Styria MotoGP Subscriber Notes: The Randomness Of Restarts, Another Rookie Sensation, The Power Of Podiums, And Maverick's Electronics Woes Explained

Weather in the mountains is always unpredictable. Usually when people say that, they mean it as a bad thing, but it isn't necessarily so. Unpredictability swings in all possible directions, and means that just because something is likely to happen, it doesn't mean that it will. It was supposed to rain all day on Sunday at the Red Bull Ring. It did, overnight, and in the morning. Then it dried out, and we had a drying Moto3 race followed by dry Moto2 and MotoGP races.

Two MotoGP races, in fact. A very short two-and-a-half lap race, interrupted by a fiery crash and long delay, and then a completely new race – if a race is interrupted before the leader crosses the line at the end of lap 3, the race is restarted as if the first attempt had never happened, with everyone allowed to race and the same grid as set by qualifying – which was shortened by one lap, from 28 to 27 laps.

The red flag shook up the field, creating winners and losers, some riders getting a chance to correct earlier mistakes, others finding themselves struggling in the second race. There is a small element of random chance in every MotoGP race – a good thing, or else the outcome would always be entirely predictable – and the cards fall a different way each time the lights go out.

We'll keep the red flag flying here

The race left us with a lot to talk about – a rookie winner, the real winners and losers from the race, how tires played a role, the root of mysterious electronics problems, and more – but the fact that the race was red flagged need to be addressed first. It was the third time in a row that a race had to be red flagged and restarted at the Red Bull Ring – or Red Flag Ring, as it was quickly dubbed on Social Media – and that raised questions. Freak events can happen everywhere. But when freak events happen three races in a row, they start to look a lot less like freak events.

Unlike last year, however, the red flag that came out on Sunday was not the result of something unique to the Red Bull Ring. Dani Pedrosa lowsided on the exit of Turn 3 in the middle of a large group, and his bike was struck by Lorenzo Savadori's Aprilia RS-GP, destroying both machines. The fuel tank of Pedrosa's KTM RC16 was ruptured as a result of taking a direct hit from the front wheel of Savadori's bike, and sprayed fuel over both bikes and the track, setting both bikes and the track ablaze.

Pedrosa was at a loss to explain exactly what happened. "A rough start in the first race because I don't know why I had this crash. I think it was third lap and maybe I touched the inside line, or maybe the tire was still too cold on the right side. I was using the hard compound on the front with these cold conditions today. I went in the turn when I was at maximum angle, and then I just tried to pick up the bike out of the turn and the bike didn’t pick up and I stayed on the floor. I spun in the middle of the track. Unfortunately, Savadori hit my bike and he’s hurt, so I’m sorry for him."

Pedrosa realized just how fortunate he had been not to be hit by another bike. Enea Bastianini missed Pedrosa by a matter of centimeters, the lightning reflexes of motorcycle racers Pedrosa's good fortune. "I was very lucky," Pedrosa said. "I don’t think I had this situation before in my career, so it was a little bit of a shock seeing all the bikes passing by, one side and the other. But fortunately, it was all good for me."

Despite the crash, Pedrosa didn't think twice about getting back on the bike. His only concern was the fact that his second bike was set up for wet weather. "No, I didn’t have any doubt of going out, but the bike was not ready," Pedrosa said after the race. "We didn’t know if they can make it from wet to dry in the time. Fortunately, the mess up I did there was big enough that they took time to clean the track, so we had time to prepare the bike."

With two bikes on fire and an unknown quantity of fuel, oil, and other unwanted contaminants on the track, it was amazing how quickly the race was able to restart. Within half an hour, the debris had been removed, the track surface scrubbed, the water used to remove the detergents mostly dried with the help of leaf blowers. "I said this was Austrian organization at its finest. They did a fantastic job," an impressed Jack Miller told us.

All that was left after the excellent clean up job done by the marshals and safety staff was a narrow strip where the grip was not quite the same as the rest of the track during the restarted race, Miller told us "I don’t know if it was wet or petrol. On the second lap I took my normal line which crossed where the fire was and my bike lit up." That prompted the Australian to take a different line through the exit of Turn 3 for the rest of the race. "I just went to the kerb every lap and just accelerated where the kerb was. If you accelerated where the fire was, it was quite slippery. I hit it once and the bike lit up. I was like, I’m not going there again."

