Francesco Bagnaia takes the crown at the second edition of the #STAYATHOMEGP
After the success of the first edition of the #STAYATHOMEGP which took place on March 30 at the Autodromo del Mugello (albeit its virtual rendition), the second edition of the ‘season’ moved to the Red bull ring in Speilberg, Austria. Now, since the virtual format does not follow a points-based scoring system and allows for only ten riders on the grid, the five top scorers of the previous race (Repsol Honda’s Alex and Marc Marquez, Pramac Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia, Monster Energy Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales and Petronas Yamaha’s Fabio Quartarao) were joined by five new riders, in the form of Ducati teammates Danilo Petrucci and Michele Pirro, Tito Rabat from the Reale Avintia (Ducati) team, LCR Honda’s Takaaki Nakagami (the only non-European rider thus far) and Valentino Rossi, joining teammate Maverick Vinales. This race also marked the entry of the Factory Ducati team in the virtual Moto GP
The qualifying process for the second edition of the #STAYATHOMEGP was the same as before. Qualifying for the virtual race consisted of five minutes of the riders going around the track, and similar to Mugello, the first corner at the Red Bull Ring, a sharp right-hander aptly named Niki Lauda, is quite a daunting one. However, while the race for the first edition consisted of six laps around the track, this time around, the race event consisted of ten laps around the shorter (4.32km as opposed to Mugello’s 5.25km) circuit.
Moving to the qualifying, and the proceedings kicked off with a spill from Danilo Petrucci, followed by Tito Rabat on the sharp Schlossgold (corner 3) left hander. Rabat fell again, lowsiding into the Rauch (corner 4) left-hander, as did Alex Marquez. The next time around, Michele Pirro lowsided at corner 1, followed by Quartararo, who again tucked his front at the Remus (corner 2) right-hander, snuffing out his pole position dreams. Finally, Maverick Vinales took a while getting used to the track, first flipping out Rossi and then going off Tarmac at multiple places. Rossi, too, took a while to come to terms with the handling on his virtual wheels, his 1:25:160 minute timing (putting him last on the grid) prompting the need for him to adjust his controller settings. At the end, it was the veterans from the first edition of the #stayathomeGP who set the fastest times, with the top five on the grid mere fractions from each other.
The final qualifying timings were as under:
The race, too, started with carnage in the first corner, with Alex Marquez, Valentino Rossi, Danilo Petrucci, Tito Rabat and Fabio Quartararo all falling off their bikes in the first corner!
In the midst of all this, Nakagami escaped and got onto pole, running wide into corner 2, giving the lead to Bagnaia and almost pushing Vinales into the grass. He later regained his lead, but then running wide and losing pace, lost out quite a few spots. By the end of lap 1, Francesco Bagnaia was leading, with Maverick Vinales in second place and Marc Marquez in third.
Lap two started with Nakagami trying to overtake Marc Marquez, his aggressive manoeuvre leading to contact between the racers, causing the elder Marquez to crash. Now at third place, Nakagami could hardly collect his thoughts before the younger Marquez pulled off a clean inside-line overtake. By the end of the lap, Bagnaia had a 0.6-second lead on Vinales, a gap that widened when Vinales went over the kerb (in the first corner). Fourth-placed Nakagami tried yet another pass and, making contact with the younger Marquez, caused them both to crash.
With Bagnaia in the lead and Vinales a scant half-a-second behind him, the two top stops looked secure. Further down the line, the brothers Marquez were in pitched battle with Nakagami. However, Alex was able to slither ahead, while Marc did some deft late braking to get the better of Nakagami just as lap four started.
For his part, Bagnaia briefly came under threat from Vinales in corner 1, before Vinales’ late braking strategy caused him to not shave off enough speed, and run wide. At the rear, Fabio Quartaro tucked in his front, going down in corner one. However, before he could get back on track, he was rear-ended by Nakagami causing both racers to pirouette off the track in spectacular fashion. The crash pushed Valentino Rossi, earlier at eighth, up to sixth.
After the chaos was all sorted, Vinales snatched the lead, his attempts at taking the inside line off Bagnaia finally paying off. The battle for third place, meanwhile, saw its share of sibling rivalry, before Marc ran wide and Alex, just 0.132 seconds behind him, shot ahead. Alex’ lead was further magnified when Marc again went into the gravel in the successive turn.
Lap seven was a shocker, starting with Vinales, leading with seven-tenths of a second, lowsiding out in corner one and handing the lead to Bagnaia. Meanwhile Nakagami, who was leading in the first lap, was now dead last. By the end of the lap, Vinales was a full three-and-a-half seconds behind. And despite Bagnaia going wide in corner 1 of Lap 8, Vinales was still unable to close the gap. In the middle of the field, Danilo Petrucci crashed out, giving Rossi an opportunity for a potential top-five finish, a creditable feat for someone who started last on the starting grid. What looked certain, though, was that Alex Marquez would be back on the podium.
With one-and-a-half laps to go, Rossi’s efforts seemed to be bearing fruit, before he lowsided out of contention. Up front, a big slide from Bagnaia meant Vinales was able to close in further, just in time for the final lap to roll in.
The final lap saw the status quo more or less preserved. Though Vinales did briefly pass Bagnaia in the downhill segment, Bagnaia hit back with a daring overtake that took him onto the grass, before going back on track with a burst of speed that immediately put him a few bike lengths ahead, that too in the last sector of the lap. Further down the line, Valentino Rossi, though out of scope for a podium finish, kept fighting till the end, his aggressive move to snatch fifth from Fabio Quartararo ending with a spill.
At the end of the race, Francesco Bagnaia took the crown, with Maverick Vinales breathing down his neck. Alex Marquez was a distant third, crossing the finish lap 9.903 seconds later, while Marc was 2.7 seconds behid him, finishing fourth.
The final standings were as follows: