The VROOM Blog – #ItalianGP – Fabio Quartararo dominates devastating Sunday in Mugello

 In MotoGP, News

I’m not sure where to start this week. I’m looking over the notes I’ve taken in the last week and honestly, none of it seems to matter.

This weekend the MotoGP paddock lost one of their own. 19-year-old Jason Dupasquier lost his life following a multi-rider incident at the end of Saturday’s Moto3 Q2 session. Dupasquier was treated on the track for a period of time before being transferred to hospital by air ambulance, but succumbed to his injuries on Sunday morning with the announcement of his death coming just as the Moto2 riders were lining up on the grid.

Dupasquier’s team mate Ryusei Yamanaka sat out warm up and the Moto3 race as the team awaited news, while Moto2 rider – and friend and mentor to Dupasquier – Tom Lüthi had withdrawn from the weekend to be at the hospital with Dupasquier and his family.

The paddock gathered on the grid just before the MotoGP race to pay tribute to Dupasquier with a minute of silence. It was heart breaking to watch Yamanaka and the rest of the team line up on the grid with Jason’s bike, and then to see many of the MotoGP racers head over to lend comfort following the silence.

Swiss rider Dupasquier was in his second season in the Moto3 world championship with the Carxpert PrüstelGP team, having made his way through the ranks of the Junior World Championship and Red Bull Rookies. Dupasquier had started his career in Supermoto and was a multiple time Swiss National Champion before making the move to circuit racing, taking the ADAC NEC Championship Moto3 crown in 2016.

Jason had made a solid and impressive start to his 2021 campaign, scoring points in every race and sitting 10th in the championship as this weekend began.

Jason will be missed by all in the paddock, many of whom have made touching tributes to him, and his team released a moving statement on Monday morning. The statement remembered Jason fondly, and said that while they didn’t know what would happen next, they would continue ‘for Jason’. Part of the team statement that stood out for me was their description of Jason.

“He was always an incredibly nice and funny guy, and a role model for many young talents. This is exactly how we want to remember him. A hardworking and respectful sportsman who made his Moto3 Championship dream come true. We can all be proud of the legacy Jason leaves behind despite is young age of only 19.”

I would like to extend my heartfelt condolences to Jason’s family, friends and the MotoGP paddock as a whole.

In the run up to the Mugello weekend we learned that – rather unsurprisingly – Jack Miller and Ducati have extended their partnership. Jack will continue to race in Ducati red for 2022. It was a busy week for Ducati (as you’d expect in the run up to their home GP) who also announced that they have extended their contract with Pramac for the next 3 years.

Davide Tardozzi also suggested that it would be possible for Ducati to reach an agreement with both the Gresini and VR46 teams with regards to running satellite teams in 2022. Talks are still ongoing with both teams, and should both teams sign on to take Ducati bikes that would make a total of 8 Ducatis on the grid, although Tardozzi did say that only up to 5 of those could be factory bikes.

There was a whole heap of riders with special liveries for their home race at Mugello from Valentino Rossi who traditionally reveals his special helmet design just prior to FP3 on Saturday morning, to the Sky VR46 riders displaying the now almost traditional Italian flag livery on their machines, leathers and helmets. Pecco Bagnaia was sporting new boots, also with green, white and red, while Fabio Di Giannantonio had a helmet which was split in two with one half painted as his late team boss Fausto Gresini used to have his, and the other half painted with his own 2016 design which was when they had their first podium together.

Rather randomly Pol Espargaro – who is Spanish – also had a new helmet this weekend. It was a Minions design and I can only assume that either he is a massive fan of the Despicable Me films, or that HJC have just released the design (they do also have a range of superhero designs) and asked Pol to run it.

One rider who you might have expected to have a special helmet this weekend is Italian Franky Morbidelli. Franky used his usual helmet – spectacular in its own right to be fair – because he forgot that this weekend was Mugello. He told reporters on Thursday “I have to be sincere. I completely forgot about Mugello. I live day by day; I didn’t look at the calendar and I didn’t realise that Mugello was straight after Le Mans.”

