Friday, 19 April 2013
The pre season posed more questions than answers. Would this be Pedrosa's year? Will Rossi be able to recapture his previous powers? Will Lorenzo make a mistake? Will Marquez be able to step into the shoes of Stoner? Will Ducati find hope?
A new F1 style qualifying format lead to a 'Q2' field that was much as expected, however the new format caught up a number of the big names. Lorenzo on pole was not a surprise, but Crutchlow in second definitely was. You get the sense that the indignation of not having full factory support is worth at least 3 or 4 tenths for Cal. Dovi in fourth was a ray of sunshine for Ducati, made all the more impressive by beating Marquez in 6th and Rossi in 7th.
So 2 of the big 4 were outside the top 5. When the race started, it was really a tale of 2 fields. One was the sole realm of Lorenzo, who disappeared from pole and was never seen again. His metronomic times are now the stuff of legend, but it was so effective that we barely saw Lorenzo on the coverage.
The second field was a cracker. Watching Lorenzo disappear, Pedrosa focused on keeping his rookie team mate and Crutchlow behind. Rossi started well, tailing Pedrosa but overcooked his corner entry on lap 3, bending his brake lever protector and running off track. The next 10 laps seemed to be a fight for second between the Repsols and Crutchlow. Marquez surprised many with his controlled aggression, keeping his trademark bruising style in check.
The apparent strengths and weaknesses of the Hondas vs. Yamahas persist into 2013. The sweet mid corner handling of the Yamaha that Rossi has craved for the past 2 years interplayed with the much stronger drive from the Honda seamless shift transmission and higher engine power. No where was this more apparent that in the mid race battle between Crutchlow and the Repsol twins. Working his backside off to close up on the back of the Hondas, Crutchlow was powerless to fight their straight line speed.
Having had to battle with Bradl and Dovi after his early off, Rossi started to come into the frame with 10 laps to go. Chipping away a gap of about 5 seconds to Crutchlow, Rossi displayed an ability to rattle off fast laps that we have not seen since the failed Ducati experiment started. The collective motorcycling world held its breath as the Rossi of old (rather than the impostor wearing his leathers that we ahve seen for the past 2 years) reappeared. Consistently reducing the gap to the Repsol/Cruthlow trio by 0.5secs per lap, Rossi caught the battle for the podium with 5 laps to go. As Marquez finally moved on Pedrosa, Rossi used the carrot of watching Marquez disappearing to pass Crutchlow on the straight and then home in on Pedrosa. Rossi achieved what Crutchlow couldn't, finding a gap up the inside of Pedrosa setting a scene for a showdown between the old school and the very new school.
Of all the riders in the current paddock, Rossi has been the most complimentary of Marquez. He sees a lot of himself in the rookie, who has truly stunned the GP paddock with the ease he has adapted his small frame to the complexities and brutality of the 1000cc machines. Watching them dice for the last 3 laps was the most excitement we've seen since Lorenzo first entered the class. All credit to Marquez, despite being passed with 3 laps to go, he refused to be intimidated and regained second place briefly. The old man would have been impressed, but stamped his authority 2 corners later and was not to be caught. Realising that a podium on debut ahead of his team mate was at astake, Marquez kept his head to take 3rd.
What a race!