MotoGP Jerez Race Report: Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Hayden Podium in Crazy, Rain-Soaked GP

What Happens When Rain is an Enemy of Racers and Friend of Exciting Racing

9:08am EST — Jorge Lorenzo won the 2011 Spanish Grand Prix as seemingly the only rider to not crash out of the race. Ailing countryman Dani Pedrosa finished second after drifting well back during the race, with Nicky Hayden completing the podium, holding off Hiroshi Aoyama on the straight. Early on, Casey Stoner led, until he was overtaken by Marco Simoncelli. Stoner was under attack from Valentino Rossi when Ducati’s front end issues slid the Italian off and Stoner with him. Rossi rejoined and fought back to finish fifth while Stoner did not continue. Ben Spies was in position to finish second with a lap or two left, until he slid out, leaving Colin Edwards to finish on the podium. Except, he also had issues and was unable to finish the race. The rain and slippery conditions made for some exciting and shocking racing.

Stoner (1:38.757) continued his domination of the early MotoGP season, winning pole despite an incident on his final lap during Saturday’s qualifying. Teammate Pedrosa was second fastest while Lorenzo, who spent much of the session in the provisional pole position, completed the first row for Sunday’s starting grid. Spies started just behind Stoner, with Simoncelli and Dovizioso completing the second row. Many riders lost front end grip and slid out during the qualifying session, including Valentino Rossi. He was unhurt, but ended the session twelfth fastest on his backup bike, behind the Ducatis of Hayden (7th) and fellow crasher de Puniet (11th). Stoner was fastest again in the morning warm-up, though the damp conditions jumbled up the typical running order. Rossi was second fastest, with Dovizioso, Hayden, and Lorenzo completing the top five.

Rain was falling heavily before the race began, and the race officially started a wet one. Stoner led into the front turn, as Lorenzo slid into second through the turn, with Simoncelli into third and Dovizioso fourth. Stoner quickly attempted a gap, moving out with a lead of eight tenths by the end of the lap. Pedrosa driften well back though the first two laps, and was down to ninth by the end of them. Rossi was the shocking rider of the first few laps, moving up to sixth, then pushing hard past Spies. Meanwhile, former teammate Lorenzo was running after Stoner. He was just .390 behind the leader at the end of the third lap. Continue reading

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MotoGP Jerez Quali Report: Stoner Takes Pole, Many Crash in Cool Temps

What Happens When Things That Looked Rosy, Aren’t

9:12am EST — Casey Stoner (1:38.757) continued his domination of the early MotoGP season, winning pole for the Spanish Grand Prix despite an incident on his final lap. Teammate Dani Pedrosa was second fastest while Jorge Lorenzo, who spent much of the session in the provisional pole position, completed the first row for Sunday’s starting grid. His factory Yamaha teammate Ben Spies will start just behind Stoner, with Marco Simoncelli and Andrea Dovizioso completing the second row. Many riders lost front end grip and slid out during the cool qualifying session, including Valentino Rossi. He was unhurt, but ended the session twelfth fastest, behind the Ducatis of Nicky Hayden (7th) and fellow crasher Randy de Puniet (11th).

Practices at Jerez continued much as they were at the season opening round at Qatar, with the Repsol Hondas quickest Friday and Saturday. Stoner was first fastest on Friday, followed by Pedrosa and and apparently quickly recovering Rossi. In the morning, Simoncelli and Lorenzo completed the fastest five, while Pedrosa led Stoner, Lorenzo, Simoncelli, and Rossi in the afternoon session.

Saturday morning, the standings remained much the same, with Pedrosa fastest, Stoner second, Simoncelli, Lorenzo, and de Puniet the top five. Rossi was sixth fastest. Time were slowest Friday afternoon, with cooler temperatures and gusts of winds causing complaints from the riders. John Hopkins made his return to MotoGP to fill in at Suzuki for the injured Alvaro Bautista, who broke his leg in a practice crash at Qatar.

