The combined winning gap across all 3 classes, Moto3, Moto2, and MotoGP, was 0.162 seconds. Total.
We all expected the 2018 season to be good, things have only been getting better over the last few years. However, what we got in the first race was rather unexpected, at least for me. It was mayhem, it was beautiful, it was a surprise. It’s a good time to be alive.
Let’s try to unpackage what happened, talk about the people, understand how it all came to pass.
First off, a word about the new MotoGP pit lane reporter. I noticed a lot of people don’t like him, one favorite joke about him seems to be that he sounds stoned. He does, and we all miss Dylan, but you gotta give the man a chance.
Dylan was a professional reporter, that’s what he spent his life doing. Crafar is a racer, a GP winner, Red Bull Romaniacs winner, and instructor to over 600 people in the last 6 years. He has far more knowledge than Dylan ever did, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get over his half-asleep way of talking. He has just begun, he’s taking it easy, like he did with the MotoE bike.
Give him a break, the man’s a legend.
When the race began, and Dovi got pushed back to 8th, I thought that was the end of the race for him. Turns out he was just taking this super easy, he let everyone else fly off, burn their tires away, while he slowly climbed his way up to the top over their shoulders.
He has one of the best bikes on the grid, Ducati has always been quick in a straight line, but the 2018 version can turn too. Watching the helicopter shots of the race, the only time I ever saw Marquez catch up to Dovi was on brakes, and that too not by much.
Imagine the level of calm this dude has, starts at 5th, drops down 3 places, gets into a rhythm, overtakes all without any overly aggressive moves, sets the pace up front, and beats Marquez to the line. He’s clearly confident with his machine, and himself, confidence that comes with age and experience, don’t forget he’s 31 years old, he’s practically a grandpa in the MotoGP world.
The man keeps surprising, as far as pure, raw talent goes, I don’t think he has a match. I mean look at this incident, how did he not lose it all? His ability to save the front is unbelievable, he rides on a different level.
Marq has matured tremendously from the little boy who came and won his rookie season in MotoGP. He has always been known to play with the limits, his 2017 season was nothing more than save after save, in every kind of session, all over the world. For 2018 it looks like he’s got a much better bike, and doesn’t need to push his luck as hard.
Hondas were known till last year to struggle with acceleration, that’s why Marquez pushed so hard on the brakes, and that’s why all the spectacular front end saves. This year, they aren’t struggling no more. Dovi did pull away from Marq on the home straight, but he difference wasn’t nearly as much as it used to be. In the last lap, last corner showdown they had, Marq was actually catching up to Dovi in his slipstream, if the finish line had been a little farther away things could have been very different.
In the after-race paddock chat Marq had with Crafar, it was easy to tell that he really enjoyed the race. It’s obviously too early to speculate on who’s going to win the 2018 season, but if I had to bet, I’d put my money on Marquez.
When Rossi announced that he was going to stay with Yamaha till 2020, I had mixed emotions. He is the undisputed greatest motorcycle racer of all time, and he’s clearly still competitive, even though the man’s approaching 40.
However, I really want Zarco to be on a better bike, and when he was signed by Tech3 my assumption was that he’ll be on a factory Yamaha soon. Vinales isn’t going anywhere, he doesn’t need to, and it looks like neither is Rossi.
I shouldn’t have doubted the old man, who am I to judge him? He’s been all over the place in testing, ended up 8th in qualifying, and then as always, magically finds himself near the top of the group in the race. After the race he said it was all a gamble, he had two options, either go with a bike that was quick but would eat up its tires, or go with one that was slower but would last the distance. He chose the faster bike, and made it work.
He wasn’t close to the action in the end, Dovi and Marq were quite a bit away, but he also was comfortably ahead of Crutchlow. Rossi is a living legend, it’s a privilege to watch him race, and I’m happy we’ll get to do just that for 3 more years.
I want Crutchlow to win, just so that I can hear him rant about something, anything. A few days ago he ranted off about the tire allocation in MotoGP, then he ranted off about the drug tests. You rarely get to see this side of MotoGP, Italian and Spanish riders are always too professional, too domesticated. It’s people like Crutchlow and Miller who make interesting interviews.
As Marq’s Honda has improved, so has Crutchlow’s. After the race he said that he could have been faster if he’d chosen the hard front like Marq and Dani, but that it was unlikely he’d have been able to beat Rossi. His problem in 2017 was crashes, far too many of them, this year things have been much better.
I think Honda have aligned their bike development completely with Marquez, who has a unique riding style, to put it mildly. Pedrosa has struggled to adjust to the bike, so has Crutchlow, because they had to push the front real hard, and did not have the epic saving skills of Marquez. Now that the bike is a bit more balanced, it won’t be surprising to see both Dani and Cal be competitive.
If Dovi is calm, Zarco is ice cold. He reminds me of Kimi Raikkonen, apart from the fact that he is a genuinely nice guy.
On Saturday he took pole position, by breaking the circuit record. It’s not easy to do that, not against Marquez, taking pole positions and the free BMW at end of the season are his hobbies. On Sunday he led majority of the race, and in the end it turned out he could have kept going if not for tire trouble.
Michelin have been facing some criticism for their quality control, a lot of riders have complained that some of their brand-new tires run slower than some of their used ones. There seems to be a lack of consistency, if you are lucky you get a good tire and shave off 2 seconds per lap, if you are unlucky you drop like a stone from 1st to 8th because you can’t turn the bike anymore.
But Zarco was happy, as he should be. He’s on a satellite bike, this is just the beginning of his MotoGP career. All he has to do is prove that he’s quick, and he’s proved that beyond doubt. He deserves a better bike, and I’m sure he will get it at some point. For now, this is good. He has nothing to lose, he can push as hard as he wants. Zarco is going to make this season much more fun.
Petrucci was close to the top throughout the race, but as always ended up missing out in the final laps. He deserves a bit more luck, he’s the nicest guy in the paddock by a long way. Vinales made a miraculous recovery in 6th place, at one point it looked like he wasn’t even going to be in the top 10. Dani made a brilliant start, but tire trouble forced him to the back of the group as well. Rins was extremely impressive, I would have loved to see him finish the race, but he’s new and learning, and has a unique riding style.
I don’t know what happened to Lorenzo. He qualified 9th, and then at the start of the race just disappeared. I saw him running outside the points for a while, and then he crashed. Lorenzo has always been known for his quick starts, no matter where he is on the grid, he always made it to the front by corner 1. That didn’t happen yesterday, and that’s troubling. Yes a lot of people don’t like him, and he does seem to be the owner of all the super-douchy sunglasses on the planet, but he’s an incredible talent, I want to watch him fight.
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