Andrea Dovizioso quits Ducati yet wins in Austria as Valentino Rossi & Maverick Vinales came within inches of being hit by Two MotoGP Machines.
The 2020 Austrian Grand Prix was not shy of controversy, danger, rider contracts a point of discussion and almost death. Where to begin! It all started on Saturday when Andrea Dovizioso decided to quit Ducati and initiate a new sense of freedom rather than being tied down and demotivated. The Italian rider was sensational during the race which was full of tension, crazy manoeuvrers and pure speed. It was the 50th MotoGP win and a superb indicator of the strength he has even after a rollercoaster of a season. We must say it was nice to see Dovi stand on top of the podium with the control all on his side and not with the red beast. If anything, the reward of victory was so sweet, and you could see the elation in his eyes as he crossed the finish line. Right now, Dovi stands in second place and is inching closer for the World Championship after rival Fabio Quartararo had two poor race finishes. No doubt, Ducati has put pressure on their riders every year and when the tension is lifted, they are able to excel with precision. At this stage, it appears that Aprilia will need to get their cheque books out and finance the ride for Dovi because he is a development rider and as he departs Ducati, he is an asset a team need to further their results.
"It was a very peculiar race given the interruption due to the bad crash of Zarco and Morbidelli. Today my feeling with the bike was not particularly good, but in some areas, I felt strong, and I could make a difference. The weekend started well, but I was not sure if we could win the race: we managed to be immediately competitive, and I found good sensations, but we still lack something compared to the previous years. This track suits the characteristics of our Desmosedici GP bike, but we will still have to work to take another step forward and put ourselves in a position to fight for the victory in all the upcoming races."
Luigi Dall'Igna (Ducati Corse General Manager):
"After such a difficult start to the season, this victory has an important weight. It was a bizarre race given the interruption. Dovi has proven to be strong and that our bike is competitive. After the restart, the situation on the track changed, but we reconfirmed some aspects and changed the front tyre. I want to congratulate Dovi and the whole team for their work this weekend. I hope that we will be able to be so competitive in the next races until the end of the season."
As we turn to the main issue of debate, if you have not watched the race or replays of the accident involving Franco Morbidelli, Johann Zarco, Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales, then please do watch it to understand how close it was to ending in disaster. The 300km/h crash was horrifying. The lap of the gods were clear and someone was protecting looking over both Rossi and Vinales in particular when Morbidelli and Zarco’s bikes went flying through the air. If there was no air fence, who knows what could have happened. The risk these riders take is incredible and we have to respect their opinions as well as events unfold. Rossi and Vinales were not happy with the aggressiveness of Zarco and this will be something he will have to overcome when contract negotiations start for 2021 in terms of whether he has a ride with a factory Ducati, Pramac Ducati or staying where he is at present. Sometimes mistakes like the one that took place can change how a team perceives the rider and if they are a good fit for their brand. It will be interesting to see if Pecco Bagnia, Zarco or Jorge Lorenzo get chosen to replace Dovizioso.
“I’m a little bit sore, but everything is fine. Looking at footage of the crash it is good to be able to walk away like this. I consider myself to be very lucky. It was a strange crash because Johann [Zarco] overtook me on the straight and then changed his line under braking to go very wide. With the changed line and the slipstream there was just nowhere for me to go, it was impossible for me to avoid him. Thankfully we are both alright. It was important to get good points at this race, as it’s not a strong one for the Yamaha bike, so I’m sorry to my team that we couldn’t do that. I was trying my best to do my race but we were not able to this time. Now we try again next Sunday.”
“A pity Sunday because I got a big crash in the race with Franco Morbidelli. On the brake he touched me, and we flew away, he has been surprised because we were so close and with the speed it was not easy to slow down. Then we have been scared because our bikes really could hit somebody but finally no one was really injured, so that is the most important thing. It is a pity because I got a good weekend, I was competitive, and I could expect a great result in the race. It was maybe the race where I can have the best pace during the 28 laps, but it finished before. It is very important to have next race in the same place and next week. I need to improve to have the chance to fight for the podium, so I will rest the maximum during the three days and work well next week.”
Then we turn to the Yamaha riders who were in the lap of the gods. They had plenty to say after the race and they are entitled to as a result of being within inches of a disaster.
