Dani Pedrosa won a rain-shortened Malaysian Grand Prix over Jorge Lorenzo, lowering the factory Yamaha rider’s championship lead to 23 points. If Pedrosa wins the last two races in Australia and Spain, and if his Repsol Honda teammate Casey Stoner finishes second and Lorenzo third in both races, Lorenzo will still become the 2012 world champion.
The weekend had been a wet one, with the first free practice dry and a downpour just before FP2 began, then rain overnight before FP3 and Saturday afternoon’s qualifying.
Speaking on Friday, Lorenzo had said, “This morning was great. From the beginning, I was competitive and more or less at the same pace as Dani and Casey. Casey, especially, is much stronger than he was in Japan. This afternoon, we couldn’t practice because of the weather.
“The grip today was not so good—much worse than the winter test—and I didn’t like the behavior of the engine so much in the slow corners. It is a little bit aggressive, and we need to calm down the bike by working on the electronics.”
Remarks like these show the extent to which Yamaha and Honda have traded places in the latter half of this season. Honda, traditionally the team that has dumped in more power as if it were a remedy for every ill and then struggled with handling and tire issues, has worked hard this year to adapt its bike to the current Bridgestone tires. As it has succeeded, and as Pedrosa has become dominant, Yamaha has added power at some compromise to handling and tire life.
COMBINED FP1/FP2 LAP TIMES
1. Pedrosa 2:01.621
2. Stoner 2:01.773
3. Lorenzo 2:01.934
4. Dovizioso 2:02.236
5. Crutchlow 2:02.266
Saturday confirmed that problems are the natural state of racing. Instead of rain, the issue was chatter. Nicky Hayden said, “I had so much chatter that both of my hands are still tingling. I think a lot of guys are dealing with it, but it’s really making it difficult for me in the fast corners.”
LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl had more chatter than ever before. “Today’s qualifying was extremely tough for us,” he said, “because we did not improve our setup before the afternoon session. This morning, we tried to find the right way to reduce the chattering because I could not enter the corner. We are losing too much time in the middle of the corner and struggling to find the solution because we never had such a big chatter issue in the past. In these conditions, I do not have enough confidence, and this cost me a lot of time.”
Valentino Rossi added, “When we put on the soft [tire], it triggered a lot of chatter, and I wasn’t able to improve enough to be further up the grid.”
Andrea Dovizioso had a dissenting opinion. For the Tech 3 Yamaha rider, all had gone well. “I am very happy with today’s front row because it is a confirmation of how strong we have been all weekend. We have made progress with the setup of the bike, and for qualifying, we made another big improvement. I am very close to Lorenzo and Dani [in pace], and my goal will be to stay with them for as long as possible tomorrow.”
Pedrosa had it bad. “We had quite a lot of chattering, and I don’t know why, really, because with some tires, it was more. On the last tires, even on the straight, it was chattering; the tire didn’t feel round. It’s not a good feeling like this—and very difficult to make a lap time—but we were still able to make the front row.”