Before I begin, a note about a sad passing of a genuine legend of Australian motorsport.
Ron Tauranac, who co-founded Brabham/Motor Racing Developments alongside Sir Jack Brabham in 1962, designed the 1966 & 67 World Championship winning BT19, then established the highly successful single-seater manufacturer Ralt, passed away on Friday aged 95 on the Sunny Coast.
Another great figure from Brabham departs us... Still, I’ll back Bernie Ecclestone to discover the secret to immortality by the time he turns 100.
Funnily enough, it was actually Ron who sold Brabham to Bernie to begin with at the end of 1971.
It changed Formula 1 forever.
MotoGP: Spanish Grand Prix
Circuit: Circuito de Jerez – Ángel Nieto
Journey Of The Jackass, 2020, Chapter 2: Starting the season where Mick Doohan’s career ended
After being unable to properly start at Qatar because of travel restrictions from Italy, MotoGP finally returned for 2020 in the boiling heat of Jerez in the south of Spain, and that said, I’d better go through some of the rider changes, given it’s been 8 months.
Moto2 Champion Alex Marquez is the latest sacrificial goat for his own brother at Repsol Honda.
Brad Binder and Iker Lecuona were promoted from KTM’s Moto2 program into the MotoGP setup, with Binder on the factory bike and Lecuona at Tech3 – Binder is the first South African to race in the premier class since Shane Norval in 2000.
Karel Abraham left Reale Avinta and retired in the winter, and along came the Merry-Go-Round himself, Johann Zarco, to take his place on the 2019 Ducati.
But the weirdest one of all – Andrea Iannone was banned for 18 months for failing a doping test at Malaysia last year, forcing Aprillia to replace him with Bradley Smith while Iannone appeals the ban.
Ahead of the first MotoGP qualifying session in some 245 days, most of the top riders went straight through to Q2, among them our own Jackass, who was actually 2nd on the combined practice times behind Fabio Quartararo, but two notable riders who would start in Q1 were the factory of Alex Rins and the factory Ducati of Danilo Petrucci.
Rins had been a hot lap at the end of Practice 3, but he’d been blocked on track by a slow Marc Marquez on the racing line – The FIM stewards didn’t punish Marquez (Que the conspiracy theories), as there were apparently yellow flags being waved, which would’ve forced Rins to slow down anyway.
Still, Rins went straight through, although in a strange moment, the Aprilla of Aleix Espargaro high-sided out of Turn 2, and seconds later, Rins arrived and fell on his own, as if he’d been distracted – He did get back up straight away.
When the big boys rolled out for Q2, Quartararo set a 1.37.460 as the early benchmark, then Marquez came around moments later and thumped in a 1.37.006, and Quartararo responded with a 1.36.993, the first rider into a sub-97 second lap.
Continuing on the shootout, Marquez bettered his own time with a 1.36.877, then Maverick Vinales in 3rd on the factory Yamaha looked to have lost pole, but put together a brilliant final sector to go to the top on a 1.36.844.
Jack’s Pramac teammate Pecco Bagnaia looked on for a remarkable pole, but missed by only a tenth of a second, but the last word once again went to Quartararo, who broke his own lap record from practice with a 1.36.705, beating Vinales and Marquez to claim his 7th pole position in just 20 starts, and his second in a row at Jerez.
In the frantic final minutes, Andrea Dovizioso fell at Turn 2 and had to settle for 8th, and just as the Jackass was on track for a front row start with his final lap, he lost the front at Turn 11 and slid out.
Seconds later, Jack crapped himself when Rins suffered a moment on his front end and had to check up the bike to avoid spearing into Miller, sending the Suzuki in to the gravel at high speed, and the Spaniard was thrown off when the bike violently rolled.
It didn’t look good for Rins, who was clutching his right arm, and a medical examination would reveal the Spaniard had suffered a dislocated shoulder, robbing Suzuki of their leading rider for the race.
After spending all of 2019 on the older Yamaha, Fabio was on an up to date machine…. it was already showing!
Race (25 Laps)
Joining Rins in sitting out the race was Cal Crutchlow, who was ruled out with concussion and neck soreness after a major fall in the Warm-Up, after he had qualified 6th.
It was some 37 degrees in the air, and approximately 56 degrees Celsius at track level, but the factory Yamahas of Vinales and Valentino Rossi decided to roll the dice and go for the Soft front tyre, which was copping an absolute hammering in the Moto3 and Moto2 races, causing all the riders to go for a hard front and soft rear.
After 8 months of waiting, Vinales jumped superbly into the lead, Marquez beat Quartararo, Miller got a great launch but overshot into Turn 1, dropping him from 2nd to 4th, but he got to 3rd after passing the Frenchman.
Joan Mir crashed on Lap 3 at Turn 9, capping off the horrible turn of events for Suzuki.
Meantime, Marquez attacked Vinales at Turn 6, in some fantastic racing that saw the two exchange the lead 3 times, but the World Champion would claim the lead, and he was trying to push and force Vinales to use up that Soft front tyre.
Further down, a noteworthy performance was Binder on his MotoGP debut, who had gone up to 8th, the best of the 3 rookies.
Then there was drama on Lap 5, as Marquez, trying to push as hard as he can, lost the bike at Turn 4, but in some classic Marquez reaction speed, SOMEHOW STAYED ON THE BIKE DESPITE BEING NEAR PARRALEL TO THE GROUND, surfed out the other side of the gravel trap and rejoined in 16th.
Not just the error, but the fact that he STAYED ON THE BIKE.
Off the hook for now, Vinales was back in the lead, with Miller up to 2nd briefly, but Quartararo used that superior corner speed to pass Jack at the final corner on Lap 6.
Further down, within 2 laps, Marquez was back to 12th, and he was lapping a second faster than Vinales, and it was wild to think, but Marquez was still a chance of winning, let alone a podium!
Meantime, Vinales was making errors, allowing Quartararo into the lead on Lap 9 after running wide at the final corner, which also allowed Miller into 2nd place, as there was an initial thought that the Soft tyre on the Yamaha was already hitting the cliff.
Further down, something had happened to Binder on Lap 7, away from the eyes of the TV cameras, because he fell from 7th to 18th, but it was apparently just a riding error, because his pace was comparable to the podium setters.
With 14 laps remaining, Marquez was back in the Top 10 and within 8 seconds of the lead, and he was soon passed Miguel Olivera (Who went from 16th to 9th) and Rossi, who couldn’t believe his eyes that Marquez was still standing, as the Doctor could barely stop the Yamaha with the state of that front tyre, and just let Marquez through.
Meantime, Quartararo, in the hunt for a deserved win, was setting a pace that Miller couldn’t match, stretching the gap to 2 seconds after 15 laps.
It was a funny situation, because Miller couldn’t match El Diablo, but he had Vinales covered for speed, and it was a continuation of a theme from 2019, where ‘Top Gun’ would have a massive lull during races and be consigned to a podium instead of fighting for a win.
With 9 laps remaining, Marquez claimed Franco Morbidelli for 7th at Turn 6, then he took Bagnaia at Turn 8 for 6th, and was about to be all over the rear of his 2021 Honda teammate Pol Espargaro on the KTM and old rival Dovi, and yes, he was probably going to cleave them both.
Ending a forgettable afternoon, Rossi was finished on Lap 19 with some kind of mechanical problem, and later that lap, Vinales had been able to pass a now-struggling Miller for 2nd, as Marquez passed Dovi for 4th, and was an absolute certainty to claim Jack and return to the podium places after a psychedelic journey, which he did on Lap 20, but Miller went for a cheeky block pass into Turn 1, but Marquez got him back at Turn 2.
BUT, there ANOTHER. BIG. MOMENT.
In one final bang to end an all-time comeback, Marquez, who was once again fighting Vinales, lost the rear and suffered a massive highside at Turn 4 (again), finishing off a spectacular race, and unlike his previous falls, the 6-time Champion was in serious physical pain after landing on his right shoulder, getting hit by his bike and subsequently bouncing off the gravel like a pebble off water, and Marc was last seen being backed into an ambulance in a neck brace.
It was like the dry version of Wayne Gardner’s comeback at Suzuka 1992.. Sadly, it ended the same way.
The departure of Marc meant Quartararo was all set to claim his first MotoGP win, assuming he just stayed upright, and what it also meant was Miller was back to 3rd, but it was once again brief, because Dovi passed our hero at Pedrosa Corner/Turn 6 on the penultimate lap, and Morbidelli tried an audacious move at the same time, and almost ended his his own race when the gap diminished.
Franco had to settle for 5th, while out in front, his teammate was the rider of the day – FABIO QUARTARARO had finally won!
To quote the Frenchman, “F**king hell.”
The first French rider to win a MotoGP race, and the first French premier class winner since Regis Laconi in 1999, with Vinales in 2nd for a Yamaha 1-2, and Dovi annoyingly knocking Miller off the podium – Fair effort for Dovi, considering he’d broken his collarbone in June!
It was also the first time an Independent rider had won a race not riding a Honda.
He suffered a fractured right humerus, and will fly to Barcelona for surgery on Tuesday, which means he’ll absolutely miss Jerez Part 2 this weekend.
