Silverstone delivered the second-closest top-10 finish in MotoGP history as factory Ducati rider Francesco Bagnaia celebrated a surprise victory at the Monster Energy British Grand Prix. Just 0.6sec split the podium finishers in this 12th round of 20 in the campaign.
The 25-year-old continued his “hot and cold” streak by winning his second Grand Prix in a row – his fourth of the year; he has either triumphed or tumbled in the past seven rounds. His success, ahead of Aprilia’s Maverick Vinales and Ducati team-mate, the Australian Jack Miller, was unexpected considering the strength of rivals, such as Monster Energy Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo (the reigning world champion, points leader and 2021 Silverstone ruler) and Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro, as well as 2019 British GP master Alex Rins.
Bagnaia’s set-up work with the Desmosedici GP22 – a motorcycle that holds the MotoGP top speed record at 363.6kmph (225.9mph) – allowed him to manage his hard rear Michelin tyre across the baking Silverstone asphalt, while fellow competitors such as Vinales, Miller, Quartararo and Rins were lagging.
The start of what seems to be another UK heatwave drove track temperatures over 40C and provided the warmest conditions of the Grand Prix weekend.
Even though Bagnaia’s margin at the chequered flag was slight, his composure was immeasurable, particularly when Vinales threatened to snare his first win for the Italian brand on the final lap but cooked his rubber through at least three small errors.
“This is one of my very best [wins],” said Bagnaia. “I was not competitive all weekend but we were able to find something for the hard rear tyre and today was a big improvement. I was able to take advantage of things that were going on around me. This is the first time from a difficult situation where I could win.”
Bagnaia’s feat stole attention from the narrative of the championship chase.
Quartararo was obliged to fulfil a long-lap penalty that dropped him away from second place and nullified his chances of a second successive ownership of the GP.
Espargaro had crashed heavily on Saturday and although he insisted that the spill did not affect his race at Silverstone, he was mystified why he could finish only ninth – his second-lowest result of the year and one spot behind Quartararo – and therefore actually lose one point to the Frenchman, extending the gap to 22.
“I look at the classification and understand zero,” the Catalan said. “Ducati had zero pace during the weekend and they won. They did an extraordinary job today, I don’t understand where they found the pace.”
Bagnaia is the eighth different winner at Silverstone and in the first post-Valentino Rossi season, which has been marked by amazing parity but also concern over the progressive development of downforce-inducing aerodynamics that have bitten into the overtaking prolificacy of the sport. Nevertheless, the venue was a worthy scaffold as only 6.6sec was the divider between first and 10th.
“It’s one of the best in the world,” said Miller “a proper old-school Grand Prix track with a lot of different elements. The fact that we are so close together shows the depth of the field, but [it’s] also this race track.”
Jake Dixon shouldered the burden of home expectations and rode to third spot in Moto2 for his third career podium finish; six-tenths from Spaniard Augusto Fernandez. “I was fired-up straight from the off… sometimes I was a little over the limit,” the Briton admitted.
Vision Track Racing Team’s world championship rookie, Scott Ogden, emerged from his first home Grand Prix in 12th as the Moto3 class both thrilled and frightened, with 20 riders all within three seconds and six crashing out in the last two laps alone.
MotoGP keeps up the pace with round 13 at the Red Bull Ring, Spielberg for the Austrian Grand Prix in a fortnight.