The Safety Commission, the body in which riders, Dorna, and the FIM meet to discuss issues of safety, have decided to revert to the track layout used during qualifying and the race in 2016. After numerous complaints from riders after practice on Friday, the new layout, which featured a much shorter chicane cutting across a different type of asphalt, has judged not to be suitable for use. The riders complained that the switch across different types of asphalt made the new chicane a worse choice than the 2016 track layout.
Despite the intermediate class benefitting from two dry sessions, the riders took their time in improving Oliveira’s benchmark from FP1, the Estrella Galicia Marc VDS duo predictably the ones to go one better, Franco Morbidelli the first rider into the 1:49s to end the day on top.
Morbidelli was unusually low down the rankings, spending most of the session down in eighth spot and waiting until we were questioning his victory chances to jump to the top of the timesheets. The Italian did go down at turn five with three minutes remaining but no one else managed to challenge his best time.
With hot weather and no sight of rain this time around, the riders were eager to go out and do their usual homework. Andrea Dovizioso didn’t take long to beat the time set in the morning by the reigning world champion, trading blows at the front with Marc Marquez himself for the next few laps, Marquez even finding time to test some overtakes in the new chicane at turns 14-15. Marquez set the fastest time of the day on his final lap with an Avintia bike parked in the middle of turn fifteen.
The Spaniard put some daylight into his pursuers, stealing top spot from Jorge Lorenzo, the Ducati rider eventually ahead of his teammate to finish second while also giving Tito Rabat a helpful lift into sixth place. Jonas Folger was the top Yamaha once again, the Tech 3 rider half a second off Marquez.
Max Biaggi is the latest (ex-) rider to be injured in a training crash. The four-time 250cc champion was riding a supermoto bike at the Saggitario track in Latina, just south of Rome, when he crashed the bike. Biaggi was transported to a nearby hospital, the Ospedale San Camillo Di Roma, where he is being treated with suspected thoracic and vertebrae damage.
The sun was a welcome sight for the lightweight class, so much so it was honoured with some wheelies out of the pitlane. In a deja-vu from this morning, Romano Fenati and Joan Mir looked to be the headline acts in the first part of the session, before some more or less unusual names meddled.
Aron Canet was not very bothered about the track time missed in FP1, the Spaniard going up into third straight away, then missing some more time while the team fixed a cracked screen that found itself a bit too close to his helmet. A few cancelled laps didn’t cause trouble either, the Estrella Galicia rider topping the session after the checkered flag came out.
The sun finally got out of bed as the intermediate class went out on track, the surface drying but still keeping some tricky damp patches, which Luca Marini illustrated with an impressive highside early in the session. The Italian was fit after a check-up but his bike was too damaged to rejoin the action.
After an eager interpretation of track limits early in the session, Miguel Oliveira bounced back to post the fastest time of the day and top the session. Takaaki Nakagami also set off to a good start to his weekend with a second position less than two tenths behind Oliveira.
The Catalonian weather had been playing with the paddock all morning, with a shower hitting the track before Moto3, the track drying towards the end of their session only for some more spits of rain to welcome the GP boys. Only a handful of riders felt like going out on wet tyres, with most of the grid just chilling while the track got too dry for wets and too wet for slicks.
Marc Marquez only put in five laps late in the session to go top and post the only time in the 1:45s, taking Cal Crutchlow with him into second position. Andrea Dovizioso posted a few extra laps to go third, six tenths down on the leader and Dani Pedrosa made a late jump into fourth, another tenth down.
None of the usual Spanish sun mentions this morning as Barcelona was keen to remind us that other weather options are available. Rain falling before the start of proceedings meant that the lightweight class hit the track with wet tyres on, despite the high temperatures. With the familiar sunny forecast for the rest of the weekend, only half the riders were keen to have a long look at the new track layout in damp conditions.
Romano Fenati only did five laps but did not need more than two to steal the top of the timesheets once he joined in late in the session. Joan Mir was another of the party crashers, the championship leader going second, three tenths off Fenati. Marco Bezzecchi got as close as nine thousandths of a second of Mir.
Last year, at Jerez or thereabouts, I had a chat with Livio Suppo about the insanely early start to MotoGP's Silly Season that year. Suppo bemoaned the fact that so many riders were switching factories so early, with contracts signed as early as Qatar (in the case of Bradley Smith and Valentino Rossi), and the ensuing hullabaloo surrounding Jorge Lorenzo, and whence he was bound. "Normally, we start talking after a few races, in Mugello or so," Suppo said. "You want a few races to see how strong a rider is."
