Just four rounds into the 18-race 2013 MotoGP World Championship, Ducati factory rider Nicky Hayden is already talking about having surgery at the end of the season to remove a screw from his right wrist.
Hayden has complained about pain in that joint for some time. After the Spanish GP in Jerez, the 31-year-old Kentuckian posted a photo on his Twitter feed showing both arms side-by-side. The right arm was visibly misshapen.
“A lot of fans were asking, ‘How’s the wrist?’ So, I showed ’em,” said Hayden. “Plus, I wanted to make it clear this wasn’t something I was making up. There’s a chance we’ll have to take the screw out at the end of the year.”
Hayden hyperextended his wrist exercising. “It was bothering me in Austin,” he admitted, referring to the second GP of the year, held at Circuit of The Americas. “When I got on the plane to come over to Europe, it really swelled up.”
I asked Hayden if the injury had anything to do with his dramatic highside crash during qualifying at last year’s Indianapolis Grand Prix. He sat out that race with a concussion and two fractures in his right hand.
“No,” he replied. “If anything, it could be related to Valencia a year and a half ago, that Turn 1 crash when [Alvaro] Bautista took out three of us. That’s when I first had to put a screw in the scaphoid.”
Despite the pain, Hayden finished seventh in Spain, beating his teammate, Andrea Dovizioso, by 16 seconds. “Jerez was really tough,” he said, “but I’m glad that I was able to get through the weekend and get a result. I hope I don’t have to suffer like that again any time soon.”
After Jerez, Hayden and Dovizioso tested at Mugello in Italy. “The Mugello test wasn’t easy, either,” said Hayden, “but it was worth doing. I think it will pay off when we go back for the race [in early June].”
This past weekend at Le Mans, which Hayden calls “maybe my worst track; never had a podium, never had a front row,” the swelling had gone down significantly. Hayden qualified 10th and finished fifth, battling close to the front. Dovizioso qualified third-quickest, led and finished fourth. Post-race, Hayden hardly mentioned his wrist.
“I really enjoyed the first 15 laps,” he said. “We know the Ducati is good in the rain, and when the track was wet, I had really good feeling. Unfortunately, when Valentino [Rossi] crashed, I picked it up and went straight to avoid him. I thought I could still recover the gap to Dovi and Cal, and then I ran off again.
“Qualifying wasn’t great, but overall, we had pretty good pace this weekend. I’m really looking forward to Mugello—I love the track, I love the race, I love the country. I don’t know if it’s the best GP of the year, but it’s right up there.
“We’ll regroup, get the hand even better and really go for it.”