Lorenzo wins MotoGP opener in Qatar as Ducati rumors swirl

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Jorge Lorenzo kicked off his MotoGP championship defence in perfect style on Sunday in Qatar as speculation about his future with Yamaha continued to swirl.

Lorenzo took pole at the Losail International Circuit on Saturday after edging out Honda’s Marc Marquez and Suzuki’s Maverick Vinales in qualifying by less than one-tenth of a second.

The Spaniard slipped down to third off the line as Ducati’s Andrea Iannone shot into the lead with Ducati teammate Andrea Dovizioso in tow.

Dovizioso moved into the lead of the race when Iannone crashed out, promoting Lorenzo up into second place before he duly passed the Italian on lap nine.

Lorenzo was tailed closely by Dovizioso, Marquez and Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi for much of the race before pulling clear in the closing laps.

Lorenzo eventually crossed the line to win the race with a buffer of two seconds, with Dovizioso holding on to second ahead of Marquez and Rossi as the trio were separated by just four-tenths of a second at the line.

“We are there, in first position, without struggling and suffering and riding in the perfect way. For me, over all laps, this race has been one of the best of my whole career and that was why I was able to win and could make this little difference in the last three laps that gave me the victory,” Lorenzo said.

“I was surprised how fast my pace was towards the end of the race. I was sliding so much, but at the same time I was very smooth and concentrated and made no mistakes and that’s why even with the pressure from Dovizioso, when I was at a margin of 0.4, 0.3, 0.5, I didn’t get nervous and kept riding better and better.

“I feel very proud of my riding and my race and also the work of the team, because we put together the electronics and the setting of the bike in a very good way.”

The victory was the perfect crescendo for Lorenzo on a weekend that saw his future become the main talking point up and down the MotoGP paddock.

Both Lorenzo and Rossi were due to be out of contract at the end of the season, only for Yamaha to announce that Rossi had signed a new two-year deal on Friday.

Lorenzo is known to be considering his future, having spent his entire MotoGP with Yamaha, and is thought to be considering a move to Ducati for 2017.

Lorenzo confirmed over the Qatar weekend that he has received an offer from Yamaha, but wants to wait before making a decision about it. Yamaha’s offer is thought to already be considering other riders for next season should Lorenzo choose to walk away.

The weekend also saw the frosty intra-team relations between Lorenzo and Rossi continue from 2015, with Rossi saying that he doubts his rival will leave Yamaha.

“To sign with Ducati you need to be brave, you need big balls,” Rossi is quoted as saying by motorsport.com. “So I think Lorenzo stays with Yamaha.”

Interestingly, Rossi made that exact switch from Yamaha to Ducati for 2011, only to endure the two worst years of his MotoGP career before rejoining his old team in 2013.

NEOM McLaren Formula E announces Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast for 2023 season

McLaren Formula E Hughes
McLaren Racing

Doubling down on their commitment to electric auto sports, McLaren Racing announced Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast to compete in the 2023 Formula E Series (FE), which completes their driver lineup.

The NEOM McLaren FE team was formed by the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team that won the 2021 and 2022 championships with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries behind the wheel.

“Today’s announcement feels like a long time coming,” said Ian James, managing director of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing in a release. “Since May this year, when we first announced McLaren Racing’s entry into Formula E, we have been working tirelessly to get in place the best possible team and structure for sustainable success.

“On the one hand, we have been working on the retention of the amazing talent that already was in place before going into the transitional phase. I’m proud to say I think we’ve done a great job on that front.

“On the other hand, we have been focusing on putting in place new processes and new talent – and the latter includes the drivers.”

The driver lineup clasps the two hands together.

Hughes brings 10 years racing experience in single seater cars, including a role with the acquired Mercedes-EQ team as a reserve and development driver for the past two seasons. He is the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 champion and has multiple wins in Formula 2, including two in 2020.

Announced in August, Rast joins the team after earning two podium finishes and six top-fives in 22 career Formula E starts for Audi Sport ABT before returning to the DTM Series last year. Rast’s best finish in Formula E came in the Puebla E Prix when he finished second to teammate Lucas di Grassi by less than a half second.

McLaren’s commitment to Formula E comes one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour in the driver lineup. After a modest start to the season, the McLaren XE drivers crossed the finish line first in Round 4 in Chile, but were assessed a time penalty that dropped them to fifth. Last week in the season finale in Uruguay, they held onto a hard-earned second place finish.