If he doesn’t race, it’ll be the first time in his MotoGP career (2013-) he’s missed a Grand Prix, and in a shortened season, this championship is suddenly WIDE OPEN.
Final biased thought – Very good race for Jack…. coulda woulda shoulda finished on the podium!
Next Up: Jerez again this weekend.
Formula 1: Hungarian Grand Prix
Circuit: The Hungaroring
Duncraig Dan 2020, Chapter 3: 2021 Racing Point defeats 2020 Racing Point
After the action in Austria, there was a fear that the Hungarian Grand Prix might not be able to go ahead, due to local restrictions on British and American passport holders, but, the race weekend was declared, albeit under strict rules:
The likelihood of rain was at 90% for Q1, as pretty much every team decided to send the cars straight out when the session began….
Except Renault, who decided to wait for the track conditions to improve with several flying laps, and it’s always take a massive risk, or it’s nothing at all.
Still, it didn’t ruin Dan or Esteban Ocon, so fair enough.
The light rain started falling on the pit straight with 12 minutes remaining in Q1, then it suddenly disappeared and stayed away, and the track conditions subsequently just kept improving, as evidenced by both Williams flying into the Top 10, followed by both Racing Points going into the Top 2!
In the meantime, almost all of the major drivers made it through, with the major positive from the was the Williams pair of Nicholas Latifi and George Russell both making it into Q2, the first time Williams had enjoyed that since Italy 2018.
In Q2, Hamilton set a ridiculous 1.14.261, a new unofficial lap record, and after Ferrari had a terrible time in Austria, Red Bull were now having their own problems, with the car understeering through Turn 1 and 2, leaving Verstappen struggling to even get ahead of the Racing Points and the McLarens.
Ferrari narrowly avoided another Q2 exit with LeClerc leaving it until his last lap to reach the final session, meaning Dan The Man started 11th, and Albon’s Red Bull was the biggest casualty of Q2, only managing 13th thanks to the team timing his run straight into the path of slow cars.
On his opening Q3 lap, Hamilton destroyed the lap record AGAIN with a 1.13.613, with Bottas 3 tenths down, and everyone else was at least a second down, as Verstappen looked finished with some kind of engine problem – It turned out the DRS wasn’t working on the pit straight.
With 90 seconds remaining, it was Noah’s Ark order – 2 Mercedes, followed by 2 Pink Mercedes, followed by 2 Ferraris…. and the 2 McLarens were 8th and 9th.
In the final runs, Hamilton bettered his own time with a 1.13.447 to claim his 90th Pole Position in Formula 1, with Bottas a tenth down in a clash of the titans, and both of them absolutely crushed the Racing Points, with Stroll pulling out 3rd ahead of Perez, Vettel outqualified LeClerc again, and Verstappen went from pole last year to a lonely 7th.
That’s how much of a goddamn joke Mercedes have turned the field into…. even the 2019 Mercedes is faster than everyone else.
Race (70 Laps)
An extremely rare scene at the Hungaroring – A wet Hungarian Grand Prix!
2006, 2011, 2014 – The only times in 35 years that Hungary has had wet conditions.
Just it couldn’t get any worse for Red Bull, Max Verstappen CRASHED INTO THE BARRIERS ON HIS WAY TO THE GRID!
Red Bull frantically repaired the front left suspension on the grid with only 20 minutes before the start, and the Dutchman somehow started the race in 7th instead of the pit lane.
The team were also in trouble for what they did for Alex Albon, supposedly artificially drying his grid slot with leaf blowers after the FIA reminded the teams not to, and fittingly, it was the FIA’s Jo Bauer that caught them out.
Every driver started on intermediate tyres, while both Haas drivers pitted for Slicks and started from the pit lane, a move that would pay massive dividends, but also got them in trouble post-race.
Hamilton jumped cleanly and led by a whopping 3 seconds after the opening lap, Stroll was up to 2nd, Verstappen and the Ferraris jumped Bottas and Perez, and Dan was up to 8th, and by the end of Lap 1, Hamilton’s lead was 3 seconds, as Kvyat made the bold decision to pit for slicks, and Bottas was apparently caught jumping the start, but on replay, his freakish reactions allowed him to stop the Mercedes in it’s grid slot before the lights went out, and his only punishment was wrecking his and Perez’s starts.
After only 2 laps, LeClerc and Bottas also pitted for slicks, with Ferrari putting LeClerc on the Soft tyre against the grain, and soon, everyone was diving in to change to slicks, which caused chaos in the pits, as Vettel lost 9 seconds to traffic, and Williams released Latifi into the path of Carlos Sainz, there was contact, and the Canadian suffered a puncture at Turn 1, to go with a 5 second penalty.
