2011 Mugello MotoGP Friday Roundup: Wet Weather, Fast Hondas, Pedrosa vs Simoncelli, And The Prospect Of More Tires

Herve Poncharal joked at Assen that if the MotoGP series wanted to find an extra source of income, it should offer to organize events in drought-stricken areas, as a MotoGP race appears to be a guarantee of rain this year. Mugello is no different: the locals say there has been no rain for weeks now - though the rich verdant green of the countryside would appear to suggest otherwise - and as soon as the MotoGP circus rolls into the Tuscan hills, the heavens part and rain falls.

The day started well enough - stunningly so, hot temperatures, clear skies - but as the morning neared an end, the clouds started to roll in. The 125cc class started with a few spots of rain, getting heavier as the MotoGP class started then drying out towards the end. So the MotoGP riders lost the best part of a session, while the wily Andrea Dovizioso posted a positively scorching time on the very last lap of the session, just as the track had dried enough to put in a good time.

Dovizioso's time belies the truth of the afternoon, though. For the first half of the session, everyone but Randy de Puniet - whether to please the sponsors or just to get some feeling with the bike - sat waiting in the garage, some venturing out to talk to passing TV commentators, others chatting idly with their mechanics and crew. The track was, as Casey Stoner said afterwards, too wet for slicks, but dry enough to destroy a rain tire should you venture out on one. Even cut slicks would have been no good, the Repsol Honda rider said, as they would have destroyed themselves just as quickly.

The delay suited some and frustrated others, the two ends of the spectrum probably represented by Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi. Pedrosa, returning to the bike for the first time since Le Mans nearly two months ago and after having had two operations on his collarbone, was glad to get a few extra hours of rest and recovery. Mugello is a hard track to come back to, especially with a weak shoulder. Braking from 330km/h for turn one, the bike balanced nicely on its nose for the downhill section, is tough enough when you are fit, let alone when the shoulder is hurting. But his collarbone held up relatively well, losing strength and increasing pain as the morning FP1 session progressed. If he can handle the pain, Pedrosa said, he should be able to last the race. A podium is too much to ask at Mugello, but he will get valuable time on the bike, with time to recover for the next two. Pedrosa has won at both the Sachsenring and Laguna Seca, and is hoping to be fit enough to be competitive there.

Valentino Rossi was deeply frustrated by the neither-one-thing-nor-the-other conditions. The morning session had been a bit of a disaster, with first one bike stopping due to an electrical problem - apparently a melted wire - then a couple of laps later, his second bike stopped with a different electrical problem. The Italian only posted 7 full laps, ending the first session down in 13th, a long way off where he needs to be.

The problems are all part of the decision to race the Ducati GP11.1. The GP12 which the 800 version is based around was still in the early stages of development, and as with all skunkworks projects, there are always a few loose ends hanging around, which you discover and fix during the testing process. That testing process has been accelerated for the GP11.1, with Rossi using the race weekends as part race, part test for 2012, which means problems like this can easily arise.

Though the new bike is much better in the rear, the pumping now completely gone, even in the hot weather of the morning session at Mugello, the front still suffers the same problems, the bike still hard to turn and lacking feedback from the front. The 1000cc GP12 that Rossi tested here a few weeks ago had less of a problem, but part of that is the different nature of the two engine capacities. The 800cc bike needs more corner speed and hence more edge grip, Rossi explained in his press debrief, whereas with the 1000, he could use the extra power to help turn the bike. From a glass-half-full perspective, Ducati have cleared one huge hurdle already, fixing the pumping that has plagued the Desmosedici almost from the start of the 800 era. With that issue dealt with, they can work on the next one, the problems at the front of the bike. That, however, remains a rather thorny problem to tackle.

What is clear from the results of the dry morning practice is that the lap record is in serious danger. Everyone praised the new surface, saying it gave much more grip than the old one, with Casey Stoner sounding the only slightly negative note, mourning the loss of the banking when the asphalt was replaced, the corners now much flatter than they were. The old layout of the track with the banked corners was naturally faster, Stoner said, but the new surface and the removal of the bumps had made it easier to go fast despite the flatter corners.