This is quite possibly my favourite thing about this weekend – imagine being so chilled out that you simply don’t realise that your next race is your home one and you might want a new helmet design! Hopefully someone will remind him for Misano…

One final livery update that I will mention is Maverick Viñales who was sporting pink highlights on his boots and gloves having become a father this week. He also had his daughter’s name – Nina – on the seat unit of his bike.

Heading into Mugello for the first time since 2019 – we didn’t race here last season due to the pandemic – means that not only will it be the 2021 rookies’ first time here on a MotoGP, but also the 2020 rookies. That means that this will be the first race on MotoGP machinery at Mugello for Alex Marquez, Brad Binder and Iker Lecuona as well as Luca Marini, Enea Bastianini and Lorenzo Savadori.

FP1 was topped by Maverick Viñales, while Pecco Bagnaia topped an FP2 session that prompted complaints from some riders – notably Jack Miller – about riders touring while waiting for a tow. Miller complained about a group of 8 riders that got in his way during the session and suggested that some form of punishment should be handed out. Two of the riders were the Repsol Honda duo of Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro, while a certain pair of Italian half brothers were also mentioned by those complaining.

Saturday morning rolled round and as expected Valentino Rossi unveiled his Mugello helmet – a cow and the word Muuu…gello. When asked to explain the idea behind the design, The Doctor explained simply that the cow says ‘moo’ so he thought it would be funny to say ‘Muuugello’ – he just wanted to make people laugh.

FP3 would be a crucial session to determine who would progress straight through to Q2, and who would have to face Q1. With 2 minutes to go, Maverick Viñales crashed out while Pecco Bagnaia set the fastest lap of the weekend so far – and the fastest ever lap on two wheels around Mugello. Obviously having set the fastest lap, Pecco topped the session to head straight through to Q2, and based on the times combined from this session along with FP1 and FP2, he would be joined by Fabio, Binder, Miller, Zarco, Rins, Oliveira, Joan Mir, Pol Espargaro and Franky Morbidelli. Some of the ‘big’ names facing Q1 would be Viñales, Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi and winner last time at Mugello – Danilo Petrucci.

FP4 is often where we see riders completing longer runs to see how the bike / tyres should perform in the race. The session was significantly delayed following the accident at the end of the Moto3 Q2 session, and not only did the riders have to sit around waiting for their session to get underway, they were subjected to the world feed which showed (as I understand it – I watch on BT sport, not the world feed) rolling coverage of Dupasquier being treated on the track for more than 30 minutes. Yes, its very easy to say that they could have just switched off the screens – something which Jack Miller says he did while at a function on Saturday evening where the accident was being replayed repeatedly – but how about they just don’t show what’s happening? Not only for the riders that have to take to the track straight afterwards, but for the sake of the injured rider’s family and friends who may be watching at home. We don’t need to see what is going on – it’s none of our business. And don’t even start me on the decision to show the replay of the crash almost immediately after it had happened…

As the delayed FP4 session came towards its conclusion, it was Fabio Quartararo who was this time frustrated to find a group of riders – Takaaki Nakagami, Enea Bastianini and Alex Marquez – touring. Fabio was clearly frustrated, but he did go on to top the session ahead of Pecco Bagnaia and Taka Nakagami.

Q1 was a session of drama and mind games – Marc Marquez made sure to follow Maverick Viñales to take advantage of a tow on their first run out, and then waited in pit lane for Maverick to leave for his second and final run of the session. Marc slotted himself in behind Maverick and followed him closely on his out lap. Maverick, clearly annoyed by this pulled in to the pitlane rather than complete a lap in a bid to lose Marc, but Marc ducked into the pit lane right behind him. When Maverick turned around, opened his visor and expressed his displeasure to Marc, he simply ignored him and continued to follow him. Maverick went on to set the fastest lap, only for Marc to take advantage of the tow and set a faster time leaving them sitting 1st and 2nd as final laps of the session began, only for Maverick to be bumped to 3rd by Aleix Espargaro.

Marc slowed and didn’t set a faster time, while Maverick continued to set red sectors for the first half of the lap – if he had kept this up he would almost certainly have knocked Marc out of the top two and progressed through to Q2 himself, but he ran wide in the last sector and lost any chance at that place in Q2.

