Notes From the Television Screen: F1 @ Bahrain

Sebastian Vettel took his first win of the 2012 season at the Bahrain Grand Prix, holding off an occasionally charging Kimi Raikkonen. Romain Grosjean made it a double Lotus podium after a lightning start while Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg completed the top five. Lewis Hamilton dropped well down the order to finish eighth through two extraordinary long pit stops from McLaren while teammate Jenson Button was forced to retire with an engine or exhaust issue just two laps from the end. Rosberg’s Mercedes was also sickly, with the team telling him of his own exhaust issue. He is under investigation after the race from the stewards for incidents involving both Hamilton and seventh-place finishing Fernando Alonso. Both Germans in the top five pulled immediately off at the pit lane exit after crossing the line to finish the race. Paul Di Resta managed a career best sixth place finish. Meanwhile, Michael Schumacher managed to scrap a single point despite starting twenty-second. Read the full race report at Formula1Blog…

Vettel (1:32.422) won pole in a thrilling post-session duel between himself, second place starter Hamilton, and third place starter Webber during Saturday’s qualifying. Button would have been the last man to cross the line, but scrapped his lap after a locking moment cost him a faster lap time. He qualified fourth. Rosberg, the weekend’s golden boy after Shanghai, managed only fifth fastest but was considerably better off than teammate Schumacher who got knocked out in Q1 by Heikki Kovalainen. In other champions’ news, Raikkonen dropped out in Q2, qualifying only eleventh, and Alonso just squeaked through to qualify ninth. Read the full qualifying report at Formula1Blog…

However, Rosberg led two of the three practice sessions (both Friday afternoon [1:32.816] and Saturday morning [1:33.254]). Though Hamilton (1:33.572) led Friday morning’s session, the real consistency came from the Red Bull teammates. Vettel was amongst the top five in all three sessions and Webber in two of them. Despite dusty conditions and plenty of complaining about a lack of rear grip, there were no damaging incidents in any of the practice sessions or qualifying. Most teams seemed quite happy to throw the softer tyre on early in qualifying, both looking for pace as the track evolved and seemingly not concerned with using the compound more than absolutely necessary during the race.

Force India did sit out the second practice after an incident involving team personnel and protestors occurred on Thursday. Instead, the team used that time to switch over their cars to Saturday set up and left the circuit before darkness fell. Di Resta qualified tenth and Hulkenberg thirteenth, though there were no shots of the cars seen on the world feed during qualifying.

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MotoGP Misano Results & Race Report: Pedrosa Never Gives Up the Lead

What Happens When a Pall Is Cast Over the Racing

8:52am — Dani Pedrosa dominated the MotoGP race from San Marino, with a gap nearly up to six seconds during the race over second place finisher Jorge Lorenzo while Valentino Rossi stepped up his game after returning with a still injured right leg to take the final position on the podium, eventually taking it from fifth place Casey Stoner, who dropped cback after fighting with Rossi and losing his fourth position to Andrea Dovizioso.  Loris Capirossi and Nicky Hayden crashed out in Turn 2, though Hayden attempted to continue racing, ending his race a few laps later.  Sadly, Shoya Tomizawa succumbed to injuries sustained during the Moto2 race earlier in the day, a sad ending to another MotoGP weekend.

Dani Pedrosa continued his good results from Indianapolis to take pole at Misano, despite some fast times from Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner throughout the session.  Lorenzo then Stoner were fastest early on, but Pedrosa took charge in the latter quarter of the qualifying session and only let go of pole occasionally as the other riders lost fast lap times in the third sector.  Valentino Rossi seemed to benefit from the home crowd, qualifying fourth and not crashing out as he did so often at Indianapolis.  Stoner did lose the front end but recovered after his crash to qualify third behind Lorenzo.  At the halfway point it was Stoner, Pedrosa, Rossi, Lorenzo, Ben Spies, Colin Edwards,  Andrea Dovizioso, Marco Melandri, Loris Capirossi, and Alvaro Bautista as the top ten with Nicky Hayden seemingly unable to find pace anywhere.  He languished outside of the top ten throughout the session and only qualified fourteenth.  Pedrosa continued his pace, stealing the fastest time from Lorenzo at the end of Sunday’s morning practice, where Dovizioso, Rossi, and Stoner rounded out the fastest five.

