Almost one month has passed since the wave of Italian bikes hit the Sepang track. At the end of the 3 days of testing in Malaysia, the standings spoke clearly with Ducati and Aprilia dominating. Seven Desmosedicis and 2 RS-GPs in the first 9 places, with the Japanese competition licking their wounds. Four weeks to fix what doesn't work and the moment of truth has arrived.
Awaiting the MotoGP riders is the Portimao circuit, the same track that will host the first round of the year on 25 March (with the first sprint race in the history of the world championship). On Saturday the gates will open at 11 and will close at 19.25 (Italian time), same thing on Sunday. Then the die will be cast and in less than two weeks there will be the GP.
It’s clear that these tests are important not only to give some final touches (for some, something more to the bikes) and to have a confirmation after Sepang, but also to prepare for the first Grand Prix of the year. In this sense, in the paddock there will be those who will be able to face the tests with the right amount of calm and those who will have more work to do.
The fact that Ducati finished the Sepang tests in first place with the GP22 (ridden by Luca Marini) is not surprising, because we are talking about the world champion bike, last year's benchmark, a winning bike that has reached the peak of its development. If anything, it was important to see the GP23s already close behind. Just on the last day of testing, Bagnaia managed to put things together to position himself in second place. More importantly, Bastianini was in 4th and Martini in 5th, also with the new bike. A sign that the mistakes of the past have been assimilated and steps taken in the right direction.
It is not so easy to avoid ruining a balance found over the years but in Borgo Panigale they seem to have succeeded. Like Aprilia, which however has had to take a few more steps. In Noale they have worked on all areas and an evolution of the V4 will also arrive in Portimao which should guarantee a few more horsepower.
The base is good, with refined aerodynamics and a chassis that appeals to all riders, even the newcomers. In this sense, having a satellite team could be a good help for Aprilia, which is currently running as the second force in the championship in pursuit of Ducati.
Also because, after the two Italians, the troubles begin. All in all, it was predictable that Honda struggled. It was coming off the back of a disastrous season, it had changed 2 out of 4 riders as well as the top management of the internal organization, so expecting a miracle would have been naive. Perhaps things went even worse than expected, but HRC seems to be making an effort to get back on track. How long it will take, it’s hard to say.
If anything, it was Yamaha and KTM that disappointed and are awaited for a comeback in Portimao. The Japanese worked hard during the winter and even a carefree glance at the M1 was enough to notice it. What's more, until the last day of testing they had also been rewarded by the stopwatch. Then the disaster: in qualifying setup both Quartararo and Morbidelli were slow, very slow.
If it was a coincidence or a congenital problem, we will see in Portugal. What is certain is that with the change of format, struggling in qualifying would be one of the worst pieces of news for Yamaha.
All that remains is KTM, which always seems to be on the verge of taking the decisive step forward but fails to do so. This is also what happened in the Sepang tests, where the RC16 showed some problems, perhaps teething ones, as if all the pieces were struggling to fit together. Resources (both economic and human) are not lacking, but they have to hurry if they don’t want to miss the train.