ROUND 14: ARAGON
Last round in Europe before the huge month of flyaways, Aragon marks a turning point in the season as Marc Marquez gets closer to clinching another World Title.
1) Captain Marquez
On thursday Marc Marquez stated he still had the title in mind, even though his lead is already huge, and would be willing to lose 5 or 10 points to his opponents.
On saturday he went even further into this state of mind saying a top 5 would be his goal after failing to take pole position against fellow spaniard and future teammate Jorge Lorenzo.
Once sunday came, and after a good night sleep, gone was the careful Marquez and back was the crazy beast: “ I got up this morning I say okay, I want to take a risk today ”. And many risks he took indeed running wide and taking Lorenzo with him at turn 1, fighting on and on with Dovizioso, giving back every attack, switching places multiple times in one lap and finally pushing for the win in the final laps to escape the Desmo’s power in the straights.
Marquez believe the reason behind his race win at Aragon was a tire gamble he decided to take. Supposed to race the hard once again, the spaniard went against all odds and favored the soft as he believed he would be his only chance against the Ducatis: “ In the warm-up I didn’t feel well but I pushed, I crashed and then I start to think why I crash. Then we speak together with Santi [Hernandez, crew chief], with my technician and I say to him ‘I want the soft rear’. Then started a big meeting, discussions inside the team, with HRC because I did not try that soft tyre in the afternoon in hot temperature but I say I believe on this one, I can manage. Another thing is, was the only chance to fight against Dovi because with the hard I felt good but for my riding style was not working in a good way, especially on the entry. ”
Aragon GP win helped Marc increasing his lead advantage and even though he cannot win the title next time out in Thailand, his first match point will come right after at Motegi.
2) Two side of the same coin
The Aragon GP may have been won by Marquez and Suzuki may have got a podium but the image of the weekend certainly was Jorge Lorenzo’s monstruous highside at the first corner right after the start of the race.
An horrific incident leaving the spaniard with a dislocated a toe and fractured second metatarsal on his right foot. After being checked by the clinica on Sunday, and again in Barcelona on Monday, Lorenzo’s participation to the Thai GP is all but certain. Forced in resting his leg and foot for at least the 10 coming days, the spaniard will be checked again by the medicals later this week to see how the situation is evolving and if he could be fit enough to take part to the next grand prix in Thailand.
Lorenzo’s foot might be hurting but so is his tongue. On sunday night the spaniard put some of the blame for his crash on future teammate Marc Marquez’ lines and block pass at turn 1: “From the outside, [it looked like] I entered too fast, I lean too much and I entered too wide in the dirty part, that’s why I crashed. From what I lived, what I experienced, I entered in the normal line, entered the corner as I did in the seven last years here in Aragon, but I watched Marc go into the inside, very aggressive, not making the corner because you saw where he finished, in the green [paint on the outside]. And when he saw that I was there, he tried not to let me pass into the corner, and I didn’t have any options [but] to go to the dirty part. Because we were very wide and already the other riders were coming, if I didn’t want to lose five or six positions, I had to open the throttle.“In Misano [last time out] the crash was completely my fault, this time Marc destroyed my race, destroyed my foot, destroyed also the big possibility that I have to win and probably also [the] Thailand race.”
Lorenzo’s words were greeted with many criticizes, most people thinking it could only be his ego speaking and blaming Marquez for a mistake he did on his own. Body language though doesn’t lie and watching MotoGP dot Com’s video clip of JL’s post race debrief only shows someone who genuinely believe what he is saying.
Is Marquez to blame ? Is Lorenzo to blame ? Is it 50/50 ? Everybody will have their own opinion on the matters but reporters can put their clickbait headline about the “Dream Team Already Fighting” to rest as both Lorenzo and Marquez went on to show what Gentlemen are made of.
On Monday night, the oldest spaniard made a twitter thread explaining his view of the incident with a more calm and resting head. He then added: “This is my version, But I want to inform you that this afternoon I
received a call from Marquez checking on me, which honors
Something to which Marc Marquez replied: “Get well soon! We will see each other in Thailand”.
They might not always agree and they will definitely have moment of fight next year at Honda, but when you have respect for one another, it makes everything else easier. Even the reconciliation of two great champions.
3) Best of the rest
Failing to stop Marquez from winning his home GP, Dovizioso was pretty happy with the result anyway once in the parc fermé on Sunday. The Ducati, clearly shaping into the best bike on the grid, is so good that even Marc Marquez’ riding skills needs helps from a few tricks and gambles to win: “In Misano it was very important, but here even more because this confirms our improvement, and this improvement is the reality but is even better for the future. This is the way I want to look at the weekend, Because we come here with a lot of confidence from the [other] competitors, they thought we could win easy the race. But it’s never like this, and I’m so happy how much we improved from last year – this is the point. Unfortunately we couldn’t win, we try until the last lap, but we have to study and analyse the reality, and the reality is we did a good step – a huge step.”
