Fifty-nine, seventy-one, seventy-two, these aren't race numbers for the points that lie between Marquez and, respectively, Rossi, Lorenzo and Dovizioso. The Spaniard holds the same advantage as he did prior to Silverstone, the English race then cancelled for reasons we know all about. The difference is that, before the British round, there were still 200 points to be assigned, while now there are 175 still on the table.
If anyone has benefited from missing out on a race, it's Marc, mathematics his faithful friend in the race towards the world title.
Colleague Dennis Noyes has put together some stats to highlight how significant Marquez's advantage really is. To be crowned champion, if Valentino were to win all of the remaining 7 races, Marc would need 5 third place and 2 seconds. If Lorenzo or Dovizioso were to dominate the remaining rounds, the Honda rider could settle for 6 third places and a seventh-place finish. To understand how close he is, just remember that Marc's worst result thus far (excluding his two zeros) was a third-place finish at Brno.
Putting it this way, the mission that Rossi and the Reds face seems beyond impossible but, then again, the bike world often brings surprises and unexpected events. Nothing is decided, not only mathematics makes it so.
For this reason, both Ducati and Yamaha are preparing to the nth degree for the next two European rounds at Misano and Aragon. Both teams have made the most of their final days of private testing, an opportunity that Marquez has not had. It's only a small advantage, but it could prove important if the forecast of rain comes to fruition, perhaps causing riders to lose valuable practice time.
In addition, there's the home track factor, which cannot be quantified but that just might be enough to hinder a rider that has shown very few weak points so far this season. Misano is THE home track for Ducati and Valentino, fans split between red and yellow flags, a boost to morale if nothing else.
Never before has strength in numbers been so relevant because, in order to make up points to Marquez, winning is not enough, as there needs to be as many riders as possible between said winner and Marquez. Easier said than done of course, especially if we consider that Marc has won two of the last three editions of the San Marino GP, the other going to Pedrosa, in 2016, making it a triple for Honda.
Dovizioso and Lorenzo are nevertheless aware that they can count on a bike that is currently setting the bar. While the perfect bike does not exist, Desmosedici comes close and there's nothing better than a strong steed when giving chase. Not that the Yamaha is to be written off, but the M1 has shown a few flaws, the recent lack of victories weighing heavily. At Silverstone it had shown signs of recovery though, and perhaps the recent test at Aragon has helped to smooth a few things out.
Aside from its geographical location, whether or not the Misano track will prove friend or foe will come down to the riders' wrists...