While last year's Silly Season was nearing its close at Mugello last year, it seems that 2017 is taking a slightly more normal trajectory. This year, Mugello may have seen the early conversations which kick off the period where riders discuss their future options. And Barcelona was the first race where they started to discuss – or more accurately, hint at – those options publicly.
Why is this year's Silly Season so much later (or so much more normal) than last year's? Put simply, it's because last year, every single factory rider was out of contract, and every factory seat was up for grabs. This year, all the factory seats are still taken for 2018 (or at least, unless a factory boss decides that one of their riders is grossly underperforming), and there are only the satellite bikes at stake. Fewer seats are available, and those which are available have less money attached, and less chance of competing for podiums and victories. All that combined leads to a lower sense of urgency when it comes to negotiations.
From Mugello to Barcelona, with, in most cases, nary a chance in between to head home and wash your smalls. It used to be that the trip from Mugello to Barcelona was a chance to see MotoGP race back-to-back at two of the great motorcycle racing circuits. Now, it's one and a half great circuits, with a nadgery little section tagged on at the end to slow everything down. Or as Marc Márquez described it in Mugello, "You arrive [at Montmelo] and you know that it's kind of two different tracks: the first part is really fast and wide, the last part tight and slow."
What was a temporary fix to solve the immediate issues exposed by the tragic death of Luis Salom last year – one year on, the paddock will doubtless be full of memorials to the bright young Spaniard – has been turned into a rather horrible bodge job. The fast sweeper of Turn 12, where Salom fell and found himself on an unexpected trajectory across asphalt, and not gravel which would have slowed him down, is replaced by an even tighter and shorter chicane than last year, made so because of the proximity of the walls on the inside of the F1 chicane used last year.
It is a tragedy – I use that word advisedly, as it cannot compare with the loss of a young man's life – to sacrifice one of the great sections of a motorcycling track. But it is also an inevitable consequence of Grand Prix motorcycles getting ever faster, being able to brake later, carry more corner speed. The progress in motorcycle development is pushing their performance beyond the capacity of race tracks to safely host that performance.
Johann Zarco has made an incredible impact on his debut in MotoGP. He started his MotoGP career off by leading the race in Qatar for six laps, before crashing out. But he learned from that, and has learned more at every race this year, culminating in his first MotoGP podium at the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team's home race at Le Mans.
It has been an interesting debut, as at 26 years of age, most team managers, media, and fans had considered him to be too old to be competitive in MotoGP. Sure, Zarco had two Moto2 titles, but he was getting beyond the age where a move to MotoGP was still worthwhile. The biggest example of this thinking was Suzuki, which chose Alex Rins over Zarco, despite already having offered Zarco a contract. If Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo had come into the premier class at 20, the thinking ran, then Zarco at 26 was too old.
At Mugello, I spoke to Zarco about his debut in MotoGP, and how he has adapted to racing a heavier, far more powerful machine on very different tires. But we started off with the question of age. Why was the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider so fast at a relatively advanced age?
MotoMatters.com, in association with Motor Sport Magazine, is proud to feature the rider insights of 1983 and 1985 500cc world champion Freddie Spencer. Every week after each MotoGP race, Fast Freddie will share what he saw and learned from the race.
Ducati had a huge day on Sunday but there’s one last fix it must make before the Desmosedici can challenge for the title again
Andrea Dovizioso deserves double congratulations for Sunday: for surviving that terrifying 210mph tank-slapper on lap three and for scoring Ducati’s most important victory since the Casey Stoner years. And Danilo Petrucci too, a Mugello podium is good going for someone who nearly packed it in a few years ago because he was fed up with finishing at the back.
However, Dovizioso and Petrucci know better than most that Ducati still doesn’t have a bike that will work well at enough different tracks to make them world-title challengers.
Press releases from the teams and Michelin after a glorious race at Mugello. Includes the greatest press release ever from Pramac, celebrating Danilo Petrucci's podium:
Andrea Dovizioso scores a fantastic win in the Italian GP at Mugello. Eighth place for Jorge Lorenzo and ninth for Michele Pirro. Danilo Petrucci finishes on the podium with an excellent third place on the Team Pramac Desmosedici GP
Press releases from the teams after Sunday's fabulous Moto2 and Moto3 races at Mugello:
Marini secures top 6 finish with heroic effort
The race day at the much-anticipated Italian Grand Prix commenced today under a clouded sky, but in dry and warm conditions for the Forward Racing Team duo of Luca Marini and Lorenzo Baldassarri. In front of his numerous fans Marini showed an epic battle to end up in a brave sixth position, while Baldassarri was incredibly motivated to do well, but unfortunately his race was interrupted prematurely.