Holiday time is over for MotoGP with August set to be a busy month for riders, with three Grand Prix in four weeks as well as a test. With the championship not yet at the half-way mark (9 races down and 10 to go), nothing is written, though Marquez has already made a mark on the season.
The Brno-Red Bull Ring doubleheader that opens this second half of the season will be key in establishing whether or not the winds can change, or whether Marc will continue his course towards the title. It is up to Yamaha and Ducati to muddy the Spaniard's waters. The two manufacturers find themselves in two different situations but these are, in a sense, complementary: the Japanese manufacturer is closer to Marquez in the standings but the M1 still has its limit, while the Italian house lies further back but can count on a highly competitive Desmosedici..
Up until now, Rossi and Vinales have done well to make the most of their opportunities and pocket some important points. Valentino has scored only one zero (in Argentina as a result of contact with Marquez), while Maverick is the only rider to have scored points in every race. This hasn't been quite enough to bother the world champion though, and the fact that the Iwata bike has, as yet, failed to reach the top step of the podium further demonstrates this.
It's not that the M1 is not competitive (the Doctor's 5 podiums and Vinales's 3 prove that it is) but it needs an electronics ‘upgrade’ that is slow in coming. They should receive something useful in time for Monday's Brno test but until this is tested by the factory riders, it's impossible to know whether this will help them take that final step forward.
Ducati does not have these problems, able to count on a GP18 that is (perhaps) the best bike out there. Both Dovizioso and Lorenzo have won with the Desmosedici, and Petrucci has reached the podium, but bad luck and mistakes have weighed heavily on the standings.
So whole Valentino is 46 points behind Marquez, and Vinales 56, Dovi has 77 to make up, 3 more than Jorge. On paper, the Ducati men have what they need to fight Marquez but they'll also have to be more consistent in terms of results.
Absurdly, we might define Ducati and Yamaha as ‘best of enemies’ in the fight against Marquez. With 250 points still to assign, anything can still happen but chipping away at Marc's advantage won't be easy. Consider this: the Spaniard's worst result on the Honda this season (when he hasn't made a mistake) has been second place. If he carries on in a similar vein, his rivals will have little chance of closing the gap.
To do so requires keeping Marquez off the podium, something that, together, Yamaha and Ducati can do. We're not talking about an alliance of course, but a consequence. If the M1 were to take that step forward and if Dovizioso and Lorenzo were to regain that continuity then the championship may well be kept alive.
The next two rounds will therefore prove very telling. Brno, on paper, is a good one for everybody, though the 2017 edition resulted in a Honda 1-2. The Red Bull Ring is Ducati's holiday home. But holiday time is over and it's time for riders to get back to work, the bit between their teeth.