Alex Hofmann: Silverstone Round Up

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The British Grand Prix at Silverstone was certainly the toughest race Valentino Rossi has had for PUMA’s partner team Ducati, and it could also be the toughest MotoGP race he has ever ridden. The reason for it is a bit of a mystery to me, because Nicky Hayden on the second Ducati had a good race, probably the best he has had this year.

It all started badly for Valentino in qualifying when he ended thirteenth, 3.3 seconds off the pace, and although he didn’t know the revised circuit after missing last year’s race due to his broken leg, a rider of his talent and experience should have been further up the grid even after making allowances for that.

Then he crashed in warm up. It rained heavily all weekend, but it was the same for everybody, and the crash proved he just didn’t feel comfortable in those conditions. In the race Valentino worked very hard for his sixth place, but he was also rather lucky not many riders saw the finish as it helped him make up positions.

I guess for him the outcome was a bit like walking away from a fistfight with no more than a blue eye, because it could have been a lot worse position-wise, but it should also have been better. But Valentino is very honest both with himself and the world, and it is typical of him that he shouldered some of the blame, saying he, the bike and the team should all share responsibility for the result.

What probably made it worse for him was Nicky’s showing. Fourth was a fine effort and he had a great scrap with Colin Edwards for the final podium place. Nicky’s fastest lap of the race proved there’s fundamentally nothing wrong with the GP11, certainly not in variable weather.

The result will have done wonders for Nicky’s confidence. I said last week after the Barcelona race that I couldn’t wait to see him turn his season around, and we saw the start of that today.

Amongst all the disappointment about Valentino’s weekend and excitement about Nicky’s fine race it is easy to overlook the incredible performance by Casey Stoner, who took his fourth win of the season from six races for Honda. He now leads the Championship after Jorge Lorenzo crashed out, so it’s one retirement each at the sharp end so far this season, and it seems the title fight will be between them after Dani Petrosa again missed a race due to his broken shoulder.

In a fortnight we head for Assen in The Netherlands, and that has traditionally been a circuit where Valentino goes well. I know he loves the place and is really good on sweeping corners, but like at Silverstone a question mark hangs over the weather: it will be either gloriously sunny or atrociously wet.

But first the team is testing in Mugello. When I left Silverstone they were still sorting the final programme, but I do know the testers will be doing the riding while Valentino concentrates on sorting the GP12 for next year. The new regulations permit 1000cc bikes, meaning Ducati needs to continue developing GP11 for this year while sorting the new bike, which is completely different in a lot of areas.

Managing the two development programmes simultaneously is no easy task, but then MotoGP was never meant to be easy.