"Third and sixth for Ducati’s Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi – that is the raw story of Sunday’s MotoGP round in Jerez. But the real story was basically the weather, which went from a sunny 30C on Saturday to a wet 15C-18C for the race, resulting in chaos.
Rain had been widely forecast, so no surprises there, but the variable conditions played havoc with tyre degradation, causing chunking. Waiting for interviews afterwards I noticed some guys had no treads left. Towards the end lap times dropped by almost 10 seconds from the beginning although the rain had eased.
From Ducati’s perspective the changed weather proved helpful, especially as Valentino had a very hard weekend until that point – crashing in qualifying after losing the front, finally qualifying 12th on the fourth row; not what he is used to. In warm-up he was second, so knew the weather could play into his hands.
For the race he didn’t have the best start, but picked up speed fast, overtaking a couple of guys in the opening laps to close in on leaders Marco Simoncelli, Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo. Marco opened a gap of around two seconds before crashing. A real shame, because he could have made the podium, but instead went for his first victory.
All eyes were on Valentino versus Casey, because Stoner was the championship leader and Valentino came from behind. His move on Lorenzo was pretty hard, then he went for Casey at the end of the start/finish straight, came from 10, 15 metres, not even straight out of the slipstream, closed under braking, and went for the inside. It was too much; he lost the front end, and Stoner on the outside couldn’t avoid the accident.
Valentino had given it his all; you could see he knew it was his big chance of taking his first podium with Ducati, or even victory. Instead he had to pick up the bike, eventually finishing sixth.
Until then his riding style was very ambitious, but in the end he made a mistake, which he admitted to when he apologised to Stoner. I think there’s a lot to come here during the season, because Casey was seething after retiring on the spot. He sarcastically applauded Valentino when he came around on the next lap.
Nicky had a decent race, doing constant laps and staying on the bike, and in the end it paid off in all the chaos. When Ben Spies, going for a Yamaha one-two, fell off while trying to escape from Danny Pedrosa, Nicky was promoted to third and Ducati’s first podium of the season. Great news.
However, although both riders again scored points, the weekend could have been so much more rewarding for Ducati and PUMA. But that is the story of MotoGP: opportunities taken, and sometimes lost.
With Japan’s round postponed until October we now have a month gap until Estoril in Portugal on 29 April – 1 May, the third of 18 rounds in this year’s championship."