After having set aside the Sepang tests, the MotoGP is preparing to move to Qatar, where the last three days of testing on the Losail track will begin Saturday. For the premier class, it's a short and important winter to be able to present itself at its best in the first race of the season, which is scheduled in less than three weeks.
The tests in Malaysia gave us the first indications, and Carlo Pernat makes an initial assessment of this 2019, which still needs to be put down on paper.
"Honda will have some problems at the beginning of the championship," he predicts. "It's not a good moment because Marc still needs time to recover from his surgery. I don't think he'll be 100% at his best, maybe not even 90%. The same is true for Lorenzo, who had scaphoid surgery. I think the opponents will have to take advantage of the first 3 GPs."
On the other hand, there's Ducati, which placed four riders in front of everyone...
"Ducati has proven to be the benchmark bike. The best of all. Let's not forget that Honda was practically not present, but the times were good, and Bagnaia showed to be quick, even as a rookie. Gigi Dall'Igna is leaving behind the Japanese with those winglets. His strong point was having beaten them on a track they knew very little about. He hit the jackpot."
Will this be the right time to win the World Championship?
"Dovizioso holds all the cards and must try to win the title. He's become almost a prodigy, but he as a great background of experience. Not winning would be a fail."
What do you think about the Yamaha under special surveillance?
"Last year, they got the engine wrong, but if the M1 returns as it was a few years ago, then Valentino and Vinales will be able to gamble on something important. Rossi is a racing animal, and he's still very strong, even if, at 40, he has no more room for improvement. I think it'll depend a lot on the Yamaha. With a competitive bike, Valentino still has a chance to win his 10th title."
"Maverick is strong, he just has to stop psychologically obsessing over Valentino and learn how to ride faster on a wet track."
Who do you think may be the surprise for this season?
"Suzuki has taken a significant step forward, as it has never done in ten years, and I think it was decisive. It's a bike that, from a technical point-of-view, is superior to the Yamaha, recently. I believe that Rins will be in the game, as he demonstrated in last year's final. The only thing I don't understand is their continuous search for young riders. It's a good policy, but there are times when you should take an extra step, like when they had the chance to take on Lorenzo. If you know you have a winning bike, you have to take on a winning rider."
Aprilia, on the other hand, seems intent on climbing the ladder. Will it succeed?
"Aprilia has thrown away its past years, and, this year, it created the right structure but too late. The arrival of Rivola can only be a positive thing. Albesiano will finally be able to work only as an engineer. Bradley Smith is a good tester, and they have very professional people, but they're starting from scratch."
How would you judge having taken on Iannone?
"They played their wild card - Andrea - who is a talented rider. We'll see what happens. The infection he had made his tests unjudgeable. However, Aleix Espargarò did well."
Then there's KTM...
"Frankly, I was amazed by what was said regarding the risks of the winglets. Besides that, considering the budget that was set apart, it's not doing well in MotoGP. It's disappointing for me, but taking on Pedrosa was a nice move and could help them a lot."