Despite a shoulder twinge - probably nerve pain or a pinched muscle, a remnant of his cold tire crash in FP2 at Assen last weekend - Stoner was confident they would get into the low 1'48s on Saturday (at least if the weather holds up), which would put them in line to match Rossi's pole record from 2008, the last year that MotoGP allowed soft qualifying tires. With three Hondas in the top three spots in FP1 - though Andrea Dovizioso was assisted by following Stoner around - it would be unwise to lay money against a Honda rider taking victory on Sunday, though the question is whether they will be playing the Australian or the Italian national anthem for the podium ceremony.

The smart money says the championship leader is the man to beat, but Simoncelli just keeps on displaying the incredible speed he has. The San Carlo Gresini rider topped the morning timesheets and looked fast and aggressive throughout. Simoncelli really needs a result on Sunday, or HRC is likely to start losing patience. He has the speed for the results, the only question mark hangs over his intelligence and attitude. The calmness and patience to wait is what will put him on the podium, qualities which Simoncelli has patently failed to display so far this year.

The fallout from yesterday's press conference - it would be fairer to say, the fallout from the Le Mans race - continued into Friday, with Dani Pedrosa once again expressing his disgust with the Italian. What had angered Pedrosa most, he told the Spanish press, was that Simoncelli had only offered to apologize when it was already too late. When asked about Simoncelli's statement that he had sent Pedrosa a text message with his apology, Pedrosa denied he had ever received it, and accused Simoncelli of lying about having sent it. "If he had come to me to apologize on Sunday at Le Mans, I would have accepted it," Pedrosa said, but what had come had been far too little, and most of all, far too late.

A ban is what Simoncelli should be given, Pedrosa said, the ride through a laughably inadequate penalty. "He does not learn," Pedrosa repeated, adding a warning of his own. "Race Direction cannot provide good safety," Pedrosa said when asked what he would do when he next faced Simoncelli, "So you must look after yourself."

Pedrosa was a victim of his own politeness, he explained, when asked to give his version of events at Le Mans. Pedrosa had left Simoncelli room on the outside, and Simoncelli took and then cut across Pedrosa's nose leaving him nowhere to go but crash. "Simoncelli overtook me in the previous corner, then I passed him back on the straight. And I didn't close the door on the outside, because I passed him before the braking zone, so I thought if I moved to the right, I will block him and maybe he has no space to brake. So I decided to stay next to him, so he had space to come beside me."

That was when it all went wrong, Pedrosa explained. "Suddenly, I see someone crossing in front of me, and getting in front of me, and that was it. And he just released the brakes, and he was on the outside, I had the inside. If he wanted really to go in, he should have waited for me to go first. In my opinion, he was nuts at this point, because first of all, he had a better rhythm than me, and so he could maybe have taken second in that race, he was on the outside, he does not have the right to take the line. Even though he said he was right, he did not make the corner, so that shows he wasn't right."

The issue even got taken to the Safety Commission, where a group of riders confronted Simoncelli about his riding. A heated argument spilled over from the meeting, with Jorge Lorenzo and Marco Simoncelli arguing publicly afterwards. Lorenzo afterwards complained that Simoncelli would not listen, saying that Pedrosa was right, he was all hair and no brains.

The Safety Commission had been originally met to discuss the tire situation. Bridgestone engineers were seen running around all of the MotoGP riders this afternoon, discussing a proposal to bring a softer step tire to Laguna Seca, just as they had offered to do for Assen. The offer is there because Laguna Seca can suffer the same kind of cool and damp conditions that the rest of the year has seen, and Bridgestone is starting to be a little concerned at the storm of criticism it has faced over the warmup time its current crop of tires require.

There could be a more permanent solution next year. A proposal has been put forward for Bridgestone to expand the tire selection from two to three different specs. Bridgestone has rejected a request to do so for the rest of this season, on the entirely reasonable grounds that the logistics required are just not feasible at such short notice. The Japanese tire company are not enthusiastic about the prospect of an extended selection for 2012 either, given the extra logistics required. More tires would mean much more expense, including bringing an extra truck and crew to the track just to transport and house the extra tires. It may, however, allow riders to select a softer tire, and avoid some of the big get-offs we have seen this season, and the spate of broken collarbones. The thought of fuller grids and fewer injured riders may be enough for Dorna to pressure Bridgestone into acceding to that request.

