This weekend we are in Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, Italy for the third round of the season. There’s an unexpected change in the Audi Sport line-up, and we have a guest starter. Let’s see what happened in the practice sessions.
On Thursday we received the news that Jamie Green, racing for Audi Sport Team Rosberg, will be missing the races in Misano due to acute appendicitis. Head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass said: “The symptoms appeared all of a sudden during the night from Tuesday to Wednesday. We all wish Jamie a speedy recovery. He’ll definitely not be fit for racing this weekend, so we’re happy that Pietro is able to stand in for him on such short notice.”
Pietro Fittipaldi, normally racing for Audi’s customer team WRT, will replace him. He wasn’t supposed to race this weekend as he had to be in Canada for the Formula One Grand Prix.
So stepping in for Fittipaldi is a very special guest – MotoGP star Andrea Dovizioso, Audi’s guest starter this year. All manufacturers have a wildcard for the season. Last year, the wildcard drivers were Mattias Ekstrom for Audi, Alessandro Zanardi for BMW and Sebastien Ogier for Mercedes.
The Italian Ducati rider impressed during the practice sessions today. In FP1 he finished in 16th place, 2.174s off Loic Duval in the first place. He improved as he finished FP2 again in 16th, but now 1.801s off first place. He crossed the line in front of Aston Martin R-Motorsport drivers Jake Dennis, Ferdinand Habsburg, and in FP2 in front of Daniel Juncadella as well. In the press conference Friday afternoon, Juncadella already had a feeling the Italian could challenge them.
“I don’t really want to give him too many tips because if you look at our performance in Hockenheim and Zolder, I could worry about him. I’d like to focus more on myself and trying to get grips with our car and try to find a little bit of pace.
Having three weeks off will be a bit of time that helped us find a bit of rhythm. I wish him all the best, of course, but I’m not going to give him too many tips.”
The first practice session ended with mixed feelings for the Audi squad. They locked out the first six positions, with Duval leading the pack. But, four of their drivers – Duval, Dovizioso, Rene Rast and Jonathan Aberdein, suffered left-hand side tyre punctures. It appeared that the screws in the speed bump kerbs at turn 6 and 16 had loosened. After inspecting the track, they removed the speed bumps for the second practice session.
BMW’s Marco Wittmann finished first in the second session with a time of 1m26.687s – having a gap of 0.270s over Audi’s Robin Frijns. Zolder race winner Philipp Eng, Rene Rast and Nico Mueller rounded out the top five. Best placed Aston Martin driver was Jake Dennis in 14th. His three teammates – Paul di Resta, Ferdinand Habsburg and Juncadella finished in 15th, 17th and 18th.
Tomorrow’s qualifying will start at 10.30 local time (09.30 UK time) and the race will start at 13.30 local time (12.30 UK time). We’re looking forward to seeing them race at the 4.226 km long track on the Italian coast.