such childish behaviour.
After the first set of runs, it was Enea Bastianini and Miguel Oliveira who held the top two slots with Franky and Bez hot on their heels. Bezzecchi found himself baulked by a slow-moving Stefan Bradl and the incident was investigated and Bradl was handed a 3-place grid penalty, perfectly illustrating the inconsistencies in penalties as Simone Corsi was handed a long lap penalty for the same crime in Moto2 this weekend…
Anyway, by the end of the session it was Bastianini and Marco Bezzecchi who were fastest and would progress through to Q2.
Q2 began with Aleix hobbling to his bike, but the Aprilia rider was determined to get through the session, and he remained sitting atop his bike when he came into the pits mid-session for a tyre change. After the first runs it was Fabio, Jack and Maverick who held the provisional front row.
Aleix headed back out and promptly set the fastest ever two-wheel lap of Silverstone, but he wasn’t the only one on a hot pace, and he was bumped down to 6th place as Miller, Zarco, Fabio, Pecco and Maverick all set times under the lap record! It was Johann Zarco who claimed his 8th MotoGP pole position – would this be the weekend we finally see the return of the Zarco race-winning backflip, or would Zarco further extend his run as the rider with most poles without taking a win?
Zarco would be joined on the front row by Maverick Viñales – who takes his first front row start with Aprilia – and Jack Miller, with Fabio, Pecco and Aleix lining up on the second row.
Following the qualifying sessions, Aprilia team boss Massimo Rivola spoke with Natalie Quirk and he didn’t seem sure at all whether or not Aleix would be able to race on Sunday, but said that they would make a decision in the morning. Aleix was out on track in morning warm up, and Aprilia released an update to say that the Spaniard would race.
Morning warm up was topped by Viñales from Rins and Mir.
The riders lined up on the grid under sunny skies, and as the lights went out it was Zarco who grabbed the holeshot and led into turn 1 ahead of Quartararo, Miller, Bagnaia and Rins, with Aprilia duo Viñales and Espargaro just behind them.
Before they had even reached turn 1, Enea Bastianini and Marco Bezzecchi had contact which resulted in Enea losing a wing from the front left of his Ducati.
As the second lap got underway, Quartararo was given his long lap penalty notice as he and Zarco edged a little ahead of their rivals. Alex Rins and Jorge Martin passed Bagnaia and Aleix for 4th and 7th respectively, and on lap 4 Fabio executed his long lap penalty, losing only 3 places as he slotted in to 5th place, just ahead of Maverick Viñales.
On lap 5 all hopes of a race-winning backflip ended when Zarco crashed out of the lead, gifting the race lead to Jack Miller who was soon passed by Alex Rins. Jack was having none of it though and passed Rins straight back. Rins was able to make the move stick a lap later, and Jorge Martin passed Viñales for 5th place before passing Quartararo a lap later to elevate himself to 4th, while Pecco Bagnaia moved up to 2nd at the expense of his team mate Miller.
As Joan Mir passed Aleix for 7th, Viñales was swarming all over the back of Fabio’s Yamaha and it wasn’t long before Top Gun was through on the Championship leader for 5th.
On lap 12 Pecco passed Rins to lead the race, and received a track limits warning a lap later – he would have to be careful for the rest of the race! There were a fair few moves taking place at this point of the race as Viñales and Martin battled back and forth over 4th place, Enea passed Aleix for 8th and Miller passed Rins for 2nd place.
Joan Mir – who has had a torrid run of form since Suzuki announced their departure from MotoGP – crashed out of the race at turn 7, before Maverick was able to pass Martin and keep him behind him. Alex Rins didn’t have the best lap 17, losing out to both Maverick and Martin as Maverick made his way into podium contention in 3rd place.
It wasn’t long before Maverick was past Miller for 2nd place and set about closing the small gap that Pecco had in front. On the penultimate lap of the race, Maverick took the lead from Pecco but immediately ran wide allowing Pecco to re-take the lead. It looked like Maverick might be able to line up a move for the win, but running wide into the first corner of the final lap put him on the back foot and Pecco was able to hold on and take the win, becoming the 8th different rider to win in the last 8 races held at Silverstone.
Maverick secured 2nd place – his best result since joining Aprilia, and Jack Miller rounded out the podium with 3rd place and an epic stoppie into the pit lane!
Pecco Bagnaia – who had looked to be out of the championship fight this season – has certainly livened things up a bit in the battle for the 2022 crown. He has cut his deficit to current leader Quartararo to 49 points, which is still a fair chunk of points to make up, but Fabio said after the race that Pecco is a definite threat and that he is more worried about him than Aleix as the season progresses.
Despite their issues this weekend – Fabio’s long lap penalty and Aleix’s injury – the top two in the championship finished in 8th and 9th, which means that Fabio has extended his lead over Aleix by 1 point to 22.
There is a weekend off before the paddock reconvenes at the Red Bull Ring for the Austrian GP, and we can expect news from KTM about at least one of their Tech3 seats for next season. Pit Beirer has confirmed that they will make an announcement at their home GP – paddock rumour strongly suggests this will be Pol Espargaro – but that they are allowing a little more time before announcing the second “younger” rider.
It did look likely that Remy Gardner would hold on to the seat for next year, but with Augusto Fernandez on a strong run of results in Moto2, there might be some difficult decisions to be made at KTM.