ROUND 11: AUSTRIA
Back to Austria where the Desmosedici is the Queen of all things on two wheels and where the hills are alive to the sound of it’s engine. The bologna team has a red cross marked on the calendar for that race, but did the ducati boys lived up to their bosses’ expectations ?
1) Jorge Maestro
Sensational, fantastic, magistral, magical, superb… We’re running out of words to describe Jorge Lorenzo’s win in Austria.
A win he desperately wanted and worked for. Yet a win that wasn’t as easy as we could have thought. At the beginning of the race, and from the outside, it even seemed like Lorenzo wasn’t able to follow Marc Marquez’ pace, even with the desmosedici’s incredible power in the straights. Losing ground on the Honda man and not letting Andrea Dovizioso past through, we’re pretty sure that if the “map 8″ orders were still a thing, someone at Ducati would had probably send it to Lorenzo. And they would have been wrong (again) as Jorge’s apparent struggles were all but true.
From the inside, Lorenzo already had it all planned. Strong from his new strategy tested in Brno, he knew he couldn’t replicate his Mugello and Catalan GP wins in Austria by taking the early lead and running away until the chequered flag. His soft tire choice had us all in the wrong thinking that was exactly what he was going to do or at least try. Jorge played it smarter and surprised us all.
While we all thought the spaniard was too slow and blocking Dovizioso from running after Marc Marquez, he was in fact nursing his soft tires like only him and his silky smooth riding style can do: “[It] Was a great decision to use the soft rear tyre, but I needed to
manage a lot in the first ten laps,” explained Lorenzo after his third
win in six races. “I needed to manage a lot not to overheat the tyre
because it was very hot. It was very, very soft in some parts of the
At 31 and with many years of experience in the paddock, Lorenzo proves to be one of the only riders able to question himself and work on himself to improve. Proof of this is how he studied videos of Marquez and Dovizioso in austria to find a solution on his sector 3′s struggles: “But was also key the big improvement I made in the sector three, because yesterday I was losing almost two tenths there compared to Marc and Dovi. Then I made a big improvement in one afternoon. Trying to watch some videos, trying to understand which position of my body I need to change to be faster in that sector. It really, really worked. During the race I was improving and improving in that sector and I was catching Marc in that sector where we were losing a lot last year.”
Same strategy as in Brno, different tires and “Bibbity Bobbity Boo”, the magic happened! The spaniard was impossible to pass by Dovizioso and always in control of how much ground he was letting go to Marquez. Once the gap got to 1 second, suddendly Lorenzo went faster and closed it back again to half a second pretty easily.
Keeping Marquez in sight is one thing, get past through him is another. That’s where Lorenzo’s second lesson from Brno gets a use: to beat Marc Marquez in a last lap showdown you must ride like Marc Marquez. If you’re even able to think like him then you’ll know what he’ll try and when and be able to stop him from succeeding.
With 10 laps to go and Dovi out of the fight, Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez offered us another epic battle for the win. A dog fight with many more riders like Assen is great, a dual of titans with two of the best riders in the world is even better. The two of them not willing to let the other win, the fight intensified in the last 3 laps of the race. From there it was block pass on black pass, touching in the corners, touching in the straights, up until that one final pass from the younger spaniard on the older one. A move straight out of the Marquez books, something of genius. Lorenzo’s defensive line to it though was even better. He knew it was coming and he countered it opened the gas and pushed to take the chequered flag first, wiggling with joy crossing the finish line.
To think these two will be teammate next season, Honda Repsol Team got some serious greatness in it’s hands and better not waste it!
The Austrian GP is Lorenzo’s 3rd win with Ducati, 25 points thanks to what he is now 3rd in the championship standings, only 12 points behind Valentino Rossi. To think at some point in the season the spaniard was only 20th with less than 10 points scored with everybody thinking he would announced his retirement soon…
2) Expectation vs Reality
If Ducati’s win was expected, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun to watch nor that it was easy. On the later, Marc Marquez proves to be a genius at shaking up what everybody’s expecting versus what he really can do.
In an extremely great pace right from the start of the weekend, the spaniard and his team knew their main opponent in Austria would once again be the Ducatis, especially now that Jorge Lorenzo’s got his head around how to make the desmosedici to work.
He proved it in the past (cf: last year’s austrian GP), Marquez can handle one ducati around the Red Bull Ring, but two ? No thank you. He explained his very not marquez-ish strategy in the post race press conference: “I try to push a lot from the beginning because the goal was try to
arrive in the end with only one Ducati, because fight against Ducati I
know that is quite difficult for us, but we achieve our goal that was
just fight against one Ducati.”
Seeing Marquez trying to run away with the win while Lorenzo was waiting for his moment behind him seemed like the world had turned upside down as we were used to see the exact opposite in the past. Yet, Marc Marquez being who he is, and feeling much better than in Brno, he had to try: “In Brno I didn’t try because I didn’t feel well and it was like a waste
of time there because it was more chance to lose than to win, but today
I try. I try to change my strategy. Every short straight he (JL) was able to overtake me, to be in parallel. Was really difficult to defend.”
Even though weeks in, weeks out, Marquez always says he has to be careful, think of the championship, it’s all thrown up by the window once the lights goes off, and once again, his will to win had the better on him: “I try to lead the race in the last lap. He overtook me in the main
straight, then I try in turn three. I lost the front two times. I go in
too fast and I lose two times. I nearly crash and then I stay on the
bike. I don’t know why, but I stayed there.”
Marc’s block pass on Lorenzo in the final lap was a stroke of genius and even though it didn’t work, the spaniard still leave Austria another 20 points in the bag, extending his championship lead to 59 points on 2nd in the standings, Valentino Rossi.