Pedrosa's crash and its aftermath may have caused the third red flagged MotoGP race in a row at the Red Bull Ring, but this was the kind of crash which had little to do with the unique layout of the Austrian circuit. "I think sincerely that what happened today with Pedrosa and Savadori can happen everywhere," Valentino Rossi said.

That didn't mean that the circuit wasn't dangerous, however. The hard-braking nature of the circuit created several points where disaster loitered. "This track has three, four wild braking points, and the most dangerous place is Turn 3, because you brake from the edge," Rossi explained. "So, when you have a wild braking, it’s dangerous. Also it’s difficult for the brakes, for example the probably of Maverick last year. So, it’s not just one thing. It’s different factors together, but I don't know what we can do."

Choke points

Those danger points were what had caused the red flags at the two races held at the Red Bull Ring in 2020. In the first race, Johann Zarco and Franco Morbidelli collided heading up to Turn 3, and their bikes shot straight across the track on the exit of Turn 3, narrowly missing Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales. In the second race, Viñales had his brakes fail on the entry to Turn 1, and was forced to bail at high speed, the bike smashing into the air fence in the corner and destroying it.

A repeat of the problems caused by Viñales' crash had been addressed in part by new uprated brakes brought by Brembo, and made mandatory by Race Direction. Those brakes are far more capable at dealing with the high stresses generated by the Red Bull Ring, though not everyone was happy with them. "Last year I remember that we were on the limit with the brakes, so Brembo gave us an evolution of the brakes from last year, but I don't know if we need to put more kilometers on the parts, but still it's not working good," Suzuki's Alex Rins said. "I think everybody was using the new brakes, it was mandatory."

Turn 3 is a far more thorny problem. The section up the hill, where riders heel the bike right over for the lightning fast kink of Turn 2 before hauling on the brakes at full lean while trying to flick the bike over to the right for the sharp right hander of Turn 3, is glorious and supremely challenging, but if it goes wrong, there is no room to escape. That automatically creates critically dangerous situations.

"There are some critical points but for sure corner three is critical, because normally it’s there where we always have any accident or they need to stop," Jorge Martin said in the post-race press conference. "It seems like in the future the layout will be different, so I think they will solve this problem. We arrive in a really high speed to that corner." There was also an issue on the exit of Turn 3, the Pramac Ducati rider added. "Also, there’s an uphill when you open the throttle and you cannot see. That’s why maybe Savadori crashed. I think in the future it will be okay but for the moment, we need to make another race like this."

Joan Mir concurred. "Like Jorge said, Turn 3 is critical. It’s really dangerous, especially in the wet." It wasn't the only hazard at the track, however. "What I see that is also really dangerous in this track is Turn 1 and Turn 3, because the exit of those corners there’s an uphill and then coming downhill." Those blind crests left riders unsighted if anyone crashes on the exit. "If something happens there, you don’t see it. For sure we saw in Moto2 last year that massive crash, and then today with Savadori nothing happened because that is the first gear corner and hopefully he’s okay. But this is critical, this turn here."

Though nothing has changed this year, the circuit has promised to make that point in the track safer for 2022. According to German magazine Motorsport Magazin, the plans are to insert a chicane in the track just ahead of Turn 2, making the current Turn 2 the exit of the chicane, slowing up speeds for entry of Turn 3 enormously. The chicane would only be used for MotoGP, F1 not having the same issues at that corner.

If that were to happen, it would be a tragedy, ruining one of the most challenging corners on the calendar. Other alternatives exist, though they would surely be more expensive. One idea is to make Turn 2 much more of a corner, and making Turn 3 rounder. That would also solve the problems at Turn 3, but would require a great deal more work to accomplish, and moving a significant amount of earth. The Red Bull Ring's setting is visually stunning, but there are disadvantages to building a racetrack against the side of a mountain. Mountains have slopes, topography dictating to a large degree where and how you can insert corners.