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would an extra warm up lap help? The riders could get plenty of heat into the tyres safely in 2 laps. Would they cool down too much on the grid waiting for the start?

The problem with 2 warm up laps is the extra fuel needed for that lap. The 800's are already running very lean and AFAIK, they're not allowing factory teams any more fuel for the 1000cc's.

The real problem is you need to ride them hard to get heat into them, but if you ride them hard before they heat up you crash. Catch-22. Hence, people are crashing in free practice and not just races. Traditionally you run tire warmers for an hour or more to heat up the tires/rims, but apparently the Bridgestones cool off too quickly for that to be a complete solution.

Although Simoncelli got the fastest time, the lap charts show Stoner had nearly 30% of his fast laps in the 1.49.0xx bracket, reeling off several in succession. Everybody else's times were far less consistent, and on average around 1.49.4xx - and that for Lorenzo. I think Stoner would be the only one so far to feel he has a handle on race pace.

I was pointing out an error in the article..it says 1:58 in the text above.

Stoner does seem to have the race pace sorted though.

Edit: Ooops, sorry Oscar, I thought you were replying to my comment.

Sorry about that, but I'm writing these very late, so the occasional typo slips in. Corrected now!

This criticism has been levelled at a number of top level riders before (Pedrosa, Stoner, et al), but Simoncelli seems to be able to produce fast times in QP when riding alone, then lose his head in traffic during the race, at least in recent times.

..about monopoly, Stones think they don't have to do the extra mile to please the riders because there's no need for them to. Riders loose.

At last someone else saw what I saw about the Le Mans incident!! None other than the one involved:

" Even though he said he was right, he did not make the corner, so that shows he wasn't right.""

My exact point but it seems nobody else noticed Simo went straight off the track, even when Pedrosa barely touched him if at all, he made a banzai kamikazee move, that's not "profesional racing" nor makes racing any more interesting.

Pedrosa is turning things around. Simoncelli took a wider line to give Pedrosa room on the inside and now Pedrosa uses that to 'prove' that he did not make the corner? The only reason Simoncelli eventually ran off track is because he picked the bike up when he saw Pedrosa did not make it.

Simoncelli picks the bike up because he was running out of space to make the corner, not becuase he saw pedrosa. How could he have seen pedrosa not make the corner when his head was forward the whole time?

Yes that is exactly how I saw the incident.
Hope for a great battle on Sunday.

The press conference had an uncomfortable air too it for sure. Who decided to seat Danny next to Marco. Right there you see they are just trying to inflame the situation more. Then a couple of the journos ask the same stupid questions over and over trying to pit Danny and Marco against one another. At least one journo had the sense to dime out the others who were acting like teenagers.

Just for the record, I had to read the Bridgestone portion of the article twice...they cannot be serious. Are you bleeping kidding me!!!! Bridgestone is not happy that they may be asked / required to bring a third tire option to the races. This is absolutely mind bending. Uhh hello Bridgestone, you are the only supplier of tires to the show. You signed up for the gig a few years back, dropped F1 (or perhaps they dropped you) and now uncomfortable rolling out another truck and and a few tire techs? Yes I understand the tire making process is quite involved but you know what, I don't care, we don't care, get it done. i don't want to hear this short notice nonsense. The tooling and engineering is done, already in place. This is your most pressing, most important racing obligation you have. Figure it out, get your trucks there, get your track thermometers there and get a third option there or get out of the way and let another willing company have a go.

Dare I say it this situation stemmed from Rossi requesting the 'stones back in 2007. Uncle Carmelo & Dorna were the ones responsible for the sole supplier rule. Bridgestone are merely meeting their contractual obligations as thrashed out with Dorna. Whilst I certainly agree a third compound would be a good idea it would be a big logistical, and more pertinently financial expense, commitment from Bridgestone to provide more rubber. Perhaps Dorna needs to put their hand a little deeper into their pockets?

Oh, Pedrosa remains 100% correct.

They should give up on the single tyre supplier and instead have a single tyre supplier for each manufacturer, each tyre supplier to manufacturer should be able to bring 2 compounds, decided before the race (same rules as now) and they could add another points table for the tyre manufacturers championship.

This probably will never happen and may have already been suggested many times, if so sorry :)

I think it would add interest and competition between tyre manufacturers meaning better compounds get passed on to the general public at some stage.