Maverick later said that he simply didn’t have the speed to progress through to Q2, but that doesn’t make much sense to me – he set three red sectors and only lost out because he ran a little wide. He also didn’t want to talk about Marc’s antics during the session. Marc did say that he had apologised to Maverick – and admitted that he and the team had looked at the list of Q1 riders and decided that Maverick would be the best one to follow in order to get a good tow and set a fast time as he knew he couldn’t do it on his own. This is the side of Marc that I’m not a fan of – I know that technically there is no rule against it, but it smacks at poor sportsmanship for me. If when Maverick pulled into pit lane Marc had gone ‘do you know what, you got me, I’ll stop’ it might not have felt so bad, but to be so blatant about it bugs me.

There is also the argument that Maverick could have just ignored him and gone about his business – as Brad Binder would go on to do in Q2 – he could have got his head down and set about breaking the tow so that Marc wouldn’t have been able to gain an advantage.

Q2 was less dramatic. Yes, Marc waited in pit lane to get a tow for the second run, but this time he chose Brad Binder who either didn’t notice (I doubt that) or didn’t care and carried on with his session. It was Fabio Quartararo who qualified on pole for the fourth race in a row, setting an all-time lap record on his way. Fabio would be joined on the front row by Pecco Bagnaia and Johann Zarco. Aleix Espargaro was fourth, followed by Jack Miller, Brad Binder, Miguel Oliveira, Alex Rins, Joan Mir, Franky Morbidelli, Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro.

Polesitter Quartararo told Simon Crafar in pit lane that he was dedicating his pole to Jason Dupasquier and that he was praying for him and his family as they waited for news.

Morning warm up saw Joan Mir crash at turn 11 before making his way back to the pits to head back out on his second bike – which he then had to use in the race as his crew chief Frankie Carchedi explained that there was too much damage to the world champion’s number 1 bike to repair for the race.

The session was topped by Taka Nakagami from Zarco and Binder.

Following the minute of silence for Dupasquier, the MotoGP riders lined up on the grid for what must have been an incredibly difficult race.

There was drama before the lights had the chance to come on as Enea Bastianini collided with the back of Johann Zarco’s bike and went down at the end of the warm up lap. Both riders have slightly different versions of events – Zarco understandably was unsure what had happened as he was hit from behind, but he did explain that he was speeding up then braking to keep the heat in his tyres / brakes which is something that most riders do on their way back to the grid. Enea said though that he felt that Zarco had braked harder than usual and didn’t give him time to react properly.

Enea’s bike was removed from the grid and the Italian ran down pit lane and was able to begin the race from the pit lane only to crash out on the first lap.

As the lights went out, it was Fabio Quartararo who took the holeshot, but it was Pecco Bagnaia who led into the first corner ahead of Fabio, Miguel Oliveira, Johann Zarco and Jack Miller. Johann Zarco had soon demoted Oliveira to 3rd, while Joan Mir made his way up to 6th at the expense of Brad Binder.

Lap 2 saw Marc Marquez make contact with Brad Binder and crash, with Morbidelli having to take to the gravel to avoid Marc’s bike. Franky was able to re-join albeit way back in the pack, while Brad Binder had to ride for a few laps with his airbag inflated due to the contact with Marquez. Binder said after the race that it was difficult to breathe while his suit was inflated.

Out front, lap 2 also saw race leader Pecco Bagnaia crash out of the race. He said afterwards that he had struggled to keep his concentration following the news of Dupasquier’s passing – in fact reports after the race suggested that Pecco had asked his team if he could sit out the race.

With Pecco out of the race, Fabio Quartararo now led and he found himself in a back-and-forth battle with compatriot Zarco for the next couple of laps, but by lap 5 Fabio had made it stick and was trying to pull away. Behind him, Joan Mir was making moves – passing his team mate Rins for 5th and swarming all over the back of Jack Miller. A lap later Rins made his way back through on Mir.

As Fabio extended his lead at the front to a full second from Zarco and Oliveira, Rins, Mir and Binder all made their way past Miller. Over the next few laps Fabio extended his lead by around 0.5 seconds a lap while Mir and Rins passed each other repeatedly until Mir was able to make it stick on lap 11. By lap 15, the Suzuki duo were closing the gap to Oliveira who in turn was all over the back of Zarco. A lap later Miguel was through to 2nd and Mir was looming ominously behind Zarco.

