A leap in the dark: MotoGP (desperately) seeking a master

ANALYSIS – The premier class without Marquez is experiencing uncertainty: 4 winners in 5 races, 11 riders on the podium. Faults and merits of the craziest and most uncertain season

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Betting now on the MotoGP title winner could prove to be the deal of the year. For the moment, nobody can figure out who the favourite is, in a championship where surprises galore have become the norm. Marc Marquez took a risk by putting Dovizioso and Quartararo as favourites, and even Valentino Rossi shrugged his shoulders when asked the question "Who will win this world championship?".

Just take a look at the standings to see how difficult it is to predict. After 5 races there have been four different winners, three of whom (Quartararo, Binder and Oliveira) had never won a GP before. Furthermore, 11 different riders have taken turns on the podium and the ranking is short to say the least. From Quartararo to Oliveira, i.e., from first to ninth, the gap is just 27 points, just over the points available in one race.

Already at this point, we have a very special season ahead, but there are other 'oddities'. Like the fact that no one has managed to be consistent. In fact, there is not one rider who has finished in the top 5 in every races, even without making mistakes. Quartararo, for example, after his two victories at Jerez was 7th at Brno and 8th and 13th in the two races in Austria. Dovizioso, a rider who has always made consistency his strong point, at Jerez went on the podium in the first race, was 6th in the second, then 11th at Brno, finally a victory in Austria followed by a 5th place . More than a ranking it looks like a roller coaster.

 

 

Piero Taramasso, head of Michelin, explained to us in our interview that the new rear tyre for 2020 has shuffled the cards. It was the cause of this swing of results because riders have to discover it, understand it and interpret it. In this regard, he compared this season with that of 2016, when the French tyre manufacturer returned to MotoGP.

There were 9 different winners that year, but the situation was different. In 2016, after 5 races, 3 different riders had won, the ones who would later fight for the championship: Marquez, Rossi and Lorenzo. Furthermore, irrespective of some mistakes, their performances had been consistent: Lorenzo won two races and finished 2nd in the other two, the same for Marc, Valentino won one, then two second places and a 4th. In fact, after Le Mans, the three had already made a difference in the standings, they were in the space of 12 points, but fourth-placed Pedrosa was already 37 from the top. Furthermore, even with one 'zero', Lorenzo already had 90 points, 20 more than Quartararo now, even though he always crossed the finish line.

But there are also other important differences, the first being that in that championship there were two bikes that made all the difference: Honda and Yamaha. The others, Suzuki and Ducati, were getting closer but the decisive leap forward had not yet been taken. Now there are 5 different brands that can win: Yamaha, Ducati and Suzuki have already done it, Honda has shown they can do it at Jerez (with Marc) and without the interruption of the Styrian GP we would probably now be talking about Suzuki's success with Mir.

Not only that, until a few years ago, those in a satellite team could at the very most hope for the occasional exploit, now instead they fight on equal terms with the factory riders. Of these 5 races, 3 have been won by private teams (2 by Petronas with Quartararo and one by Tech3 with Binder), while in the championship the only factory rider in the first 3 positions is Dovizioso (between Fabio and Miller, in Pramac colours). Looking at the Top Ten, 4 out of 6 riders race for independent teams.

The explanation is simple: on the one hand the performance of the bikes (thanks or due to the same electronics for everyone and concessions for those who are left behind) has levelled off and the manufacturers give (almost) the same material to all the teams, in addition to also entrusting them with leading technicians. It’s easy to put 2 and 2 together…

However, the quality level of the starting grid is now higher. There are virtually no second-tier riders - if we exclude the two testers Bradl and Smith promoted due to force majeure. Just think that Petrucci, currently 14th in the standings, only last year won a race (beating Marquez) and got on the podium 3 times.

It can be argued that, however, that the absolute yardstick of recent years is missing, namely Marc Marquez. Perhaps, with him on the track, we would be looking at a completely different classification, but you don’t get very far with 'ifs' and 'buts'…

The only thing that is certain is that MotoGP is left without its master. It’s desperately seeking one but – at least for now – it hasn’t found one…

 

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