Taking the sting out of Turn 2 and Turn 3 will make a huge difference, but the Red Bull Ring will remain a dangerous place, Fabio Quartararo believes. "For me the start is critical," the Monster Energy Yamaha rider told the press conference. "The start here is so critical because Turn 1 is a corner that you don’t really carry speed. You have a lot of tarmac outside."

All that extra run off, both at the end of the straight and the exit of the corner, allowed riders to run wide without losing much time, Quartararo explained. "We were saying coming here that many people don’t care where they brake in the first corner, because they know that in any case, they can go to the green, they can go outside. If you put grass or gravel there you don’t go, so you need to think about stopping."

That would be a change Quartararo would be keen to see. "I think this is something that for the safety it can be good. Turn 3, two of the red flags were in that corner. It’s quite dangerous, but it looks like for the future it will change," the Frenchman said. "1 and 3 are really critical points for us and also for Moto2. We are coming so fast, but last year was a big crash in Turn 1. So, we will have another one."

The crash may have halted proceedings, but it also gave everyone a second chance. That helped some riders, and hindered others, but the resulting race produced some fascinating stories. Below, for subscribers, some of the subjects to be dealt with:

  • The nightmare of race restarts, and everything that can go wrong
  • How restarts ruin tire management, and who suffers
  • Miguel Oliveira's front tire woes
  • Brad Binder – poor qualifying, great race explained
  • Jorge Martin's remarkable win
  • Why Moto2 prepares riders better for MotoGP now
  • Suzuki's ride height device and Joan Mir's championship chances
  • Fabio Quartararo and the power of podiums
  • What went wrong with Maverick Viñales' electronics, and how MotoGP bikes know where they are on the track.

A race restart is also a race reset. Everyone starts from zero again, and gets a second chance, to rectify mistakes and use lessons learned in the first race start. It is, in every sense of the word, a second chance – there are some things the riders and teams have control of in a restarted race, and some things are just down to dumb luck.

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year: 
2021
round_number: 
10

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Comments

The Vinales exit from Yamaha is starting to look a lot like the Ben Spies exit from Yamaha, including a VR46 type pushing for the seat.

Seems an unfair comparison. Vinales has arguably been underperforming for years on that bike and the attraction for Yamaha in a commercial sense of replacing Vinales with Morbidelli is hardly the same as Spies / Rossi. If Maverick could master his emotions he would make better decisions and a lot of the things that happen to him bluntly wouldn't. 

I see what you are saying there Stuart, agreed. AND it was the first thought that popped in me head, Yamaha has had a ghost in the machine before w Elbows. Natural thought...this WAS pretty weird.

Vinales looks really relaxed now. He may yet get some good results before heading to (it HAS to be Aprilia, doesn't it?).

:)

Is Ducati experimenting with 2 wheel drive on Jorge Martin's bike?

He is so fast and with the fact that his front is covered as soon as his bike gets parked I would not be surprised if they are experimenting with electric frontwheel drive.

Are there any restrictions in the MotoGP rules?

His ride was fantastic.

I admit I only skimmed the technical regulations, but I'm sure this is disallowed. While of course the rules don't mention this explicitly, I would think it falls under section 2.4.3 Engines. You are only allowed to use a four stroke, reciprocating-piston engine. Or it could fall under 2.4.3.5 Electronics, and since it's not listed as an approved device then it would run afoul of that section.

The reason the teams cover tires (front and rear) in Parc ferme is to prevent other teams from seeing wear patterns. Can infer a lot about the setup from wear patterns.

No front wheel drive right now. Too complex, too much additional weight, Too little to gain.

What's the estimated salary of a Satellite rider? $500k? $1MM? 

Based on your estimations, it costs a family about a $1MM to do whatever it takes to take your kid to the big stage and families often put everything in, we hear about it all the time (Stoner, Miller, Martin, etc.). 

Trying to figure out how much it would take for the kid to pay their parents back.

I bet some make that money.  I think there are a few riders on the grid that pay to be there as well.  I sponsor two professional riders and I'm paying for their spots on good teams.  I then have to pay them so they can eat and pay bills.   They're not in GP, but I think there are very few riders in the world that make a decent living.  The rest are all still strainging to be there.  

