In the last of three back-to-back race weekends, Round 9 in Italy saw Dani Pedrosa finish second from pole (his second pole of the season) while team mate Casey Stoner had a difficult weekend – fifth in qualifying and then just managing to finish eighth after an incident where he ran off track. An exceptional race by their main rival, Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) denied Repsol Honda their coveted third victory in a row, following wins by Stoner in Holland and Pedrosa in Germany. Despite getting his bike set up perfectly during practice and qualifying and then having almost exactly the race he'd planned, in the end Pedrosa was unable to bring home the victory. However, his eighth podium in nine races now places him very solidly at second in the points table, and as we enter the season's second half Pedrosa is well positioned for a shot at the title. Stoner suffered all kinds of problems with his set up, and couldn't even manage a podium finish. After a third win of the season in Holland his fall in Germany knocked him off his rhythm and this result clearly shows he has not regained it. We still have the back end of the season to come, though, and Stoner will be determined to take the title again this year. Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) finished fourth in a personal best, and this will be a rider to watch for the rest of the season.
Well, I guess the only thing I can say about this race is that we lost to Jorge. He rode superbly here last year, so all season we've been trying out tactics to defeat him, but basically Jorge's performing far better than we had imagined possible. If we had a race around 1'48" flat, I thought we might be in with a chance but Jorge set a much faster pace. Dani got a solid setup in practice and qualifying, and his bike performed as expected in the race. The trouble was, he just couldn't match Jorge. His mistake on the first corner after the start let Jorge pass. Then Andrea got through and it took Dani several laps to regain second place. That gave Jorge enough time to build up an advantage of over a second. Andrea is a master at hard braking, and battling to get past him threw Dani's rhythm off. Regaining it took precious laps and during that time Jorge built a safe lead which he kept until the finish.
Because Jorge built a good lead in the early stages, he could afford to take it a bit easy. With a gap of only 0.3 or even 0.5 seconds, the leader has to press on as fast as he can, but a one second lead meant Jorge could just ride to maintain this gap over his pursuers and save his tires. Dani, on the other hand, had to really set a fast pace to recover from his setback early on. Of course we have to credit Jorge with a superb ride, but as I said, Dani's problems at the start meant an extra burden on his tires. Even so, Dani was getting the times we anticipated – it's just that Jorge was going even faster. The weather was good this weekend, so we were able to continue comparative testing for the new spec chassis we introduced in Holland. We got the bike perfectly set up in practice and qualifying, so we can't use that as an excuse. No, all I can say is that this time Jorge was brilliant and he beat us very convincingly.
We couldn't get the setup right on the first day, but I felt we started making progress from practice on day two. The fact that we couldn't get the data we needed on day one definitely affected both qualifying and race. On the first day, Casey was coming in to the pit to change the settings after every two laps, and his tires never properly warmed up. A rider like Casey of course knows that it's essential to do these things calmly and unhurriedly, but I guess his fall and no point finish in Germany was still making him impatient and on edge. He wanted instant improvements, so he kept coming in to change the settings. You need a good number of consecutive laps to be able to judge which direction to take the setup, but we didn't get them on the first day, and I think that was a major cause of Casey's problems in the race. Even so, I thought he would still manage a podium finish. Casey thought so too, and he was working his way steadily through the pack – I reckon he would have passed Andrea and Stefan if his brake calipers hadn't shaken loose at that corner, causing him to run off track. Getting out of the gravel, he found himself way at the back but by the end had worked his way up to eighth. Another disappointment, coming after his fall at Sachsenring. These two races aren't like Casey. Although, in a sense they are, too. However, we know just how fast Casey can be, and after this bad patch, we'll be doing everything we can to help him get back to his old form for the rest of the season. The thing we really need to do now, for both Dani and Casey, is to ensure they don't lose edge grip on long corners.
That's right. We'll be keeping Dani, and the new rider will be Marc Marquez from Moto2. But we've only decided on the riders – other preparations for 2013, sponsors and so on, are just beginning. This year, I said we would be facing a tough season, and it has been. But even so, Dani is second and Casey third in points. We may not be on top of the table, but there's plenty of time to reverse that, and that's exactly what I plan to do. The second half of the season is now coming up, and I'm still aiming for one-two finishes for Repsol Honda – Dani-Casey or Casey-Dani, I'll be happy with either. I want to see our two riders in a fight for the title. That's how I hope the season to end, and that's how I expect us to continue next year. This race saw our rookie Stefan get his best result at fourth, although Alvaro didn't put in his usual performance after his falls in practice. We have four great riders on the RC213V, and they're all committed to getting the best result possible for us.
After Marco died, his father Paolo mentioned that he would really like the bike his son had ridden. It gave me great pleasure to be able to fulfill the promise I made then, and it made Paolo extremely happy. Marco was an incredible rider, very talented. He was also the first rider I signed to our team after I returned to Grand Prix from F1. So many people turned up for the presentation ceremony, reminding me again just how well loved Marco was.
Now we have to start preparing for the US GP, taking us into the second half of the season. Our eyes are firmly on the championship title, and I hope all our fans will be cheering us on.