Alvaro Bautista will be forced to start from the back of the grid at the next MotoGP race, the German round at the Sachsenring. The punishment was imposed by Race Direction for Bautista's error at Assen, where he braked far too late for the first corner and crashed, taking out Jorge Lorenzo in the process. Bautista's team appealed the penalty to the FIM Stewards - as Marc Marquez' team had done over the penalty at Barcelona - but the FIM Stewards backed the decision by Race Direction, and the penalty will stand.
The crash was universally condemned by the riders at Assen, with Nicky Hayden and Ben Spies both saying that they saw Bautista still on the gas while they were already braking for the corner. But Jorge Lorenzo was naturally the most upset about it, the Spaniard telling the media that he felt the penalty was not harsh enough. "It's a big disaster, Alvaro's move. He was completely out of control, completely crazy, I don't know what he was thinking at that moment. When all the riders were braking, he was full throttle," Lorenzo said. "But I'm more disappointed about the decision of Race Direction to only penalize him to start at the back of the grid. With the CRT in front of him, in two laps he will be in a good position."
Assen's surface is pretty good when it's dry, and it's not too bad when it's wet, but this is 2012, and there's a MotoGP race this weekend, so of course, the conditions are as bad as they can possibly be. For Assen, that means a few spots of rain here and there, just enough to create patches damp enough to catch out the unwary, or even the wary, as Casey Stoner found out this morning. Heading down the Veenslang Stoner noticed the first spots of rain on his visor. Through the Ruskenhoek, it turned into drizzle, and he had already backed off into De Bult when he was flung from the bike in what he described as one of the worst crashes of his career. He took a knock to the head, banged his left shoulder and left wrist, and suffered a big and very painful contusion to his right knee, that left him hobbling around like an old man in the afternoon.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after qualifying at Assen:
The times were close after the first day of practice, closer than they have been for a very long time. Just 0.471 seconds separates the top 11 MotoGP prototypes (Karel Abraham is barely fit enough to ride, after breaking fingers in his left hand, and is way off the pace), with Ben Spies leading Cal Crutchlow by just 0.006, just a tenth separating Nicky Hayden in 3rd from Dani Pedrosa in 6th, and less than a tenth between Andrea Dovizioso in 7th and Stefan Bradl in 11th. It has all the makings of a great race, right?
Not according to Cal Crutchlow. "Lorenzo will run away with it," the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha man opined. Everyone except for Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa had set their fastest time on the soft tire, Crutchlow explained. Lorenzo's best time, a 1'35.057, was set in the middle of a run with a used hard tire, his race rhythm in the 1'35.0 while everyone else was running 1'35.3. Lorenzo was looking very smooth on the bike, team manager Wilco Zeelenberg saying he was pretty pleased with the bike and the way the first day had gone.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the first day of practice at Assen:
Three races in 15 days, right in the middle and most important part of the season. MotoGP lines up at Assen with one third of the season gone. By the time the triple header is finished at Mugello, just over two weeks' later, we are half way through the season and the title is a lot closer to being settled. These three races are crucial.
Not that it changes anyone's approach. During the press conference, I asked the riders if they took a more cautious approach, knowing that the cost of injury is much, much greater now than it is when there is more time to recover between races. They looked at me as if I were stupid - a conclusion they have some justification for drawing - and told me that they treat these three races the same as the first race, the last race, and every other race in between. Flat out, and trying to win. It is impossible to win championships without winning races, as Casey Stoner likes to point out, so it is better to focus on that than on worrying about what might happen.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams ahead of the Dutch TT at Assen on Saturday:
For the past few years, attending a MotoGP round has been a disheartening experience for most British fans. After sitting in traffic for several hours, they then faced a day getting soaked to the skin while watching their local heroes - if any were actually on the grid - circulating around at the rear of the pack. At the end of the day, they faced yet more hours sitting in a traffic chaos in a downpour to get home again. They loved it, of course, but it tested their courage.
2012 would be different. The miserable weather magically disappeared for race day - it was far from perfect, but it remained largely dry - Scott Redding got on the podium in Moto2, and Cal Crutchlow put on a heroic and brilliant performance in MotoGP. It might be fair to question the wisdom of Crutchlow's decision to lie about his foot not being broken and race anyway, but there is no question about his bravery or pain threshold, nor, after starting at the back of the grid and slicing through the field to finish 6th, matching the pace of race winner Jorge Lorenzo, about his ability. The British fans have a hero again. More than one, in fact.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the race on Sunday at Silverstone:
The weather has been a cruel mistress at Silverstone this weekend, much as it has been every year MotoGP has paid a visit. The track is built around an airfield, and consequently sits on a plateau just enough above the surrounding area to catch any wind which may be about. On Saturday, that was a lot, the wind blowing hard and gusting harder all day, catching many a rider out, especially on the way into Brooklands. The wind also blew in occasional showers, though it blew them back out again just as fast, a small blessing on an incredibly difficult day.
Despite the conditions, three men braved the wind to take pole in each class, to varying levels of surprise. That Maverick Vinales should take pole in Moto3 is much as expected, Silverstone being the Spaniard's third pole position in a row. Though his advantage is relatively modest, there has been no one to mount a serious challenge to his supremacy all weekend, and if he gets a decent start he will be a very hard man to beat.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after qualifying on Saturday at Silverstone:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the first day of practice at Silverstone: