New Aprilia signing Andrea Iannone has been forced to sit out the final day of the Sepang test, as he suffers from the consequences of plastic surgery he underwent during the winter break. Completing only 75 laps compared to teammate Aleix Espargaro’s 161, he complained about a lack of energy as he battles an infection in his mouth after undergoing a cosmetic operation to alter his jawline.
His first test in the presence of new Aprilia boss (and former Ferrari F1 manager) Massimo Rivola, it’s unlikely that the Italian’s forced absence will have gone down well with his team. However, it did give an opportunity to British test rider Bradley Smith, originally set to miss out the three days but quick to step into Iannone’s shoes.
And, working with him for the first time, Espargaro was quick to sing the praises of Smith after the test, concluding that his addition to the team has been part of a resurgence for the Noale squad that saw Espargaro finish the test inside the top ten.
“I’m happy, because we did a really good race simulation, and if we compare with Marquez’s race win of last year we were four seconds quicker than him! We’re consistent, the fast lap pace is good enough, and we’ve taken the maximum from the test.
“Everyone knows how fast Bradley is, but I didn’t expect to find a guy so humble. He spent two hours every night with my data guy, and the stuff that he developed with them is really good. He arrived at 8.30am with me, and within three minutes of Andrea saying he couldn’t ride Bradley was in the garage in his leathers saying ‘what do you want me to try?’ I’m a little shocked, and I have to thank Aprilia for choosing him."