With Jorge Lorenzo and Crutchlow out of the race and Yamaha struggling at the back, Iannone, Rins and Pedrosa decided to give everybody a quick reminder of just what they capable of.
Showing a fairly good pace all weekend, Andrea Iannone was the revelation of Sunday’s race. The maniac, more used to playing bowling with other riders when fighting with them was the cleanest we’ve seen of him in a long time. Sharp but never on the edge, the italian gave his everything and never let a mistake made by the leader being unnoticed. After sandwiching Marc Marquez with Dovizioso though, Iannone realized he could keep up with the Honda and Ducati and settled for 3rd: “It was a really great race for us and in many cases, a real battle because first of all, I fight a lot with my tyres, especially with the rear because it is really important to manage for all the race. During the practice we worked in a good direction with the used tyres and in the race I tried to not push a lot and push the bike on the side, and I think this is a really good strategy. At the end, the last five or six laps I started to recover the gap a little bit. The Honda and Ducati are more faster than us on the straight and I think this is the negative point for the race of today, but it was a good race.”
Behind him his teammate, Alex Rins, was struggling to keep his older teammate’s pace but not for lack of trying. In the end he was 4th and very happy to bring home a good result: “I’m really happy, I think we passed these expectations that we made yesterday. Mostly during all the race I was riding very comfortable with the first group. But then when there were twelve laps to go I started to feel something strange on the front. Since the beginning I believed in Suzuki, I was saying we had a competitive bike, no? In some races we’ve been a little bit at the back, for the setting or I don’t know what. But for sure our bike is very competitive and very good. Sure, we need to improve a little bit in the top speed and the small things, but I’m very happy with my bike.”
A little further back, Pedrosa almost looked like his older self riding with perfect line in a way only him can. Getting the benefits of a few new pieces given to him from Honda after asking for them since Jerez, the spaniard had what seemed to be his best shot at a podium since the start of the season. A 5th place isn’t was he was hoping for but soon enough will came Sepang and we know just how strong the little samurai can be there: “I think today in the race everything was quite well, we were able to start with the front group and i was able to do some passing, but unfortunately the hard rear had no grip. I was unable to carry the corner speed and the acceleration out of the turns with the hard, and that make me lose a bit of the gap per lap that I was unable to stay in the [lead] group.“I think with a little better grip in the rear I was able today to be in the podium or fight for the victory.”
4) Debacle and Disaster
If you thought the Austrian GP was a disaster for Yamaha then the Aragon GP was purgatory. At a track where former Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo used to make it onto the podium, the Rossi and Vinales duo barely made it into the top 10 after both qualifying way too far on the grid for a factory team.
If Marquez changed his mind from Saturday to Sunday, the same happened to Vinales. Not on the pace, in Q1 and struggling to get into Q2, the spaniard was penalized with a 3 places on the grid penalty for cruising on the racing line while Bradley Smith was on a hot lap. On saturday night he tweeted “we’re still motivated”.
On sunday and after a disastrous race result, there was no motovation left for box 25. Still not getting any better at race start the spaniard struggled to get closer to the top 10: “We have lost all our objectives, we don’t know what to aim for. The feeling on the bike is very bad. Now we have the Asian tour and I just hope to get it over with fast. Zero motivation, zero expectations. For me it is the worst race I’ve done in Yamaha, and the worst time on the bike, when the feeling was worst on the bike. I can’t tell really the precise problem because every area was working bad, was not even one area that was okay. I was comparing myself with non-factory bikes and they were even better than me.”
Side 46 of the box wasn’t partying either. For the first time in i don’t know how many year (if it even ever happened before) we got ourselves a VR46 waiting for a tow during Q1 saying there was no way he could have had the pace for Q2 alone.
Failing to find one, the doctor qualified at a very anonymous 17th place on the grid. Only his sunday racer skills would help him get into the top 10 and beyond.
It is now 23 races since Yamaha last one a race and even though anything can happen during the flyaways one could think everybody should prepare themselves for a year without any yamaha win: “I started very much behind, but I could keep a constant pace for the race and I can take some points, I can make the top 10, that yesterday I wasn’t sure [I could do]. It’s like this, this is our potential now. We hope to improve.”
Both sides of the box are hoping to see the light at the end of a very dark tunel, if only heads in japan would start doing something to solve a problem Rossi believe will not go away even with the 2019 engines: “I hope it’s important for Yamaha to react.“Maybe some top guys see the number, and somebody asks: ‘Why?’ ”
5) Honorable mentions
Aleix Espargaro’s 6th place in the race with the Aprilia felt nothing less than a win!
Danilo Petrucci in 7th continues to be a disappointment.
Zarco cannot do better than 14th which comes as no surprise when even the factory riders struggles to be in the top 10.
Pol Espargaro’s was forced out of the race weekend due to a crash when he was just coming back from a severe injury.
It was nice having Jordi Torres back in the paddock. The famously #kneedown rider made a respectable job out of a great opportunity replacing Tito.