Qualifying continued to be a cool and windy affair, with clouds covering the Spanish sky. Ten minutes into the hour session, Lorenzo (1:39.430) led Pedrosa, Simoncelli, Stoner, Aoyama, Rossi, Spies, de Puniet, Crutchlow, and Dovizioso. About five minutes later, Rossi had crashed at Turn 6, walking away and riding back to the garage on a scooter to continue qualifying. Moments later, Aoyama suffered a similar but force fate, losing the front and getting smacked in the left leg by the rear wheel of his Honda. He was carried off the track on a stretcher but was soon back in the garage. Quickly, both Rossi and Aoyama were back out to improve their times. Continue reading

MotoGP Jerez, Results & Full Race Report: Lorenzo Led at the End, but Pedrosa Dominated from Pole

What Happens When It’s the Beginning and the End That Are Exciting

8:58am EST — Jorge Lorenzo won a race that looked as though it were in the sole possession of countryman Dani Pedrosa, who led from pole until halfway through the final lap and finished second after some close fighting with Lorenzo.  Valentino Rossi finished third, with Nicky Hayden and Casey Stoner’s Ducatis rounding out the top five.  While the MotoGP Spanish GP from Jerez did not live up to the incredibly exciting racing of the season opener in Qatar, the two young Spaniards made up for it at the end.  Mika Kallio had a great race to finish in seventh, while the satellite Yamaha’s of Colin Edwards and Ben Spies did not fare so well, finishing twelfth and not at all, respectively.

Despite a postponed race last weekend due to the volcanic ash cloud, qualifying showed the bike mad Spanish crowds the sort of show they wanted, with the end result being two Spaniards on on the front role, with Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo, Casey Stoner, and Valentino Rossi the top four qualifiers.  American Ducati rider Nicky Hayden seems to have shaken off the gremlins from his first season at Ducati, qualifying fifth.  Pedrosa’s problems with the Honda continued, as he changed chassis and set up multiple times, despite his good qualifying.  Rossi still suffered from his injured shoulder and cracked humerus, while Lorenzo’s thumb seemed to be quite healed, though still not 100%.

Pedrosa got a good start from pole, maintaining the lead into the first turn, with Rossi just behind from the second row.  Hayden also got a fabulous start, slotting into a solid third and challenging Rossi for second.  Behind, Stoner was behind Lorenzo in fifth, with Ben Spies very close behind. Randy de Puniet, meanwhile, had a terrible start, sliding backward amongst the pack. Continue reading

F1: Complete 2010 Pre-Season Testing Analysis

What Happens When Simplification Is the Only Way

3:35pm EST — After fifteen days of watching lap times and red flags and hearing the teams bemoan wet and windy conditions, one has to wonder, what does it all mean?  Simply put, those watching have really no idea what any of the faster or slower lap times mean, if only because each team used the on-track time given to them differently.  Sometimes they practiced qualifying, sometimes races, and sometimes a given team barely made it onto the track, with hydraulic difficulties or a lack of spare parts after an off.  In fact, most of those covertly watching their competitors are pretty clear that they don’t know how the other teams are fairing.

The general consensus is that Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes GP, and Red Bull are the teams that will do well through the 2010 season.  But no one is really certain.  One thing that can be determined from all of these times is which teams were consistently faster than the others, not by lap time, but by how many of their competitors they were faster than on any given day.  If you have been reading my analysis after the test session, you’ll be familiar with my methods.  Simply put, I think that if a team is, more often than not, faster than the bulk of the other teams, that team is likely in good shape for the upcoming season.  It is a bit oversimplified, but with all the knowledge we are lacking, it seems to be the easiest way to make some sort of determination.  At the end of this analysis, a faux winner will be declared in the faux “testing championship” we have just concluded.  Click through to read the entire winter’s testing analyis… Continue reading

F1 News: Webber Tops Jerez Day 3, Carbante Takes Over Campos

What Happens When the Jury is Still Out

12:01am EST — A Red Bull driven by Mark Webber set the fastest lap time of all 2010 testing at Jerez, and Jose Ramon Carbante officially took over Campos Meta for 2010.