It was a darkened afternoon when the MotoGP bikes got away in San Marino, with Pedrosa leading into a very small turn one, with Stoner then Lorenzo following.  For the third time in a row, Hayden did not make it through Turn 1, crashing out with Loris Capirossi as Hayden slid outward into the Italian as he came back across the track.  It would end both of their races, though Hayden stuck it out for the first few laps.  Lorenzo took second from Stoner before the first half of the lap was over, though Pedrosa was already making a gap, Rossi was fourth with Andrea Dovizioso and Colin Edwards behind.  Spies had dropped to tenth while teammate Edwards also lost sixth position to Simoncelli.  Pedrosa continued to gain on the rest of the field as Lorenzo had nearly an equal gap back to Stoner, who had only a bit of space on Rossi.  Continue reading

MotoGP Misano Quali: Pedrosa Takes Pole Despite Some Scuffles for It

What Happens When It Looks Like Different Spaniard’s Turn

9:01am EST — Dani Pedrosa continued his good results from Indianapolis to take pole at Misano, despite some fast times from Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner throughout the session.  Lorenzo then Stoner were fastest early on, but Pedrosa took charge in the latter quarter of the qualifying session and only let go of pole occasionally as the other riders lost fast lap times in the third sector.  Valentino Rossi seemed to benefit from the home crowd, qualifying fourth and not crashing out as he did so often at Indianapolis.  Stoner did lose the front end but recovered after his crash to qualify third behind Lorenzo.  At the halfway point it was Stoner, Pedrosa, Rossi, Lorenzo, Ben Spies, Colin Edwards,  Andrea Dovizioso, Marco Melandri, Loris Capirossi, and Alvaro Bautista as the top ten with Nicky Hayden seemingly unable to find pace anywhere.  He launguised outside of the top ten throughout the session and only qualified fourteenth.

Provisional Starting Grid for the San Marnio Grand Prix:
1. Pedrosa 1:33.948
2. Lorenzo 1:34.256
3. Stoner 1:34.397
4. Rossi 1:34.470
5. Spies 1:34.472
6. de Puniet 1:34.571
7. Edwards 1:34.782
8. Dovizioso 1:34.826
9. Simoncelli 1:34.934
10. Melandri 1:35.018
11. Capirossi 1:35.096
12. Barbera 1:35.259
13. Aoyama 1:35.286
14. Hayden 1:35.303
15. Espargaro 1:35.438
16. Bautista 1:35.629
17. Kallio 1:35.724

MotoGP: Final Thoughts from Indianapolis While the Circus Sets Up in Misano

What Happens When the Show Puts on a Good Show

12:02pm EST — While some would say the premier class race lacked some of the drama it could have had (a hurricane? riders crashing out of the lead?), the third weekend at Indianapolis for MotoGP had plenty of excitement in other ways.  Valentino Rossi, likely returning a mite too early and too weak to save any number of slides, crashed so often he ran out of the Fiat 500 special livery leathers and had to race in his standard set, after which he noted that the heat and humidity this past weekend at Indy was like racing in Sepang.  Jorge Lorenzo did not, as he so often recently has, dominate the race after the first lap and run away with another twenty-five points in his championship drawer, leaving that duty to Spainsh rival Dani Pedrosa.  Importantly for the home crowd, Ben Spies won his first ever MotoGP pole with Nicky Hayden putting two Americans on the front row for the start.  His race was too soon compromised by a lose drain cover and flapping slider that left him to finish in sixth (see pictures from the race through the fence here).  But it was the sadness of the death of Peter Lenz due to injuries sustained on the warm-up lap of the MotoGPRU morning race and the elbows-legs-and-bike-bits flying of two Moto2 starts that will stick with those who attended and watched from home (see the Moto2 pictures and paddock life on Sunday here).

Speaking of attendance, it appeared down from both the inaugural race in 2008 and from last year as well, despite stellar, though hot, weather.  There were few enough fans that one could walk away from a spot on the fence at pit-out/Turn 2 in the middle of the main race and walk right back to the same opening five minutes later, as no one had filled in to take it.  That was certainly not the case during a hurricane in 2008.  Still, die-hard fans were around, going so far as to bid and pay $800 for the hat off Rossi’s head, then signed by him, during the Riders for Health auction (Saturday on-track and paddock pictures available here).

There were any number of other fan activities, from Spies and roommate Roger Lee Hayden, who was a wildcard Moto2 entry for American Honda, in a team managed by (also present) Kevin Schwantz interviewed at the war monument (see Thursday pictures from Indy here) in downtown to James Toseland and his band crash performing both downtown and at the circuit.  Riders were to be found wandering the city (Jorge Lorenzo has a taste for sushi while Spies celebrated his podium with family and entourage at St. Elmo’s Sunday night, likely leaving before his 2011 team’s mechanics and crew sat down to eat, if they don’t go to Ducati with Rossi) and the paddock at the Indy Mile dirt track Saturday.  Hayden did three exhibition laps at the Indiana Sate Fairgrounds after his Ducati contract announcement, with the fastest quick enough to qualify for a front row start to a heat race (pictures from the Indy Mile available here).  Fans were given special treatment Friday with access to the pit lane Friday morning and the ability to watch the teams clean and polish the bikes (pitwalkabout pictures available here), having already set up everything possible and not yet run any laps on the track.

In the end, the Indy race weekend, as all race weekends, gave one a better glimpse of the capabilities of the circuit and the riders that make up the MotoGP circus.  Lorenzo is very good but not perfect.  Pedrosa can run away with a race, if he can keep it together.  A little home race momentum never hurt anybody, until their leathers rip apart.  Come back from injury as soon as you are able, but know when that actually is.  and, Moto2 is officially mad, but everyone knew that already.  For everyone else, it’s past time to be in Misano.  Regular MotoGP race coverage will resume from the sofa in Pennsylvania, and better coverage will occur from the next race attended.

