The final race of the 2012 MotoGP season, at Valencia, was seriously affected by uncertain weather.
After the wet warm-up session, in which Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden had found a good rain setting, the precipitation stopped and the MotoGP race started with a track that was only damp.
Most of the riders began the race with rain tyres, though a small group risked slicks, returning to the garages to change bikes just before the lights went out. That group, which was obliged to start from pit lane, included the eventual winner, Dani Pedrosa, and Nicky Hayden. The American was caught out by the tricky conditions and crashed before he was able to take advantage of having made the right choice.
Valentino Rossi started with rain tyres and was in fourth place when, 25 laps from the end, he re-entered pit lane to switch bikes. With the dry tyres, he no longer felt at home and was only able to finish in tenth place.
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) 10th
“It’s really a shame that the last race with Ducati finished this way. Things went well this morning in the wet warm-up, and in similar conditions, it would have been possible to do a nice result. Instead, this half-and-half situation was truly difficult. In the end the right choice was to use the slick tyres, but my bike on the grid had a very different setting from the other one, so I didn’t feel like switching. With the rain tyres, I felt fine at first, but then when it was necessary to switch, the situation became more complicated. There was a thin dry line, but I couldn’t put the bike where I wanted and as soon as I would go off that line, it was very risky. I could only try to finish. I would have liked to finish these two years with Ducati better. They were two difficult seasons, but I nonetheless leave behind many people that I enjoyed working with, and with whom it was nice to go racing.”
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) DNF
“It’s a shame to end a difficult season in a bad way, but at least I’m 100 per cent okay from the crash. On the grid, it was a really close call between slick tyres and rain tyres. If the track had been warm, it would clearly have been better to start on slicks, but the cold surface temperature made it close. On the warm-up lap, Lorenzo was going faster than us on slicks, so in my opinion, it was the right decision to come in and switch bikes and start from pit lane. After that, it was okay on the dry line, but to make passes, you had to go out where it was treacherous. I got behind Petrucci and couldn’t find a way past. I was waiting to go by him on the front straightaway, but I got a little bit wide in the last corner and hit a patch. I went down so quickly that there was no way to save it. Next season starts now, so hopefully things will be better.”
Vittoriano Guareschi, Team Manager
“Today we lost an opportunity to have a nice race, both with Nicky and with Vale, and although that can happen in such uncertain conditions, we’re obviously not happy. Nicky switched bikes immediately, like Pedrosa, who won in the end, but he was done in by the slippery asphalt. Vale went well in the early laps, while he was on the rain tyres, but he didn’t feel good with the slicks. He tried until the end, without ever being able to push hard enough. We would have liked to finish differently, but anyway, we tried until the end.”
Qualifying practice for the GP de la Comunitat Valenciana was particularly challenging for the Ducati Team. With just one hour of time—the qualifying session itself—on a completely dry track, Nicky Hayden found a setup with some positives, though he still had some difficulty turning.
Rossi also had problems with the front end, especially in bringing the hard front tyre up to temperature on the right side. The Italian had to use the soft tyre, which he doesn’t think will be the ideal choice for tomorrow’s race.
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) 7th (1:32.503)
“It’s been strange with the weather this weekend. We had to basically go out in qualifying and spend some time to understand the new grip and also the bike, then try to get a good time. The bike was okay, but the front was pushing a lot, especially on corner entry, with the brake still on. The new pavement certainly helps the bike feel better, and I thought we could be closer to the guys at the front, but they went really fast today. I’m not too thrilled with how it went, but we have a couple of ideas to try in warm-up tomorrow. We’ll see.”
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) 11th (1:32.877)
“Today went pretty badly, and I’m sorry because we really hoped to do well in these last races. It’s also true that Hayden, Barberá and Bautista aren’t so far ahead, so tomorrow we’ll certainly try to do a good start, to pass some people and make up some positions. Unfortunately, today I had some problems with the hard front tyre. I lost the front twice at mid-session because we’re not able to get it up to temperature well on the right side. The race should be done with the hard, so we’ll see what the temperature is tomorrow or if there’s bad weather. If it were to rain, we would certainly be more competitive.”
The Ducati Team heads to this weekend’s Gran Premio Generali de la Comunitat Valenciana looking to finish off the 2012 season on a high. Valentino Rossi, contesting his last race with the Italian outfit, still stands a chance of finishing in fifth place in the table, whilst Nicky Hayden could jump up into eighth.
Hayden’s crew chief, Juan Martínez, sums up what is needed from the team to give both riders the best possible tools to achieve their goal: “Valencia racetrack is a track where you don’t have so many corners to the right, so you have to pay a lot of attention in the right hand turns, especially with regards to heating up the tyres to avoid having any crashes there.”
He continues: “This year we will have to find out about the different surface, because they have put a new surface on, and it seems like it’s going to be quite aggressive and it’s going to be very hard for the tyres.We will see what type of tyres Bridgestone will be taking there.”
The Ducati, known for its very high horsepower, will not be calling upon its outright speed at the Valencia circuit, but will instead have to focus on the frame set-up to prolong tyre life. Martínez adds: “The engine is not as important as it could be at Sepang for example, but we have to work on making the tyre life good enough to finish the race.The frame set-up is going to be very important in order to be gentle on the tyres. When you have a new surface on the track, the grip is not really constant on the tyre. It breaks the rubber and the tyres aren’t able to complete the whole race, so we have to set up our frame perfectly.”
Rossi, who has not won at the track since 2004, is looking forward to the atmosphere at the circuit:“Valencia definitely isn’t one of my favourite circuits, apart from the fact that it’s in Spain, which always has a great atmosphere. It’s a ‘Micky Mouse’ track that’s small for MotoGP and therefore difficult and tricky. There are a bunch of left hand corners, and I normally prefer those that go to the right. Anyway, we’ll see. The asphalt was redone and that should have improved both the grip and the bumps. It will be a strange weekend that should be challenging for a few different reasons, but we’ll do our best.”
Hayden mirrors his crew chief’s thoughts: “Valencia is a track and a race that I like a lot. It’s the last round of the year, so the atmosphere is good and everyone always seems to have a little something extra. The track has been resurfaced since we were last there, and it was certainly due. We’ll have to see how it is with tyres when we get there, as new surfaces can be hard on rubber. We’ll need something that has good endurance on the left but also retains enough heat on the right. Smoother tracks are normally better for our bike. One thing we need to do better than in recent races is to make bigger improvements with the bike over the course of the weekend. My team has been working so hard all year, and I really want to end the season with a solid race for them.”