After Hamilton pitted from the lead, Verstappen stayed out a lap longer and rejoined in 2nd, Dan did the same and rejoined in 11th, while both Haas drivers had used the pre-race stop to jump to 3rd and 4th, having effectively gained 20 seconds.
They predictably got thumped in a straight line by the Mercedes-powered cars.
The threat of rain was always about, but other than a couple of isolate periods of drizzle, it never amounted to anything more than “Rain in 5 minutes” EVERY 5 MINUTES, as the storm passed awya to the south of the circuit.
After a new power unit overnight, Pierre Gasly’s gearbox melted away after 17 laps, becoming the only retirement, and LeClerc in 6th, having fought valiantly to stop Bottas passing him, was now being attacked by Albon, Vettel, Perez, Ricciardo and Sainz, as young Alex was finding out just how annoyingly difficult it is to pass at the Hungaroring.
Still, the Thai passed the Monegasque with a lunge at Turn 1 Lap 18, Vettel also passed his teammate the next lap, as Ferrari’s latest strategic masterstroke had backfired, and the Maranello mob had to admit defeat and pit LeClerc on Lap 21, putting him on Hard tyres trying to run to the end of the race.
Funnily enough, the same startegic bungle ALMOST happened to Vettel when he was on Inters, but Seb told the team he wanted mediums because there was still some rain about.
That decision right there saved Ferrari from another likely no points finish.
25 laps in, Drivers were beginning to struggle with graining, mostly on the left front, as everyone pushed to stay out for long enough in the event of the rain arriving just to avoid losing 25 seconds in the pits.
Vettel pitted on Lap 30, having lost too much time behind Grosjean, and showing the Hard tyres were no disadvantage, set a fastest lap in 11th place, and 4 laps later, Bottas pitted for Mediums to get an undercut on Stroll in 3rd place.
Now up to 9th place, Ricciardo caught up to the flailing Grosjean by Lap 34, and got him rather comfortably out of Turn 2, in an identical move to one LeClerc had made on Lando Norris, and Verstappen had to pit on Lap 36, given Bottas was pumping out fastest laps like a conveyor belt.
As everyone stopped for a 2nd time with no fewer than 30 laps remaining, Ricciardo became the outlier for drivers staying out, going until Lap 44 before he stopped from 5th place, crucially getting out ahead of LeClerc in 9th, and with a fresh set of Mediums, Renault were actually looking okay.
In last year’s race, Dan was stuck forever behind Magnussen’s Haas, to such a degree that the Aussie gave him the finger post-race.
This time though, the Renault took a mere 2 laps to see him off, and all but assure no worse than an 8th place finis, and he set about catching Perez 9 seconds up the road.
Bottas pitted again on Lap 50 to put the heat on Red Bull, in what was a similar strategic move to the one Mercedes made last year, which won Hamilton the race as Verstappen stayed out on worn tyres.
This time though, Verstappen had enough grip, and let’s face it, Bottas is the four-wheeled Alex Criville, while Hamilton is Mick Doohan.
With 10 laps to go, Hamilton had lapped everyone up to Vettel in 5th, Sainz rounded up LeClerc in another interesting midfield battle, dropping the Ferrari out of the points, furthering rubbing in their latest stupid decision.
With Hamilton’s lead at 26 seconds to Verstappen, he wanted to use the free pit stop to have a go at the bonus point, and with the race in the bag, he got his wish, and promptly set a new lap record on the final lap, and as Lewis strolled over the line, Bottas had caught up to Verstappen, but the Mercedes No.2 fell a lap short of another 1-2, and the Dutchman claimed a 2nd place that looked impossible 20 minutes before the race, a huge triumph for Red Bull’s mechanics.
Stroll used the Pink Merecedes gag to full effect with a well-earned 4th, Albon stayed 5th as Red Bull were cleared of any grid drying, Vettel 6th, Perez 7th, a mere second ahead of Dan The Man, while Haas were punished for illegal communication on the formation lap, having told both Magnussen and Grosjean to pit, earning them both 10 second penalties, dropping Magnussen to 10th behind Sainz.
With this latest win, Hamilton claimed his 8th win at the Hungaroring, equalling Michael Schumacher’s 8 wins at Magny Cours/France for the most wins by a driver at a Grand Prix.
He’s also led more laps of the of Hungary than everyone else in the field combined.
Final biased Australian thought – Good result for Duncraig Dan, who finally got through a race this year without a mechanical problem or being run into the hills by another car, Renault’s strategy seemed to be well-executed, and he also beat home both McLarens.
And in case you’re wondering, Renault officially protested Racing Point… again.
Next Up: The British Grand Prix at Silverstone in a fortnight