I love the monsoons in Delhi. The rains sweep away the dust, the grime, and the heat leaving the city clear, whitewashed. But the rains at a circuit on race weekend are a different story. They give birth to stories, legends even. It’s these stories that stay with us for eternity. They bring a sparkle to our eyes when we remember them. Yes, the rains make legends.
I celebrated the first rains of the season this Friday, and then yesterday danced the rain dance for my favourites battling the elements at Silverstone and Sachsenring. It’s two-for-one weekend. MotoGP and Formula 1, one after the other, back to back. I spent most of Qualifying switching channels, watching Valentino Rossi, Nicky Hayden, and Cal Crutchlow and then, quickly shifting to Silverstone for a touch of Formula 1.
The 60-minute MotoGP Qualifying session at the German circuit was nothing short of frantic, as the riders pushed their machines in dangerous, wet conditions. But they made incredible time especially during the last few minutes. Stefan Bradl and Nicky Hayden posted strong times on a wet, but drying track. It seemed like we would finally see a Ducati at the top of the grid since Jerez. Bradl and Hayden posted strong times consistently, their grid positions changing rapidly. Then, suddenly, Crutchlow posted a time that put him on pole. That changed seconds later as Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner, and Ben Spies took over. The pole position changed hands in the last two minutes as if they were a fast-moving counter. It was Stoner however, who finally took advantage of a drying track. He elbowed Spies off the pole with a time of 1’31.796. Spies will now start the race from the second position after he posted a time of 1’31.989, followed by Pedrosa (1’32.081). Crutchlow, Lorenzo, Bradl, and Hayden take up the next four slots.
I am keeping my fingers crossed for Crutchlow. He is now the leading non-factory rider at the 4th spot on the grid. If there is anyone who deserves a podium finish, it is Crutchlow. He has shown that he has what it takes. He later said, “That was a really tough session because the rain was coming down really hard at times and it was easy to get caught out and make a mistake. Considering how bad the conditions were I am really happy to be so close to the front row.”
The biggest surprise and disappointment came from Vale. A master on rain, he has proved time and again that in the wets, the Ducati can be a podium bike. But the Qualifying at Sachsenring proved otherwise. He starts race from the 9th spot after posting a time of 1’33.217 behind Andrea Dovizioso. He said, in a Ducati press release, that they made a small mistake on the setup with back end of the bike. The water on the track also made it difficult for him to post fast times, despite being fast in the first and last sectors. “On the plus side, the data make it clear where we made the mistake, and if there’s a wet race, fixing those details should make us more competitive.”
Meanwhile, across the seas in Silverstone, Qualifying 2 came to shuddering halt. The track was just unsafe, and aquaplaning was a real danger. The red flag came out with barely 6.19 minutes left to Qualifying 2. The pitlane had its own story to tell. Sebastian Vettel stared glumly into the distance. Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were in a deep discussion. Bruno Senna chomped on a snack and then chatted with Sir Frank Williams. Nico Rosberg was busy participating in a Mexican wave with the technicians from different teams. Kimi Raikkonen watched as the technicians worked on his car, trying to fix the KERS problem. Jenson Button was nowhere to be seen. He had a disappointing Qualifying 1, as he failed to make the time he needed to move into Q2.
Qualifying 3 was nothing short of brilliant. The cars were out even as the racers pushed each other and themselves to the limit to post competitive times. The top 10 spots on the grid changed quickly, a game of roulette. It boiled down to a final battle between the Ferrari and the Red Bull. Mark Webber posted 1m 51.793s but Alonso, pushing his car and displaying his mastery replied back with a startling 1m 51.746s. The time was unbeatable leaving Alonso on the pole, followed by Webber, and Michael Schumacher. The hard-headed Ice Man battled not just the elements, but also a car with no KERS, and grabbed the 6th position after posting a time of 1m 53.290s. Pastor Maldonado made the 7th position ahead of Lewis Hamilton (Maldonado better watch out!). Bruno Senna made a strong attempt (the rains have always been good to him), but yellow flags at the final lap put paid to any Q3 chances. He will now start at the 13th position.
Rains always make a great story, better watched than told. Now, there are just a few hours left for the races with showers expected in Silverstone, and a sunny yet cloudy ahead in Sachsenring. What story will we tell tomorrow? I guess that’s up to the rain gods isn’t it?
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