I learned a new Spanish expression today. "Hasta el rabo todo es toro", which translates roughly as "the bull goes all the way to the tail". It's an expression which comes from bullfighting (a misnomer: it is bullying, not fighting, with a large band of armed hooligans ganging up on a single bull, rather than a toreador going head to head with a single bull; for that reason, I am always, always Team Bull) which means you can't trust the bull until you are sure it is dead. It ain't over until it's over. And sometimes it is over before you realize.
Sunday at Misano 2 was the proof of that. It was a day of unexpected outcomes, of shock twists just when you thought everything was done and dusted. As the late, great Nicky Hayden said to me after I had asked a particularly stupid question at Indy many years ago, "that's why we line up on Sunday: you never know what's going to happen."
So a few thoughts on the events of Sunday, ahead of some longer reflections on a day which was so very full of story lines. Literally, every class, every level of every race, there were things you could spend hours pondering and debating. It was one of those weekends.
It started off with Dennis Foggia walking away with Moto3, then Pedro Acosta salvaging a podium at the end. Raul Fernandez destroying the Moto2 field to take a commanding championship lead, then crashing out for no apparent reason and handing it back to Remy Gardner. Pecco Bagnaia leading comfortably and crashing out. The first Repsol Honda 1-2 since Aragon 2017. Enea Bastianini bagging his second podium. Two Aprilias in the top 8 for the first time in the premier class, Maverick Viñales finishing less than two tenths behind his teammate. Valentino Rossi his third top ten of the season at his final race on Italian soil, then throwing his helmet into the crowd – Rossi never, ever gives his helmets away, so this was exceptional. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
But the big thing was, of course, Fabio Quartararo taking his first MotoGP championship, and the first premier class title ever for a French rider. At the age of 22 years 187 days old, he is the sixth-youngest premier class champion, the third-youngest MotoGP champion, and the youngest ever Yamaha champion. History was made.
And it was all rather unexpected. On Saturday, things were not looking good for Quartararo. For the first time in 2021, he qualified outside of the top 12. Indeed, starting from 15th was the worst qualifying position of his MotoGP career. His main rival for the title, Pecco Bagnaia, had qualified on pole, after masterfully progressing through Q1 to dominate Q2 on a drying track. We looked on course for a runaway victory by the factory Ducati rider, while Quartararo had his work cut out trying to pass the thicket of riders he had ahead of him.
The championship seemed out of reach for Quartararo on Saturday night. "If I have to be honest, the championship I have not even one thought about it, because he [Pecco Bagnaia] is P1, and I'm P13 or P15," the Frenchman told us after qualifying. "But he has the pressure, it's not only me. He has the pressure to do well, and maybe he will make a mistake. I don't wish him that, but it's something that we will see. But my feeling is that if everything is normal, we will fight for it in Portimão."
Nothing is ever normal in MotoGP, of course. The only thing you can be sure of in this Michelin & Magneti Marelli era is that something unexpected is going to happen. So we should have known that Quartararo would take the title on Sunday.
What happened? The weather had played a role all weekend, so why would Sunday be any different? Rain and a drying track on Friday and Saturday, and a cold but reasonably sunny day on Sunday. The temperature made tire choice a bit of a gamble: the soft front was too soft with the sun heating the Misano asphalt. But the ambient temperature was barely enough to make the hard front work. The medium front was the safe option, but it was not a tire anyone was particularly keen on. It was not so much the goldilocks option as the least worst choice.
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