Webber Tops First Fully Dry Session at Jerez: (to see my full analysis at F1B, click on this headline link)
The spirits in of everyone in Jerez seemed to be much higher Friday, with a nearly completely dry day of testing.  In fact, no complaint was to be found on Twitter about the conditions, even with a torrential rainstorm Thursday night that flooded some of the garages.  With spirits high about the weather, the times were also the fastest of this session, and Mark Webber’s fastest time (1:19.299) was the fastest of all testing at Jerez this year, so far.  Following him were Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Nico Hulkenberg, and Michael Schumacher, with just over 2.3 seconds covering the top five lap times.  Here are the unofficial times from the official Formula1 website:
1. Mark Webber, Red Bull, 1:19.299, 115 Laps
2. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1:20.115, 132 Laps
3. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:20.394, 101 Laps
4. Nico Hulkenberg, Williams, 1:21.432, 138 Laps
5. Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP, 1:21.437, 79 Laps
6. Robert Kubica, Renault, 1:21.916, 100 Laps
7. Adrian Sutil, Force India, 1:21.939, 69 Laps
8. Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber, 1:22.228, 28 Laps
9. Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso, 1:22.564, 120 Laps
10. Lucas di Grassi, Virgin Racing, 1:23.504, 34 Laps
11. Heikki Kovalainen, LotusF1, 1:23.521, 68 Laps
What does all this mean?  Yet again, it’s hard to say.  This is the first day run at Jerez with not rain falling during the session.  The times are still slower than those posted by the drivers at the young driver’s test late last year, but the fuel loads and race-inspired set-ups are likely quite different than the set-ups used then.  All that can be determined is that the Ferrari looks to be a solid engine for this season, with all the laps put on it by Ferrari, Toro Rosso, and Sauber, and some of them quite quick.  The Mercedes engine also seems to be doing well.  The Renault fluctuates, and Red Bull have already had to change one of theirs.  The Cosworth, on the Williams, is doing pretty well, but floundering a bit with the new teams who are still working out the kinks in the design and spare parts lockers.  Saturday is the final day of testing before most of the teams move on to Barcelona.  Look for a final analysis of this four day session tomorrow, along with the times posted in what looks to be another drier day in Spain.

Carbante Takes Over Campos to Prep for 2010:
As was previously reported as speculation here at On Any Sunday, These Days yesterday, Jose Ramon Carbante has taken over Campos Meta in order to prepare the team for the season opener in Bahrain.  According to an article at the official Formula1 website, “Spanish businessman Carabante has appointed former Force India boss Colin Kolles as team principal and says they fully expect to make their race debut at next month’s Bahrain Grand Prix.”  Carbante himself thanked Bernie Ecclestone for working “tremendously to support our efforts to keep the team viable.” He also noted that, “the whole rescue operation has been a race against time with the goal of always having the team run two competitive cars at the first Grand Prix of the F1 season.”
Speculation continues as to who the second driver (likely alongside already announced Brazilian Bruno Senna) will be, with many believing that Jose Maria Lopez, who has also been recently meeting with Ecclestone, has jumped ship from USF1 and will join the Spanish team.  It is believed (as reported by F1 journalist Adam Cooper on his personal site) that Carbante and Kolles will soon bring in the money required to ensure chassis delivery from Dallara and that much of the operation will be run from Dallara for the near future.  Cooper spoke with Kolles on Friday, and Kolles reported that things at Campos were “basically nothing, only chaos. The only department which is basically existing is a software department, with eight guys who never saw an F1 car in their lives, and who are doing software simulation programmes. And then there are two or three engineers with F1 experience, and that’s it. The real story is a crazy story, you understand.”  That feels like a most excellent final word, at least until more information is available.