It looks as if it's the single tyre(s) not the single tyre supplier that is the problem.. Give them all a different supplier(though I suspect all teams would gravitate to one eventually) or let them design their own tyre all from the same manufacturer either way it would give ducati who design a unique motorcycle and satellite riders the chance to develop a tyre that, would actually work in ducatis case, and that can give the sats boys a better chance of being competitive, the right tyre can make a big difference.
If anything the single contract was michelins fault for making crap race tyres, all Rossi or Pedrosa or any of the others did was ask for the best tyres, hardly a crime.

Gresini should make Simoncelli start from Pitlane, at least he'd make it a lap or 2

Pedrosa is being a bitch...

Seriously Doohan, Rainey, etc must be looking at these guys like they are a bunch of old ladies.

This isnt club racing and I WANT Simo to win and stick it back in their faces. The racing has become dull, bikes dont slide and parade laps are taking over.

Best racing has been the battles between Jorge/Rossi, and Stoner and Rossi when they were banging fairings and scribbling up their race lines to get in front of the next guy.

This is the highest formula of racing in the world and these guys need to have the spirit like it is...

there are those out here in the ether that seem to think what they see on the telly is little more than some kind of video game. These are real men, racing real motorcycles at really high speeds. The potential ramifications of getting that wrong have been displayed hundreds of times throughout the history of the sport. It is life and death. That stunt Simoncelli pulled on Pedrosa has no place on the track.

"bikes dont slide"
Time for a new pair of glasses!

The racing is often processional but thats not due a lack of skill, effort or courage from the riders.

i dont know what is better for HRC, a pilot than are in his second year, has proved to be fast, complain less, but is mayor problem is his tendency to fall. or the other one than in the beginning of 800cc class has always ended in third or second and dont do that extra effort to win a championship, tend to complain more about the bike and the bad luck follows him.

Am think than HRC must decide now, a younger that need alot of work himself, and the other than has being in repsol since the start of 800 but dont achieve the championship for whatever reason.

the time will tell us.

to grow up - he also knew that Marco was faster than he.... he could of yielded just as easy as simo. Lots of people dis-agree, but to me this is still a racing incident (though they keep happening - stop it marco).

Further, Simo clearly apologized - Dani is showing no class by not accepting it - or out right ignoring it. We all remember him taking out hayden with a very rookie mistake. Hayden was pretty gracious in accepting this - Dani needs to take a cue. Also, I really wish Motogp / Dorna did not go so far out of their way to help add to the off track theartrics - having them sit side by side.. shameful.

Disapointed in Vale, the weather and I hate the childish atmosphere - but I am still excited to see racing on Sunday and I hope to see one for a change.

Simoncelli spent a week claiming he was in the right and that he couldn't understand the response .... and his first attempt to apologise appears to be a text message! ... is that classy?

If Pedrosa didnt fight for that position at that time it was lost. If Simoncelli didnt fight for that position at that time he still had the rest of the race to take it.

I became a fan of Simoncelli when he was racing 250's. Like many people Im frustrated that he cant think beyond the next turn.

Perhaps Gresini should ask 16 year old Maverick Vinales to mentor him?

Pedrosa knew the risk too... look at what that decision cost him..

>If Pedrosa didnt fight for that position at that time it was lost.

Why does he have to look Simo in the eye? The guy intentionally or unintentionally played a major hand in breaking his collarbone and ruining his championship.

Why does our culture excuse bad behavior as long as its followed by an apology?

As for Rossi, maybe they are severely de-tuning the engines during practice and quali to make 2 engines last 11 race weekends? We can hope as much.

Pedrosa knew Simo would fight back; he couldn't be expected to think Simo would completely slam the door on him like he did. If you're racing at that level you have to expect that your competitors can pass in a safe manner, Simo crossed that line. Hard block passes, a little bumping sure but leave the other rider somewhere to go.

"Pedrosa is being a bitch...

Seriously Doohan, Rainey, etc must be looking at these guys like they are a bunch of old ladies."

Actually there were periods where Shwantz and Rainey didn't like being in the same room together let alone shaking hands. The riders don't have to like eachother and don't have to pretend to either. If Simoncelli can maintain his speed and stop stacking it could turn into a good rivalry, which is what the best periods of GP have had in spades.