[UPDATE] MotoGP Indy: Images from the Entire Weekend

What Happens When There Are Too Many Pictures, and Too Many Fences

12:00am EST — One disadvantage, should there be any disadvantage, to attending a MotoGP weekend is the sheer volume of things to see, do, and process.  There’s really no complaining to be done, but it does make for slow turnaround on a volunteer MotoGP news website.  As such, the On Any Sunday, These Days pictures have finally been sorted and posted for your viewing pleasure.  Stories from each day and various updates should hold over the interested fan until action begins at Misano on Friday.  See photos from the Indy Museum, downtown events, and some track walks on Thursday; pitwalkabout and afternoon practices on Friday; morning practices, qualifying, and the paddock on Saturday, and warm-up and race action, and a view from the paddock on Sunday.  Also included are some pictures from the track, Turn 1, and the garages from the Indy Mile Saturday night, all through the above links to public albums on my Facebook page.  Most recently added are the pictures from Friday’s pitwalkabout.

MotoGP Indy: Sorting Through the News and Images

What Happens When the Gigantic Car-Racing Fence Takes Over Your Life

4:30pm EST — In the course of returning to the daily grind after attending an international motor racing series, certain things tend to be forgotten.  For example, the idea that food might need to be prepared and family and friends to hear about the weekend.  If only there had been wifi access at the track.  and, so, lovely readers, I have left you lonely and neglected whilst others demanded their just share of attention.  For that, I apologize.  I also apologize for the fact that fencing has taken over nearly every image I took at the event.  Otherwise, the only better end to the weekend of MotoGP and dirt track racing in Indianapolis might have been an American on the top step of the podium.

As a teaser of the news and images to follow, there are some shots of Nicky Hayden doing laps at the Indy Mile, of the bikes on track all weekend, and most fascinating to many readers, many images from inside the paddock.  Expect all this an more to be posted tonight.

MotoGP Indy: A Day of Heat, Offs, and Announcements

What Happens When the Heat is On

6:37pm EST — Friday at Indianapolis started with the pitwalkabout and ended with a sunburn.  The weather, as anyone affiliated with the circuit will tell you regularly is the best possible, after two years of horrible and not so great weather.  Many of the teams were quite set up and ready to go, with only cleaning and such happening around the garages Friday morning when the fans were let loose along pitlane.  There was a general groan when the garage door went down at Fiat Yamaha, as there was an interview for MotoGP with Jeremy Burgess and Valentino Rossi.  Somehow the fans gathered around didn’t know the Italian was behind the door, though the crowd dext door grew exponentially when Ben Spies signed some autographs after the first big (and already known) announcement of the weekend.  The American will replace departing Rossi at Fiat Yamaha for 2011.  Jorge Lorenzo, as he reminded a crowd later in the day, has not yet signed, but it is presumed to be only a formality.  Herve Poncharal told the assembled that he hopes to keep Colin Edwards and gain Cal Crutchlow for 2011 at Tech 3 Yamaha.

Meanwhile, IMS also announced that they had signed a deal to stay on the MotoGP calendar for 2011, though not schedulded next to Laguna Seca as many had hoped and speculated.  The schedule will be reviewed for 2012 and beyond, as the contract is only for next year.  In somewhat related news, Ducati (maybe to pay Rossi’s salary, but definitely as a response to the team’s generally terrible results so far this season) has withdrawn their World Superbike team for 2011.

The premier class bikes did not take to the track until nearly two pm, in a session marked by offs for the American riders.  Nicky Hayden slid off about halfway through and got up checking his left wrist while Ben Spies had the worst luck, sliding off at Turn 8 in the final minutes of the session.  He appeared unhurt, popping right up to check on the bike, but walked to the corner workers favoring his right wrist.  Times dropped right down  in those minutes Spies lost to his crash and return to the garage, despite Casey Stoner’s dominance of the session.  Lorenzo was a half second behind, with Hayden keeping up the momentum after his crash to be third fastest.  It was not the best session for Rossi either, with the Italian posting the fifth fastest time at the end.  Pictures will be posted later this evening or in the morning.

Final Times for FP1:
1. Stoner 1:40.884
2. Lorenzo 1:41.109
3. Hayden 1:41.405
4. Pedrosa 1:41.421
5. Rossi 1:41.623
6. Edwards 1:41.664
7. Dovizioso 1:41.683
8. Spies 1:41. 722
9. Espargaro 1:41.992
10. Melandri 1:42.147
11. Simoncelli 1:42.268
12. Barbera 1:42.368
13. Kallio 1:42.600
14. Bautista 1:42.696
15. Capirossi 1:42.790
16. Aoyama 1:42.874
17. de Puniet 1:42.987