F1 News: Rubens Tops Jerez Day 2, Sato Signs IndyCar Contract, Merger Rumors Continue

What Happens When It’s Hard to Say What to Say

12:02am EST — The Williams goes to the top of the timesheets in a wet and breezy Jerez, former F1 driver Takuma Sato signs with KV Racing in IndyCar, and the rumors and innuendos continue to swirl about a sort of merger between USF1 and Campos, or at least USF1 driver Jose Maria Lopez (and possibly investor and YouTube founder Chad Hurley) and a reincarnation of Campos.

Jerez Test 2, Day 2: (shortened version of my analysis available at F1B; click the headline link to see the entire story)
In a surprising move, Rubens Barrichello set the fastest time of the Thursday session, 1:27.145, putting Williams on top.  Even more surprising was Vitaly Petrov’s second fastest time in the Renault, about .7 back.  Lewis Hamilton, however, dropped from fastest yesterday to tenth today.  Red flags continued to fly as drivers spun on the wet track, including one for Heikki Kovalainen’s crash into a tire barrier, for which he was apologetic, “Had a crash and damaged front wing, session over for us. S..t! My mistake, tomorrow we go again…”
1. Rubens Barrichello, Williams, 1:27.145, 70 Laps
2. Vitaly Petrov, Renault, 1:27.828, 57 Laps
3. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1:28.162, 92 Laps
4. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes GP, 1:28.515, 57 Laps
5. Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 1:28.879, 33 Laps
6. Pedro de la Rosa, Sauber, 1:29.691, 8 Laps
7. Paul di Resta, Force India,1:30.344, 56 Laps
8. Timo Glock, Virgin Racing, 1:30.476, 98 Laps
9. Tonio Liuzzi, Force India, 1:30.666, 71 Laps
10. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, 1:31.633, 72 Laps
11. Sebastian Buemi, Toro Rosso, 1:32.678, 24 Laps
12. Heikki Kovalainen, LotusF1, 1:33.554, 30 Laps

Sato Signs IndyCar Racing Contract:
According to ITV, former F1 driver Takuma Sato will race in IndyCar in 2010 for KV Racing.  The team, run by former IndyCar champion Jimmy Vasser, “is a team with massive potential and great team spirit,” according to Sato, who lost a  possible F1 seat at Toro Rosso to Sebastian Bourdais, and who last drove in F1 for Super Aguri.  This is likely the best move, as there are a few recent F1 drivers who have no full-season racing contract for 2010, in any series.  Sato also noted that, “I am also really motivated by the chance to be fighting at the front of the field, something I have missed in recent seasons.”

Possible Move to a New Version of Campos for Lopez:
After yesterday’s dire news for USF1, and the note that their only driver, Jose Maria Lopez, was in England, meeting with Bernie Ecclestone and working with his management to secure a drive with another team this season, continued hints of the future swirl about.  Autosport, on Thursday, published an article detailing a possible restructure of Campos Meta to save it, with Jose Ramon Carbante taking over, and having “engaged ex-Force India team principal Colin Kolles and ex-Red Bull technical director Geoff Willis on a short-term basis.”
Interestingly enough, freelance F1 journalist Adam Cooper has pulled together information suggesting that Lopez, and possibly USF1 investor Chad Hurley, are also part of the deal, as helped along by Ecclestone.  In an article published on his personal website and by AutoWeek, Cooper wrote late Thursday (early Friday, GMT), “It’s a complex arrangement that will presumably see original Campos investor Jose Ramon Carabante taking charge, while former Midland/Spyker/Force India boss Colin Kolles is putting a team together to run the Dallara-Cosworths…Although he would not be divulge any details, Kolles told AutoWeek on Thursday that an announcement could come soon. Meanwhile, when we tried to track Lopez down on Thursday evening, he was in a London pub, and may well have been celebrating.”
USF1 remains, as it has been, silent on the future of the team, these suggestions that their only driver and main sponsor have left the team, and in general.  It seems an odd situation, but this is Formula1.  Apparently, the drama in the sport, not having been seen much in rain-soaked Jerez, will continue in boardrooms and the offices of the FOM.