3) Intern crisis exploding
The situation for the Iwata brand seems to be going from bad to worse as the current season follows her path. Still in the chase of their first win since the 2017 Dutch GP, the Movistar Yamaha team finally touched what seems to be the rock bottum during the Austrian GP weekend.
Electronical and mechanical problems causing their leading rider to be out of Q2 while the current no-love situation between Vinales and Forcada proved once again to be a deadly weapon for their winning aspirations, forced an unprecedented event to happen on saturday afternoon: Yamaha’s project leader, accompanied by Jarvis and communication manager Favero, apologized to their riders in what seemed to be a modern shakespearean stage show: “We as Yamaha, owe our riders and also you an explanation about the difficulties we have been
facing so far. Today was a very difficult day for us. We are struggling with the acceleration performance, which
means the power delivery, to adjust the power delivery more precisely.
But this track we know is the most difficult track for us. Because we
couldn’t achieve a more precise power delivery for our riders. That’s
why this is maybe the worst qualifying result for us. But then I have to
apologize to the riders for our lack of acceleration performance
What is currently happening with Yamaha is both laughable and extremely worrying. To think this team that was on top of the World 3 years back, winning all 3 titles, having two of the top 3 best riders in the world and what was easily the best package on the grid, is now struggling to even get a podium seems unreal.
There’s many reason to this descent to hell though. The bike itselft isn’t as good as it was in the past especially with it’s current impossibility to make the electronic work with it. Still, what seems to have turn into a piece of crap is, by all means, far from it. The M1 isn’t the best package on the grid but it’s problems are magnified by the close racing and the huge steps forward done by Honda and Ducati. The situation, which was at a pick this weekend was also largely to due to the track itself, far from one made to suit the specifics characteristic of the M1, and this is straight out of the mouth of Yamaha’s last MotoGP Champion, and Austriang GP winner, Jorge Lorenzo.
Finally, and that’s probably the main problem here at least to me, the riders. While the non-stop growing frustration is understandable due to the lack of result and reactivity from the team back in Japan, we can clearly see that there is actually two ways of dealing with such a strange and difficult situation in the Iwata box.
First you have Valentino Rossi. His approach is both incisive and subtile. While he does lays a few shades over Yamaha’s boss in the press, he always keeps it under control and never crosses the line where he would lost respect from his japanese chiefs. His years of experience and never doubted skills make him able to race around the bike’s problem on Sunday and always get the extra position, the extra points that have given him, so far, a current 2nd place in the championship standings.
On the other hand you have Maverick Vinales. To the opposite of Rossi, Vinales’ never ending criticims toward his team has most than probably grown bored the japaneses back in Iwata. Vinales’ current war with his crew chief does not help either especially when, once again, while Rossi finds a way to get from 14 to 6 in the race, the spaniard goes backward from 11 on the grid to 12th in the race. He was even pointing 16th at some points due to his, yet not solved, race start problems.
The Movistar team will go to Misano for a 2 days test before Silverstone, yet we doubt it will help cure a problem which is rooted too deeply to be snatched off without collateral damages.
4) Give Dovi a cookie
To say that Dovizioso wasn’t happy with Sunday’s race result would be an understatement. It was a picture of desperation and disappointement that showed up into the parc fermé after the race.
Strong of a win at Brno, the italian expected to, at least, fight against Marquez for the first place once again this weekend. Right from the get go though, things didn’t went as planned: “I couldn’t put [myself] in the right position from the beginning. After the hard overtaking from Marc, I was sixth in turn four. I
overtake immediately three riders, but at the end I was third and Marc
start to push.”
And pushed he did. In fact, Desmo Dovi was able to get back up there with Marquez and Lorenzo. Get away with them was thing though, passing them was another. As the majorcan was catching Marquez, Dovizioso only had one thing in mind: get past Lorenzo. Something he will later regret.
Known to be a hard breaker, Andrea Dovizioso couldn’t found a way to surpass Lorenzo’s new and very impressive breaking skills. With nowhere to pass and no “mapping 8″ orders to save him, Dovi just cooked his tires, too much, too early: “I used maybe too much the rear tyre to try to overtake Jorge and I
couldn’t overtake him. I was faster in that part of the race, but I
couldn’t really prepare in the best way the overtaking. That cost me for
sure because I had to slow down too early, ten laps to the end.”
A couple more tried and a mistake at turn 1 when Marquez and Lorenzo were both making moves against one another saw Dovizioso ran wide and loosing too much ground on the spanish duo. Then, his race was over and his position a done deal: “I did a small mistake, but already I was in trouble with the right side
on the rear tyre. Very disappointed because we have a chance to bring
more points in our championship. But at the end when you make just two
practice on the dry, this can happen.”
The italian is now 4th in the standings, one point behind his team mate for the first time since Lorenzo’s Ducati debuts.
5) Honorable mentions
– Cal Crutchlow finished 4th and jugding by his no-love for this track, it’s fair to say, nobody expected that!
– Dani Pedrosa’s still struggling to get the Michelin tire / RCV combo working but still gets another deserved top 10. We do have our fingers crossed for him to win another race before leaving.
– Alex Rins probably hate a lion for breakfast on sunday judging by his rocket start and form in the early laps.
– Another top 10 finish for Alvaro Bautista who’s closer and closer to a Ducati ride in WSBK.
– Bradley Smith, only KTM at the brand’s home track, couldn’t do much against the rest of the field during the race but a superb saturday was still a great and positive result for the team. Pol Espargaro is expected to make his return to the paddock at Silverstone.