Press releases from the MotoGP teams after Sunday's race at Aragon:
When they come to write the history of the 2017 MotoGP season, one of the largest chapters is going to bear the title "Weather". The weather continues to play an inordinately large role in the 2017 championship. Not always on race day, perhaps, but the amount of time wasted during practice because conditions were so utterly different to Sunday has made a significant difference to the course of the championship.
Aragon was a case in point. Wet conditions on Friday meant one less day of practice for the teams. For some, that meant never finding a solution to problems which would come to plague them on race day. For others, their first guesses at setup were pretty much spot on, the benefit of years of experience allowing for an educated guess. For the race winner, failing to find a decent setup leading to a lack of feeling was no obstacle to success. Sometimes, the will to win can overcome remarkable odds.
This lack of setup time may be the bane of the teams' lives, but it is a boon for fans. It adds an element of unpredictability, helping to shake up the field and make the races and the championship more interesting. The championship ain't over till it's over: there has been too much weirdness this year to take anything on trust.
When you lose the first day of a MotoGP weekend to rain, the remainder of practice becomes incredibly hectic. FP3, especially, becomes insane. Teams and riders are trying to force 90 minutes of practice into half an hour, and then throw soft tires at the last 15 minutes in an attempt to avoid Q1.
Unfortunately, the constraints of temporal physics make it impossible to put the best part of race distance on the different compounds of tires, try different bike balance and electronics settings to measure their effectiveness, try to follow a rival or two to figure out where you are stronger and weaker than they are, and finally throw a couple of soft tires at a quick lap, all in just a single session of free practice. Sure, there's another 30 minutes of FP4 to try to figure things out, but usually, that is where you are trying to nail down the fine details, not evaluate radically different bike setups.
So on Saturday evening, when riders are asked what their strategy is and which tire they will be racing, there is a lot of shrugging of shoulders. Andrea Dovizioso was a case in point at Aragon. "Still we don’t know," he said. "Still there is a lot of work to do about setup and also the decision of the tires, because we didn’t really have time to work on them. The temperature was so cold in FP3, and in the afternoon the temperature change a lot. In the morning you can’t work on the tires. We have only 30 minutes in the afternoon to try and understand something. I think for everybody, the decision is not clear. Still we have to study a lot of data and take a decision about the tires and the set-up. Maybe all three are an option but I don’t know."
I, along with almost every photographer and a good part of the journalists present at Aragon, made my way down to the pit lane on Friday morning, to watch Valentino Rossi's first exit on the Yamaha M1 since breaking his leg in an enduro accident. It was overcast but dry, and there was a real sense of anticipation as Rossi limped to his bike, swung his leg awkwardly over it, then exited the garage smoothly and headed off down pit lane.
Before he and the rest of the MotoGP field had reached the exit of pit lane, the rain had started to fall. Not hard enough to leave the track properly wet, but enough rain to make using slicks impossible. FP1 was a wash. Fastest man Marc Márquez was 13 seconds off lap record pace.
The track dried out again during the lunch break, but once again, just as the MotoGP riders were about to head out, the rain started to fall. They found the track in FP2 much as they had left it in FP1: too wet for slicks, not really wet enough for a proper wet test. And with Saturday and Sunday forecast to be dry and sunny, any data collected was of very little use indeed.
What is Valentino Rossi doing back on a race bike just 22 days after breaking both the tibia and fibula in his right leg? The answer is simple enough: racing. How on earth can he be thinking about racing so soon? Quite simply, because his leg is in much, much better shape than he expected it to be.
The last time Rossi broke his leg back in 2010, he was in worse shape after the accident. "I remember in 2010 after the surgery I had five or six days where I was very, very bad," Rossi told the press conference. "This time already the next day I was able to come back at home."
That was also the moment when he started to think he might be able to return to racing quicker than in 2010. In the immediate aftermath of the accident, he immediately focused on Motegi as the target for his return. But that changed quickly. "In the first days I understand that I feel a lot, lot less pain compared to last time. So I think that I can make in a shorter time. The first week was difficult, but after the first 10 days I start to improve a lot, also every day, and started to have good feeling from the leg and ankle. And started to think about Aragon."
Before anyone in the paddock saw Rossi, there were few who thought he would be in any shape to be riding. But when he drove up to the paddock and got out of his car, it was clear he was in much better condition than any of us thought. He hopped out with relative ease, and took off with just a single crutch for support. No cast on his leg, just a support bandage.
With the announcement that Xavier Simeon will be signing for the Avintia Ducati team, the 2018 MotoGP rider line up is complete.
The full rider line up, complete with contract duration, appears below:
Valentino Rossi is to travel to Aragon and attempt to race in the fourteenth round of MotoGP at the Motorland Aragon circuit. After evaluating his fitness on a Yamaha R1M at Misano on Monday and Tuesday, the Italian had his leg assessed by Dr Pascarella, who performed the surgery on his broken tibia and fibula. After that examination, Rossi decided he was fit enough to travel to Aragon and attempt to race.
20 days ago today, Valentino Rossi fell off an enduro bike at slow speed, breaking his tibia and fibula in the crash. That night, he had pins fitted to fix the bones, and went home the next day to recover. It looked like his championship was over. He would have to miss both Misano and Aragon, and that would put him too far behind to ever catch up.
20 days later, and Rossi has already ridden a motorcycle on track. Twice. On Monday and Tuesday, he rode a Yamaha R1M around a damp Misano. A few laps on Monday, a total of 20 laps on Tuesday. The press release Yamaha issued said that he finished the second day "with an improved feeling and a more positive impression compared to yesterday." Translation? He's going to try to ride at Aragon.
The Movistar Yamaha team sent out the following press release after Valentino Rossi rode at Misano once again today:
ROSSI SUCCESSFULLY WRAPS UP SECOND RIDING SESSION
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP's Valentino Rossi improved his feeling on the YZF-R1M during the second day of testing. He will make a final decision on his attempt to compete in the Gran Premio Movistar de Aragón after a further medical examination.
Gerno di Lesmo (Italy), 19th September 2017
The Movistar Yamaha team issued the following press release after Valentino Rossi rode a bike for the first time since his accident on August 31st:
ROSSI COMPLETES FIRST LAPS AS HE RETURNS TO RIDING FORM
Valentino Rossi rode his first couple of laps around the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli today since sustaining a leg injury on Thursday, August 31st.
Gerno di Lesmo (Italy), 18th September 2017