 

Head bangingly obvious constellation of logic to deal with....after the fact. I feel for the people who missed it, it's so obvious, it always is obvious and yet there you are trying to eat your own head. No bike in the pitlane has ever passed a sector one timing loop. Beer is the only answer, a quiet corner, beer, beautiful blue sky and the odd fluffy cloud to receive profanities.

Shame about the first start. The race was looking like it might have some good hard fights. Maverick getting feisty with Fabio and then everything goes to s*** again on the second start. Too many riders dropped pace for the 2nd start. However, it turned out ok....well done Jorge ! Zarco might need to up his game me feels.

I don't mind the chicane fix posited in the link to that German magazine, but I feel they could do more overall to the track. As you note it's a lot of work, but this is Red Bull we're talking about. If anyone can afford these changes, it's RB.

... Red Bull has money. They should ask Crutchlow for his suggestions ... "it happens at this track (track limits warnings) because it’s a shit track and it’s too difficult not to go on the green" ... lol.

I am still bitter about how Yamaha handled the Spies situation.  As a Yamaha guy from way back, still I believe he was a victim of repeated torpedo-ing on orders from those wanting to clear space for Rossi's return.  They could have done the right thing and sent him under a factory contract to Tech 3, but, noooooooooo...

Who is sabotaging Vinales?  Vinales.  Not quite the same thing.  He's already made his decision to leave.  What good would it do for Yamaha to start screwing with him now?  He is his own worst enemy, pesky timing loops notwithstanding.

Jorge ran away with it, plain and simple.  Mir may have had extra speed courtesy of his new toy, but it looked like Jorge was comfortable and had something stashed away if things got tense. I wouldn't be surprised if he did the same thing this coming Sunday.

Q is in maintenance mode now.  A sure indicator of a rider playing the long game and looking towards WC.

I remember crew chief Tom Houseworth getting adversarial with Yamaha, insisting that Ben gets what he wants done autonomously and directly regarding technical change on the bike, electronics too. Ben's mother was his manager, in the garage agreeing of course. The Superbike sensation might have been responsible for much of what could be attributed to Blue. They even insisted on bringing their own electronics guy over from, again, SBK, against Blue's preference. They made a bubble around the inner circle of their garage. It just isn't how things work, even back then. 

How we get to broken swingarms et al et more al? HRC made a deal with the devil. Look where it got them!

;)

The sabotage of Spies is the hill I die on, and that's from someone with no meat in the game for either team blue or elbows.

Just my 2c though. Take it with a grain of salt.

Thank you David.  This is a wonderful report on the race and the background information made it even more enjoyable.  I love it when you include tantalising detail to further inform us and wonder if you might consider an article on the route to stardom from a youngster throwing their leg over a bike for the first time to standing on the top step in MotoGP when there  is a Summer lull or a period you might have time to do so please?

One time Nicky Hayden's electronics got confused and his bike thought it was on a different part of the track than it really was for the remainder of the race. Full power when he didn't want it, and low power when he needed it. 

The first one was a hard pass for sure. The second one was purely a racing incident after going in three wide and being left with nowhere to go. AE has to take some of the blame too, he should have left them more room.

A legend retiring from the sport they've overshadowed for decades is apt to lead to a diminution of the sport for a time until a 'savior' comes along and resurrects it. Nowhere was it more likely to occur than in Motogp with the loss of Vale to 4 wheels.

But it will not occur. The sport is loaded with charismatic young racers as evidenced by Styria's podium. They are mature beyond their years, filled with charm and have the humility/arrogance ratio figured out. Jorge Martin has talent and charisma in equal parts, Joan is Joan - Mr. Perfect, and Fabio is so full of charm you just have to love him. The field is filled with class acts and real racers. Motogp is gonna be just fine post-Vale. Here's the post-race presser.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oAX-W6_9qs

All true, and lets' not forget that the most highly skilled rider in history is still sitting on the grid in his 20's, with 8 chips in the bag already.

