On Saturday at the San Marino GP Valentino Rossi revealed his special helmet, this year featuring a small yellow fish chased by a shark.
“The shark is not just Jorge, the idea is I won last year and as it’s my home grand prix everyone wants to hunt and eat me. We have this idea that I am the small fish trying to save myself and the shark is Jorge, Marc, Dani and the Ducatis. Everyone who wants to beat me at home!” said Rossi during Saturday’s post Qualifying press conference. As it stands it looks as though the fish might be chasing the shark in Sunday’s race.
With the Yamahas joining Ducati in running winglets, or ‘fins’ the MotoGP™ grid is taking on a distinctly marine quality this weekend at the Gran Premio TIM di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini, the Misano circuit located within walking distance of the sea.
Throughout the San Marino GP weekend Jorge Lorenzo has dominated practice on his Movistar Yamaha, topping every session, bar FP1, and securing pole position with a stunning 1’32.146. It’s not just his one lap pace that is impressive, Lorenzo’s average flying lap time in FP4 was a 1’33.489 and was comfortably in the low 1’33s for multiple laps. Rossi’s average flying pace in the same session was a 1’33.746, a quarter of a second slower. Their pace is close, but it appears at least one of the ‘sharks’ has an edge over the fish.
Stopping Lorenzo at the start of the race will be crucial, on all but one occasion in 2015 Lorenzo has gone on to win the race after leading the first lap. The only time this season Lorenzo has been unable to win after leading the first lap was in Silverstone, in the wet. In Silverstone the situation between Lorenzo and Rossi was almost identical leading up to the race, but rain gave Rossi a chance, which he seized with both hands. With clear skies predicted for all of race day it looks as though it will be the fish trying to chase the shark.
But, external factors could still help Rossi catch up. After a multitude of crashes in 2014, the Misano World Circuit ‘Marco Simoncelli’ was fully resurfaced, improving grip and removing the bumps. This has had two major side effects; teams and riders are experiencing more severe tyre drop off than in previous rounds, leaving teams and riders somewhat uncertain as to how the tyres will behave over race distance.
Throughout his long and illustrious career, Rossi has always been able to manage tyres well and get the most out of the bike on worn tyres. There’s no doubt Lorenzo’s early race pace is strong but can he maintain the mid 1’33s with a sliding rear?
The other major consequence of the resurfacing is Turn 10; 19 out of the 24 crashes on Saturday occurred at this fast right-hander. In previous years, riders were forced to slow for Turn 10, but a flatter and smoother entry to Turn 10 has seen riders push even harder, struggling to find the limit. Even the biggest sharks can have momentary lapses in concentration.
Based on times and performance throughout the weekend, Lorenzo has a clear advantage over Rossi. Can the fish escape the shark to live, and lead the championship, another day? Sunday will tell.
Photo: AGV Helmets