2015 Silverstone MotoGP Friday Notes: Bumps & Wind, Marquez' Changed Style, And Rossi's Recurring Issue

Silverstone was Silverstone on Friday. It pulled its many underhand tricks out of its sleeve, and threw everything it had at the riders, with the exception of rain. Cool in the morning, warm and sunny in the afternoon, with occasional cloud cover to drop the track temperature. High winds, gusting in a few corners where it was trying to lift the bikes and throw them off line. And bumps galore, short ones, long ones, moved around the circuit since the last time the MotoGP riders were here, forcing them to recalibrate their memories, and pick new lines through the corners they thought they knew.

The ever eloquent Bradley Smith explained: "I’m not too worried about bumps coming from my motocross background it is not something I worry about, it might be something some of the other guys are more scared about, but it doesn’t really effect me. It does seem to be quite bad going into the first corner Copse it is quite bad still and there is a nasty one into Stowe at the end of Hanger Straight. Still the braking point at Vale chicane is still like rollers into there. And for Abbey that one is really, really bad there is one in the middle of the corner which always makes the front tuck."

The wind was not much better. "It is certainly bad. In a few places you have to make sure you get your body in the right place and get a little bit on the rear brake to keep the front wheel down. I see a lot of guys drilling holes in the fairing but for some reason, especially me with my style and the way it is working at the moment I don’t feel it is causing any problems I can still turn into the wind. It is picking up the front a little bit in the exit but I can commit into the corner okay."

As well as eloquent, Smith was also fast, ending the afternoon session as third fastest behind Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Márquez, his mind now put at ease with his new contract settled, and able to concentrate on riding. Elite athletes are all excellent at the art of compartmentalization, putting away their worries and concentrating on the job at hand. But the walls between the little mental boxes in their minds are not entirely impermeable. Some worry always seeps through, even though it is just a tiny amount. At this level, where the difference between first and fifteenth is so small, even the smallest distraction can hurt performance.

At the front, Jorge Lorenzo showed just what he is capable of churning out a string of fast laps to top the timesheets in the afternoon, getting the better of the man who had been quicker than him in the morning. Lorenzo is on a roll, everything clicking straight out of the gate. He had improved his times in the afternoon, picking up the pace especially in the last sector of the track. How was illustrative of just how well everything has been going for the past couple of races, crew chief Ramon Forcada working with data engineer Davide Marelli on new ideas, and talking them through with Lorenzo. Warmer track helped, too, after the cold morning saw the Spaniards suffering with a lack of grip at the rear which caused the rear to spin up.

Rear grip was a problem for everybody, including the Repsol Honda of Marc Márquez. The reigning champion was struggling with corner exit, a combination of the lack of grip and the bumps on the exit, causing the rear to float and lose drive. The rear of the RC213V was moving up and down too much to generate grip, and finding a way to absorb the bumps better was Márquez' highest priority.

Márquez had not been expected to be so competitive right off the bat at Silverstone, but he put his improvement down to the ongoing process of changing his riding style. Instead of the demon late braking which had brought him so much success, Márquez shifted his focus to braking earlier and carrying more corner speed.

"Last year one of my strongest points was the brake point and I was really strong there," Márquez told us. "Maybe on the corner speed I was a little bit less and on acceleration also I was good. This year looks like with this engine we cannot ride like this. We need to brake a little bit earlier, prepare more the exit of the corner because then the bike is coming more aggressive and you must ride in a different way."

That sounds a lot more like the Yamaha. "Looks like," Márquez conceded. "Not completely Yamaha style because now Yamaha improve the exit from last year, but also they improve a lot the brake point. They are braking really, really deep now. We are working on this because I think we cannot lose this potential on the brake point. But at the moment this year we must lose a little bit the potential, to try to gain on the exit."

Where Lorenzo and Márquez excelled, Rossi struggled. He was at pains to point out that he had not used a new tire during FP2, and had been concentrating on race pace, rather than a fast lap. It nearly cost him dearly, Danilo Petrucci getting to within twelve thousandths of a second of Rossi, and unlucky to have had an out-of-the-seat moment on his flying lap, which could have put him ahead of the Movistar Yamaha rider, and left Rossi potentially out of Q2.

Working on race pace was important for Rossi, though. The Italian and his crew were working on tire degradation, on how to handle the drop in tire performance that kicks in after the first few laps on a tire. They had been working with engine braking, and playing around a lot to try to improve that area, Rossi fearing a major drop in tire performance as the laps start to tick down. Reducing the amount the rear tire spins will be crucial come Sunday.

In Moto2, Sam Lowes brought cheer to British chests by ending the first day as fastest. His lead may perhaps have been slightly illusory though, with Johann Zarco starting FP2 with a small crash, which took the wind out of his sails. Alex Rins is once again close, as is both Takaaki Nakagami and Tito Rabat, but the biggest surprise was surely Alex Márquez. The younger of the two Márquez brothers is starting to get the hang of Moto2, and picking up his pace every round. Márquez was a slow starter in the class, but perhaps he has finally turned a corner.

In Moto3, it was a brace of Italians who were quickest, Romano Fenati beating Niccolo Antonelli to the punch. This may not represent a fair picture, however: Danny Kent missed the entire first practice after a stone hit his engine and caused it to leak oil. Kent felt his foot slipping of the peg, turned down and saw oil on his boot. He immediately pulled off the track and into the gravel, but it was not a problem which could be fixed in a couple of minutes. Kent was sixth in the afternoon, just under three quarters of a second off the time of Fenati. "This was basically our FP1," Kent told us. He will be trying to play catch up all weekend.


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Comments

Once again seems to be the tires, particularly the rear. David do you know if he is one of the riders glowing about the Michelins?

On Thursday, I asked a lot of riders about the tires. I'll be writing that up at the start of the week, with some more back info.