Alex Lowes had a torrid time on Saturday at Estoril's WorldSBK round, despite being in a good position after Superpole - for a while. The KRT rider was on his way to third place, and even presented with a third place Superpole pitlane marker plate to take celebratory photos with, but he was finally dropped to tenth on the grid.
New rules for 2021 caught a few riders out. Anybody who is caught up behind any accident that brings out the yellow flags, and passes them at whatever speed, now has that particular lap deleted. For Lowes and some others that meant their one and only really fast lap on qualifying tyres was docked when Tito Rabat ran very wide on his Ducati at turn one, having just set a lap.
The yellow flags came out and he headed back to the track itself but for Lowes, now having lost his third place time and his one Q tyre, and many others who lost their Qualifying tyre time too, dropped down the order - Lowes to the fourth row.
He was hardly happy with it the decision, and after fighting through to fifth in race one he was to fall, caught out by a gust of wind and then finishing 19th after restarting.
He said of the yellow flag incident, “I was approaching the first corner and I saw the yellow flag. You have a long braking zone before the tight corner. I saw Tito, who was nearly out of the gravel. I thought, “That is a bit harsh” but I knew where Chaz said that he rolled off, you have got no chance. You do one lap. I didn’t do it (the corner) that fast, but after the first corner I just pushed for the rest of the lap.
"I actually didn’t think it was going to be cancelled because there was no crash, no immediate danger on the side of the track, Tito was a long way from being in trouble, he just rode off track himself after he had done his lap. Didn’t even try and make the corner, if you watch. There was no reason for the yellow flag, which makes it frustrating but the rule is the rule.
"Obviously if there is somebody crashed in the corner, in danger, then that is a different situation. The rule is correct in terms of if somebody is down and there are marshals in the gravel trap, you must respect the corner and slow down, in practice obviously as well. There is only a few times when you are in this strange situation of being on a qualifying tyre and in today’s situation it wasn’t a yellow flag anyway. So to lose a lap… there was no problem - nothing happened - Tito ran off the track.
You cannot put a yellow flag out and ruin everybody’s qualifying because Tito runs off the track. Otherwise next race I will just go first on my qualifying tyre and run in the gravel at turn one. Take my time to turn around and you are on pole position. This is not the reason why the rule is the rule. The rule is like this to protect the marshals and the people attending the scene of the accident in the track.
"This wasn’t the case today. From this side it is frustrating but the rules are there to protect us, to protect the marshals, so you have to respect the rules. But today in this situation it was clearly not - not just because I was penalised but it was not the correct thing.”
Of the race Lowes said, “I tried to come through from tenth and I was probably pushing a bit too much. I knew that my pace especially in the second half of the race was similar to Jonathan in all the practice sessions. I made a good start, I had already came from tenth to fifth, made some good passes, and then into Turn Seven it was windy, I was a little bit wide and I made a mistake. It was my mistake.
"It was a shame because all weekend I have been quite fast but for sure qualifying did not help. These guys are so fast, I know from last week that if you make a good start, and are there at the start, it makes the race a lot easier. Maybe I pushed a little bit much. But the positive thing is that last year I was really struggling at this track but today - although we did not achieve a front row start - we were fast enough to be on the front row in qualifying and my pace has been quite good all weekend. We have got two more races on Sunday tomorrow so we are lucky that we get to try again.”