F1 News: Jerez Day 1 (Test 2), Continued Dire Rumors About USF1

What Happens When the Day is Equally Exciting and Sad

12:02am EST —  News from F1 on Wednesday were equal parts interesting and disheartening, with another day of testing in Jerez to tax one’s analysis and rumors out of Argentina about the viability of USF1.

Vettel Tops First Day of Second Jerez Test: (as I posted at F1B earlier in the day)
Testing began again in Jerez with continued rain and damp conditions, and the drivers were not able to set times as fast as the young drivers late last year or the fastest times set on Friday.  Sebastian Vettel was fastest for Red Bull in the day-long session (1:22.593) that saw multiple red flags, driver changes at Force India, and another day of low laps run for Virgin Racing.  In an amusing turn, the official Red Bull Twitter account (cleverly named Red Bull Spy), noted “Seb top of the timesheets today and as usual driving like a man with his underpants on fire. He doesn’t really get the concept of ‘testing’.”
Lewis Hamilton was second fastest, with Felipe Massa in the Ferrari third, about .7 back from Vettel.  Ferrari, however, were not pleased, noting on Twitter, “Honestly, it was not a very productive day for the team. Anyway, we did what we could.”
LotusF1, in their debut, stopped about an hour early after running seventy-six laps.  According to the team, Tony Fernandes, and Mike Gascoyne Twitter accounts, Fauzy was driving without power steering, due to a supplier issue and not a mechanical problem.  He did, however, complete the laps necessary to obtain his Superlicense after FIA approval.  With Williams in tenth, LotusF1 in eleventh, and Virgin Racing in twelfth, all the Cosworth-powered cars were lumped together at the bottom of the timesheet.  Williams, through Claire Williams on Twitter, continues to note that “Rubens is doing long runs to check systems this morning” and “Rubens is doing set-up work this afternoon” and that the times are not necessarily representative.  As per usual, none of the times are truly representative of a usually dry race, with the wet weather, heavy or light fuel loads, and changes to set-up specially made for testing.  It all begins again Thursday morning, so pack up the galoshes.  To see the full list of times and further analysis, follow the headline link.

The USF1 Story from Argentina:
There are pointed rumors and stories coming out of Argentina suggesting that the team is seriously floundering and unlikely to make the 2010 season.  Argentina is the home country of the team’s single contracted driver, Jose Maria “Pechito” Lopez.  While nothing has been confirmed by the team, industry sources and those close to the team suggest to F1B that these rumors might be based in fact.
La Voz del Interior
, the newspaper from Lopez’ home province of Cordoba, Argentina, ran a story Wednesday saying (in the original Spanish here), “Peter Windsor, sporting director of the team, gathered at the headquarters of Charlotte with the entrepreneur Felipe McGough [Pechito’s manager] and Jose Lopez (father), he admits that it will not build F1 cars of the U.S. within the agreed timeframe and, with tears in eyes, do not know what to do with your project.”  The article continues, “so little money was coming into the U.S. F1 Cosworth had not sent the engines and was working in a ‘imitation” of the impeller’ ” and notes that “Argentina agreed to pay up-way Automóvil Club Argentino-two million dollars, of which, 830 thousand and were deposited in a U.S. bank account.”  While Google’s translation is, as always, a bit wonky, the meaning is clear: in Argentina, word on USF1 is that the team will not race in 2010.
Adding insult to injury, Lopez’s official website later confirmed the meeting in Charlotte (though not of the details of the meeting) and the subsequent meetings in Europe with Bernie Ecclestone (here in Spanish).