And you know the guy with 8 wants to get to 10 in the most desperate way. But will he? There's a debate. Over/under 1.5 more chips? I'm going under

The sport has never had nor needed a savior. Beyond the 'bike nut' brigade Rossi was just the common theme for many years in the reasons people tuned in to watch the races. Gap from 1st to 3rd...100 years...who cares there's a war at the front. Grids barely reaching past 3 rows...who cares there's a war at the front. Rossi vs Biaggi and onwards. Val(u)e plus: Peter Pan, who always seems to be involved with these wars appears to be a naughty child running around the house making bike noises while clutching only a pencil in his hands like the bars of a bike. That imagination and love of 'things'. Carefree, fun and silly. It's, on average, very appealing. Maybe in some of the most thin days the business owes these riders a lot.

Nowadays when a rider celebrates they swing a golf club, play pinball, take a bow, plant a flag, play pool or cheer at an empty grandstand. Fun.

History suggests that in a few years everybody will see it for what it was and remember it all fondly.

 

Michelin changed the F tire for next weekend in response to Oliveira's chunking issue. Here comes KTM next weekend? Honda too? Both bikes showed themselves as capable last Sunday. Binder was great, even though the KTM had to be ridden quite gingerly on the brakes. Oliveira may be there as fitness allows. Over at Honda, one rider looks to have plenty of fire in the furnace and is coming closer to clicking on fitness and ironed out wrinkles. A.Espargaro is getting this Aprilia up towards Top 5's. The Ducati looks fantastic here, and yet Suzuki AND Yamaha can stick right with them. Every damn 2021 bike on the grid can do the business here and now, and the timesheets are close as ever. Have we ever said this? 

You've got to love this season! And era. How fortunate.

It's common knowledge amongst those who know me that I'm somewhat of a track perv, let me explain. Every track I've been to since the mid-late '70s I have to walk round if I've time-or if you actually can anymore, new Misano, Aragon and Sepang being very disappointing examples where it's not possible (unless you have brightly coloured passes, which I don't always..). Walking round on the Saturday is great to see the gladiators from many positions and it's amazing how much more hilly, cambered or roller coaster-y those ribbons of tarmac are, much more so than the flattening effect of TV. I walked around RBR Saturday 2019 on a steamy hot day. Well, the TV does a great job but it's true, Spielberg is, just like its older sibling the Salzburgring, a lethal track in a picture postcard setting. Narrower, steeper, prettier, darker and faster than you think, as close to the riders as some parts of Donington and man, is that turn 3  steep! In Mat Oxley's opus 'The age of Superheroes' he describes Mick Doohan's 'love' of the old Armco alley at Salzburg, how you're tipping in blind, surrounded by metal, the bike doesn't want to turn as you scrub off speed before the never-ending arc of the stadium section. We saw the '91 GP there, a 'time of titans' and heard the wind rush preceding the riders up the hill before tipping into Mick's favourite bit of track, most riders backed the throttle off slightly, some dropped to fifth, Doohan did neither, incredibly. There are many striking similarities when we visited the 'Ring the day after Spielberg 27 years on: hemmed in by the terrain, like Cadwell on steroids, blindingly fast, horrifyingly narrow, especially where the cameras (deliberately?) don't go; achingly beautiful with almost luxurious facilities (RBR), and panoramas to die for-pun most certainly not intended. 

But wow, if you can divorce yourself from the danger, are these tracks exiting! All that we hope for from motorcycle racing, and to that end so is the ultimate, the T.T. Unless someone else owns the land to the east of turn one, then sure it can be widened as the old track is already there. We walked it behind the grandstands up the hill, meandering to turn three. If that basic trace could be reinstated it would give a gentler turn 1 and could possibly help a gradual rounding of turn 3 without losing its character. As for a chicane in between?:If theres one thing I know about chicanes is they invariably yield more crashes (Edwinas at Mallory Park anyone?) and, even more so than turn 3, bikes slide across chicanes into the path of other bikes, there's plenty of examples of that..

I don't know where this will all lead to, I love Monza, Salzburgring, old Hockenheim and the ultimate classic, Spa; places where motorsport was even more dangerous than the ticket said. I'm only a spectator though they stay in my mind and the memories remain, but the world is changing...

Beautiful, informative post.... I read it 4 times. 

Thank you Funsize.