When we talk about this first half of the season, the word most often used is “crazy”. And it's justified, in that in just 9 races we've seen 4 different riders leading the championship, first Vinales, then Rossi, Dovizioso and lastly Marquez, who goes on holiday safe in the knowledge that he's currently top of the pile.
An important first place, but one that has never been so insecure if we consider how the top 4 in the standings are all within 10 points of each other, the top five within 26. We've rarely seen such as situation and the season is proving to be even more unpredictable than in 2009 when Valentino, Stoner and Lorenzo were on the same points after 6 races.
This isn't the only feature of such a tight championship. Not since 1993, the year in which the points system changed, has the leader had so few points and this is telling.
Consider how Marquez was also leading the way at this point last year... he had 41 points more than he holds today though and his closest rival, Lorenzo, was 48 points behind. Rossi was 3rd, with Marc 59 points ahead of him.
In the space of 12 months everything has changed, the days of having only 3 or 4 riders fight for the podium are over, just look at how 2017 has even seen rookies Zarco and Folger reach the podium.
We've summarised the differences between the first half of the 2016 and 2017 seasons in a table and the results are interesting. Last year, Marquez hadn't just one an extra race but he'd reached the podium in 8 out of 9 races, while this season he's managed 5.
He nevertheless remains the most consistent rider, along with his team-mate Dani Pedrosa who has clocked up one win and 7 more points than in 2016, even if he's one position behind. Almost the same goes for Valentino: the same number of podiums (though last year he suffered an engine failure at Mugello), one win less, 8 more points and, for him too, one rung down in the standings.
The man who's made the biggest step up is Dovizioso who, with less bad luck and a GP17 that suits him, holds 64 points more than he did 12 months ago. That's not all, as he's also scored two wins and two podiums. Still with Ducati, we note the nice surprise that is Petrucci. While he started the 2016 season with an injury, this year, and with a factory bike, Danilo has moved 10 places up the standings, with 2 podiums and 42 extra points.
A positive balance for Vinales too who, with the Yamaha (despite the tough Jerez and Barcelona races and the mistake at Assen) is 41 points ahead of where he was last year. He's also accumulated 3 wins and 4 podiums compared to just one podium in 2016. Numbers that say a lot about how important the change of bike has been to Maverick.
The same cannot be said for Lorenzo, who was still fighting for the title one year ago while today he battles to remain inside the top ten. Aside from the Jerez podium, there's little to say about Jorge on the Ducati so far this season. At this point last year, he had 57 additional points, 3 wins and 4 podiums. What more can we say?
Another rider to have suffered as a result of changing team is Iannone, now on the Suzuki. Andrea is behind by 8 places, 35 points and two podiums compared to one year ago, numbers that reflect the difficulties that he and the GSX-RR are having.
We close with another rider who's moved house, Aleix Espargarò, having jumped from the Suzuki to the Aprilia. He too is down on his 2016 performance, 3 positions and 19 points down in fact, with no podiums or wins, though the reliability of the RS-GP has played nasty tricks at times.