“It was very scary. All four riders, but especially me and also Maverick, were very lucky. We have to pray to somebody tonight, because the situation was very dangerous. I think it is good to be aggressive, for sure, because everybody tries to do the maximum, but for me we don’t have to exaggerate, because we need to remember that this sport is very dangerous. You need to have respect for your rivals, especially at a track where you’re always going at 300km/h. I have already spoken with Zarco, he promised me that he didn’t do it on purpose. He went very wide in braking and he slammed the door in the face of Franco, and with this bike when you ride 300km/h you have the slipstream, so Franco didn’t have any chance to brake. I was with Maverick when we entered Turn 3, and I felt something coming towards me. I thought it was the shadow of the helicopter, because sometimes it crosses the race track, but then Franco’s bike passed me at an incredible speed, and also the bike of Zarco jumped over Maverick. So, we were very lucky, but we hope this type of incident is a lesson for riders to improve their behaviour in the future. I spoke with Franco, he is okay, he is trying not to think, but when he thinks, he too feels scared. What makes the difference on this occasion is that nobody got hurt, all riders are okay, so this changes the situation. If something bad had happened, it would have been completely different. It was difficult to restart, sincerely, but I didn’t have a lot of choice. So I restarted, and in the race I was good. I did a good race. For us, with the Yamaha, it’s not easy here. We suffer in top speed, so it’s very difficult to fight with the other bikes, but I had a good pace. Unfortunately, I had a very aggressive overtake from Binder in Turn 9 that pushed me out of the track, and we lost a lot of time and lost contact with the first group. But anyway, from that moment on I still had a good rhythm, and I could arrive in fifth place. We can do better, but it was a good race.”
“Today we were very lucky, this is the most important. We're good. These things can happen in races, there's always that risk. And this corner, Turn 3, we say every time that it's really dangerous. They need to do something, because it's really easy to crash there. This morning I nearly crashed in the warm-up. I locked the front and went a bit towards the walls, and that was scary. But on the bike, during the incident in the first race, I didn't see anything, honestly. I just heard the scratching sound of crashed bikes and then I felt the impact of Johann's bike hitting the wall. Then, when I looked, I saw one bike coming towards me and I covered my head and the bike jumped up. For sure we were very lucky today, someone saved us, and this is the most important. We are here and the championship is not over, because Fabio finished only two places in front of us. In Race 2, we had a big problem with the clutch. It's a shame that we lost two really good opportunities to be at the top of the championship, because I felt really strong from the beginning. It's true that in the first race our bike was quite slow, but I was waiting for lap 15 to start to push really hard. Then in the second race, after discovering the problem, I just thought my race was over. But then I stayed on the track for three-four laps, and the clutch was okay again. I just tried to be patient and overtake to get to the front. It is what it is.”
In contrast, those finishing on the podium as well did a fabulous job to stay with Dovi. Both Jack Miller and Joan Mir cemented their ability to charge and keep with the slow and then increased race pace. On the restart, Miller gambled with a soft/soft tyre combination and knew that he had to push from the very beginning. With that said, his defensive lines were incredible to watch although with two corners to go, he did make a mistake that was costly. However, it sets up Miller for the next race at the same circuit with a win highly possible as Mir enjoyed his first podium finish after his teammate went in too hot and crashed out of possibly winning the event. In times of chaos, Mir was calm, collected and very good to watch as he pushed both Ducati riders with the excellent corner speed and control the Suzuki offers.
“It’s been an amazing day. I knew a couple of races ago that I had the pace to be on the podium but various things happened to prevent it. I got my first career victory at this track in Moto3, and for me this result is also like a win! I’m so happy to get second. I want to say a big thank you to all the team members who are here and working so hard to give me the best bike possible, and also to the crew who are at home and helping me. We’ve been through bad moments together and this great result is for all of them.”
“I’m very happy, a fantastic race, the bike was very fast, and we were able to reach the result we were waiting for and deserved. I want to say thanks the team!”
With the upcoming race being at the same circuit, it will be interesting to see how the riders handle the pressure in particular those who had such a close call with death. Rossi is no doubt one of the strongest riders out there mentally as is Vinales for getting back on the bike and charging forward even when the odds were against them from a psychological point of view. The World Championship could be anyone’s at this stage with so many up and down results. One rider who is looking for a more easy-going adventure is Miguel Oliveira who was taken out by Pol Espargaro who before the red flag was leading the race. The Portuguese KTM rider was angry to say the least with him throwing his helmet down and kicking his pit box office around after another team member took him out and put a DNF next to his name. Espargaro has been on form though has made plenty of mistakes within the last three races. So will there be a redemption ride this weekend?