With his lead now up to 3.9 seconds ahead of Oliveira and Zarco, Fabio looked a man on a mission as did Joan Mir who passed Zarco and immediately began to pull away from him. Now it was the turn of Rins and Zarco to exchange positions over a couple of laps as Mir made his way forward until he was on the back of Oliveira.

Alex Rins crashed out of the race at turn 15 on lap 18 – making this the fourth race in a row where he has failed to score any points following a crash.

Also crashing out of the race was Taka Nakagami, who had been running as the top Honda. Further back, Valentino Rossi was looking determined to pass Iker Lecuona for 10th.

After a dominant performance Fabio Quartararo crossed the line to take the win ahead of Miguel Oliveira and Joan Mir. They were followed across the line by Zarco, Binder, Miller, Aleix Espargaro, Viñales, Petrucci and Valentino Rossi who held off Iker Lecuona to record his first top ten finish of the season.

A clearly emotional Quartararo pointed to the sky several times on his cool down lap, and took a moment to stop at the site of Dupasquier’s accident in tribute to the young rider. On his return to parc ferme, Quartararo was handed a Swiss flag which he took onto the podium with him.

There was some confusion in parc ferme as officials told the riders that Miguel had been demoted to 3rd (making Mir 2nd) as he had exceeded track limits. Then he was reinstated as Mir had also apparently exceeded track limits. This gets on my wick – they need to sort out this track limits nonsense. I know that ‘rules are rules’ and if they touched the green then they get a penalty, but maybe the rules need looked at because neither rider gained anything from touching the green on that occasion – neither did Joe Roberts who lost his podium for the same reason in Moto2.

Parc ferme was obviously a very emotional one, with all 3 riders dedicating their performances to Dupasquier. Joan Mir said that it was difficult to put his helmet on and do his job today, Miguel said that it was hard as he can be happy with the result, but not completely happy, while Fabio said that he thought about Jason every time he passed turn 9 during the race. Fabio also said that he found it difficult to start the race after the minute of silence.

I know this thankfully isn’t a regular occurrence, but I have often wondered about having a minute of silence directly before expecting these guys to jump on their bikes and race. It’s difficult and the organisers are between a rock and a hard place in these situations. They want to pay their respects, but should it be done before the race? I suppose one option is to do it after the race, but then do you spend the whole race thinking that you’ve got that coming up? I don’t think there is any right answer here, and the same goes with whether or not the racing should have gone ahead.

There was much debate on social media as to whether the racing should have been cancelled, and there have been riders on both sides of the argument. As previously mentioned, Pecco reportedly asked not to race. Danilo Petrucci also questioned whether they should have raced, saying that he felt ‘a little dirty’ going out to race after one of their own had lost his life.

At the same time, Quartararo, Miller, Oliveira, Rossi and Mir were among those saying that the racing should go on, in memory of the fallen rider and in their honour. A lot of racers seem to be of the opinion that if they die doing what they love, they wouldn’t want the racing called off. Simon Crafar explained on his Twitter on Sunday evening that when he was racing, he always told his wife that if something happened to him, she was to tell them to race on – “that is why we are here”.

One of the best quotes about the decision to race on came from Valentino Rossi who said that “after a tragedy there is no point in either racing or not racing. You ask yourself why you do it, but nothing can change what has already happened. I was ready to go home, but there will be another GP next week.” And that’s it, isn’t it? You can put off racing this week, but there is another race next week, and you’ll have a week to stew about what has happened before you hit the track again.

It’s really difficult and I don’t really think there is a ‘right’ answer here, and I don’t think there ever will be.

Next week the MotoGP paddock will be in Barcelona, and Fabio Quartararo heads there having extended his championship lead to 24 points ahead of Zarco, with Pecco a further two points behind. Will he be able to extend his lead again at Catalunya? I’m sure he hopes so!

I’ll leave you this week with a quote from Miguel Oliveira that I think perfectly sums up this weekend.

“I wish this sport could not be so cruel but it is what we love to do, it is our passion.”

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