MotoGP Germany: Penalty to podium proves Miller’s return to confidence

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Picture: GeeBee Images

Ducati Lenovo’s Jack Miller proved he has finally clicked with the GP22 by standing on the Sachsenring podium on Sunday.

Despite announcing he was leaving Bologna for Mattighofen at the end of the season, Miller’s determination to return to the MotoGP rostrum in red was far from dimmed as he claimed third position at the German GP, in one of the toughest races of his career, for his third podium of 2022.

“It was long, long old race that!” Miller stated from the Saxony paddock. “30 laps around here is always pretty gruelling anyway and then when you have a track temp of 55 degrees and the heat off these bikes coming through the field was so hot!”

The raging temperatures for the longest race - in terms of laps - of the season wasn’t the only stumbling block last weekend. As the 27-year-old was hit with a long lap penalty after a crash under yellow flags in FP4. Despite pleading his case with the FIM Stewards, Miller took the penalty on the chin before putting the Desmosedici back on the podium.

“I went up there completely honest with them, like I’m with you guys,” he said to the questioning media. “I went up and I said ‘hey, I literally saw the yellow flag. I wasn’t pushing, I had a bit of vibration in the front’. Literally I said to myself in the helmet, I said ‘don’t crash’ and I crashed. I took the data printout and showed them ‘okay, this is the vibration, this is what happened’ but I said ‘I understand that you guys have got a job to do’. I mean, that is what it is, if you crash under a yellow, we all know the consequences. Do I feel hard done by? No, I mean, there was nobody in danger but there was a yellow flag and I was in the wrong so it is what it is.

“With the long lap penalty I knew I had to get a good start and I didn’t do that,” he explained, of his race strategy. “It was kinda like the first objective was gone but no I was able to get through on Fabio. Not this one, [looking to reigning champion Quartararo] di Giannantonio - this one was gone already! But on Diggia, I was able to get through on him, able to get like a lap and a half alone to sort of try and stretch out as much as I could before having to do the long lap.

“I left it till the last moment, did the long lap, was probably one of the dodgier moments of the race. There was a fair few stones on the track throughout the long lap area. Nearly lost the front but didn’t lose too much time. I left Vinnie [Maverick Viñales], Fabio and [Jorge] Martin back through so then I just set to work trying to pick off those boys. I got through on Martin pretty early on and then with Diggia was the same sort of thing. I mean with the Ducatis it wasn’t too bad to pass them at turn one but then with Maverick he had an issue I think or something he lost the rear in a strange spot. [The Aprilia’s ride-height device was stuck on forcing the Spaniard to retire from the race with 11 laps to go having been challenging teammate Aleix Espargaro for the final podium position.]

“So he lost the rear, looked like, going in and obviously that’s what happened. I sort of got through on him and I’m like ‘okay, there’s one more done’ and then I set to work on Aleix. I fired it up the inside a few times from a long way back but wasn’t able to get the job done - he was really parking it at turn one, going deep and squaring it off and also he was getting great drive out of the last corner. So all I tried to do is just stay as close as possible. I saw laps counting down, just stay as close as possible because he had gone wide a couple of times at turn one and then finally he did it when I was close enough to capitalise on it.

“Once I knew I got through on him I had a bit of tyre left and was able to set back to my pace and pull away from him. I saw Johann [Zarco] coming towards me but it was little too late but awesome race.”

Miller’s confidence was clear to see across the weekend in Germany and the Australian has one thing to thank for that, the Barcelona test following the Catalunya GP.

“The Barcelona test was a good one for me, especially after those last two races,” Miller admitted. “Throughout this 2022 season when the grip level’s been low, I’ve been really struggling a lot to brake, which is generally my strong point. I’ve been on the Ducati for a long time now and we’ve been quite a different rider position with the fuel tank, with everything compared to the other boys and everyone’s on the other setup. So we were like ‘okay, we got nothing really to lose’.

“We were getting one point the week before and two points that week so we might as well try something here and immediately on the Monday in Barcelona I felt a lot more front confidence again. A lot more braking stability, understand where the tyre is and that showed again today.

“I was really able to fire it from a long way back and get this confidence back in the front and also throughout the race just be able to put the bike where I wanted it, which is nice. Even with these tricky conditions, it was really slippery out there!”

Picture: GeeBee Images
Picture: GeeBee Images