I have seen a lot of Dani Pedrosa over the years. I have seen him win races and championships. I have seen him hurt himself far too often. I have seen him race in pain. I have seen him tell a joke. But I have never before seen him in tears as he was on the rostrum at Jerez. He has now won a Grand Prix in each of the last 16 seasons, a unique achievement.
Dani was fastest all through the weekend, in wet and dry, in the cool and on a scorching race day. Aided by a Honda that found grip where others couldn’t, he was never headed and stayed cool under pressure from a charging Marc Marquez.
Race day was much, much hotter than practice and qualifying but not quite hot enough to make tyre choice clear cut. Or so most teams thought. The factory Yamahas went for the hard front tyre while the satellite bikes went for the medium and were right. For once, Rossi’s crew actually managed to make the bike worse than it had been for the rest of the weekend. By the end of the race he was going into corners as if he was riding on ice. Vinales couldn’t believe that his bike changed so much and obviously thought he’d got a duff tyre but couldn’t say so.
Yamaha’s honour was salvaged by Johann Zarco who continued where he’d left off in Texas by shoving factory riders out of the way on every corner. It took Jorge Lorenzo most of the race to subdue him. Given Jorge’s form over the whole weekend, it almost wasn’t a surprise that he got his first top-three for Ducati. The whole garage was ecstatic; Gigi was seen to abandon his Machiavelli-standard poker face for a second. We should have known Jorge was confident after a top-draw piece of passive aggression in the pre-event press conference. He was asked what he’d do if he found himself going into the last corner with Marquez. “That’ll be Maverick’s problem, not mine,” he said. Beside him, Valentino almost started to laugh before realizing he’d been dissed.
Add in the first public friction between Dani and Marc after qualifying (Dani shut off and sat in the middle of the track to prevent Marc getting another lap, payback for the tow) and it’s all boiling up nicely for Le Mans.
Expect a massive crowd, always on the brink of a bundle with the riot police, to roar Zarco on to further daring deeds.