The main protagonist in Friday's action was the weather. Like a hormonal teenage girl, the rain simply could not make up its mind whether it was going to fall properly or not, light drizzle blowing in for ten minutes before blowing out again five minutes later. (Hormonal teenage boys, it should be noted, know exactly what they want, and apart from the obvious, what they want is the opposite of whatever they have just been told). The weather left the track in that awful half-and-half condition, too cold and damp for slicks, too dry for wets, and the track conditions left the MotoGP men mostly sitting in the pits.
Dani Pedrosa explained it best. "Too wet, so you cannot push, so the tire cools down immediately after you go out, and in or two laps you have to stop, because there is no temperature in the tire. And with the wets, it's completely the opposite, the tire is immediately out of the working range, and one or two laps and it is gone." Even in the short period you could go out, there was nothing to be learned, Pedrosa said. "If the tire has too much temperature or too little temperature, the bike feels completely different. There's no meaning in going out."
Johnny Rea, however, put it most succinctly. "It was a pointless exercise really." Despite that, Rea went out to try to learn more about the MotoGP bike, and the MotoGP Bridgestones, but the conditions made it impossible. Was there anything at all he had learned today? Rea was asked. "Yes, lunch is pretty good!" The Ulsterman quipped. Swapping between a MotoGP bike and a World Superbike machine had been tough, though it had made his WSBK Honda CBR1000RR feel much better. "Mentally, it's much harder to go from SBK to GP," Rea said. "When I came back from Aragon to the Nurburgring I had such a good feeling straight away, because the bike was moving, and a lot of feedback from the tires, the chassis, so immediately you understand the limit. But when I went from Russia to Brno, you have to get to a certain level and that feels like the limit, but the limit is one second beyond that. So that's what's tough."
Rea was one of the few factory riders to go out and put a few laps in, Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi all having spent their day sitting in the pits. That had disrupted their rhythm, Pedrosa explained. Instead of spending an hour or so after each session talking to their crews about how the bike felt and discussing the plans and options for the next practice session, they were done in about thirty seconds. Pedrosa was a little more loquacious than normal, happier to answer questions, but that may have been because the questions he was being asked were a little different than normal, the usual grind of "so how did it go" being meaningless.
Nicky Hayden also spent time out on the track, to try to evaluate the state of his hand, but it was hard to tell just how it will hold up over race distance after just a handful of laps. The weather had ruined his plans, however. The original plan was for Hayden to spend Friday getting back up to speed on the current Ducati Desmosedici, before testing the current bike and the modified frame and swingarm back to back on Saturday, evaluating which of them he would race on Sunday. But with Friday a wash, that plan fell through, forcing Hayden to stay with the bike they know, rather than switching to the new machine.
Ducati generated a lot of discussion on Friday, with Karel Abraham's Cardion AB team officially announcing they would be passing on the option to run a satellite bike for 2013 and switching to an Aprilia CRT machine. The move had been long expected - mooted prior to Silverstone, but not cemented until Misano - especially once Ducati announced the signing of Ben Spies and Andrea Iannone for their junior team, leaving Cardion de facto without a bike. But the relationship had gone sour a long time ago.
The press release in English was clear enough, citing a bike that was difficult to set up and an engine that was severely lacking in development. The press release in Czech went into even more detail: before Brno, the team was given a new engine, but it did not fit into the original frame they had been given. They had to modify the frame to make it fit, and even then, this destroyed the weight distribution, forcing Karel Abraham to carry three more kilos to rectify the situation. The bike could not be set up to suit the rider, the rider had to adapt to the bike. A point made today also by Nicky Hayden, when asked for advice for the riders joining Ducati for next year. Forget about trying to adapt the bike to suit you, Hayden said, you have to learn to adapt your style to the bike.
Ducati Corse boss Filippo Preziosi, meanwhile, had an opportunity to defend himself against some of the charges which have been laid at his door recently. In an interview with GPOne.com, Preziosi spoke of the recent complaints of a lack of development from Valentino Rossi's crew chief Jeremy Burgess, of the visit by former Yamaha engineer Masao Furusawa to Preziosi, and of the lessons learned from Rossi's period at the factory. Ducati were continuously developing the bike, Preziosi said, though perhaps Burgess had not realized that this was the case. New swingarms had been supplied and tested, but rejected after not giving any improvement, and chassis updates were slowed due to the need to modify engine cases to fit a new frame, a recurrent problem with the engine allocation rules. Preziosi had much more to say, all of which is available (in both English and Italian) over on GPOne.com.
While the lack of on-track action left a hiatus which was filled with gossip and speculation, what everyone in the paddock really wants is weather consistent enough to put some laps on the bike. Saturday morning is looking as tricky as ever, but the afternoon should see the change we have been waiting for, with a spell of dry and sunny weather moving in for the rest of the week. Race day, at least, should be dry. Hopefully, that will be the case for qualifying as well. Or we could have very little to write about on Saturday too...