Author: Oli Rushby Posted: 30 May 2015
After an incredible start to the 2015 MotoGP season with three different victors from the first five races, last year’s runaway winner, Marc Marquez struggling and Valentino Rossi leading the championship, the Italian Grand Prix was always going to be a corker.
We’re just two days in and so far it’s living up to that expectation. Marc Marquez’ season went from bad to worse today at Mugello as he qualified 13th for tomorrow’s race. An error in free practice left him forced to fight in Qualifying 1 and further drama struck when the Spaniard was unable to match Aleix Espargaro’s lap time and ended up being unable to progress to Q2 after Yonny Hernandez pipped him in the closing moments.
All weekend Valentino Rossi has seem bemused by Marquez’ misfortune. Not too obviously, of course, but the Italian made a very telling comment in Sunday’s press conference when he said he’d rather Marquez win the race than Dovizioso as Marquez has fewer championship points – with Marquez sat less than a metre away from him, some might call this ‘digging in the knife’.
Rossi refuses to rule the Spaniard out of contention tomorrow, but it’s safe to say he is unlikely to win the race. This means that he will again lose further points to his rivals, placing him even further behind in the championship standings. Another weekend off the podium and Marquez’ chances of retaining his title slip further away.
His title hopes look even worse when you look at Jorge Lorenzo’s current form. He might have had a tough start to the season but things seem to have clicked for him at just the right time and he’s now looking like the Jorge who stormed to the 2010 and 2012 world titles.
Despite Ducati having a chance of victory here this weekend and the fact you can never rule out Rossi at Mugello, there’s a sense throughout the paddock that Lorenzo’s name is already being etched on the trophy.
As in Jerez and Le Mans, the Mallorcan has shown spectacular speed across the weekend and appears to have the stronger race pace once again. Polesitter Iannone is unlikely to be able to maintain the pace with his injured shoulder, he’ll be lucky to make the podium but Dovizioso could potentially run with the Yamaha at the front and if he’s close enough in the closing stages, he could be in with a chance.
Equally, Rossi could be up there too but it will all depend on the Italian getting the start of his life. If he isn’t on the back of them by the end of the first or second lap, Lorenzo and Dovizioso will disappear into the distance the gap will become insurmountable.
Marquez is visibly frustrated this weekend. He’s not used to struggling with his bike and certainly doesn’t like being so far from the front. He will undoubtedly fight through the pack tomorrow, but like Rossi he’ll need a fantastic start and to make up the positions in the early laps. Let’s hope that frustration doesn’t get the better of him…
Cal Crutchlow wasn’t best pleased about missing out on a front row start, he called himself an ‘imbecile’ as he realised he could have carried much more corner speed on his fastest lap. While he is suffering the same problems as all the other Honda riders, he seems to be able to ride through it here. He acknowledges he doesn’t have the pace to run with Lorenzo at the moment but it’s clear he’s got his eye on the podium and that’s not an unrealistic goal. A strong start will see him in the mix and if he can keep Iannone in his sights and hold off any attacks from Rossi, Marquez and Pedrosa behind, a podium is certainly possible.
Mugello is a long circuit, so for the top 17 riders to be covered by a second is remarkable but what’s more is it’s extremely punishing. Scott Redding feels as though he’s made a step forward this weekend, it’s not quite perfect, but he’s found himself qualifying seventeenth with a lap time that would have placed him six places further up the grid last year. The Briton is confident with his race pace and is looking for a top ten but says it’s still not enough – he wants to be fighting with Crutchlow.
The Suzuki boys are enjoying a strong weekend here, they are extremely good in the second and third sectors but there’s a problem: Aleix Espargaro, their most experienced rider, has said he may not be able to ride full race distance with the pain from his thumb, which was operated on in the gap between Le Mans and Mugello. They’re still lacking in power, but will reportedly get more from next time out in Barcelona. The question is, will their near-perfect handling remain in tact with another 10-20 horsepower?
In summary, Lorenzo will be hard to beat tomorrow. His meticulous race pace is likely to see him cruise to a third consecutive victory in a similar fashion to his wins in Jerez and Le Mans. The only two men who can stop him are Andrea Dovizioso and Valentino Rossi. Dovizioso if he can maintain Lorenzo’s pace from start to end and Rossi if he can make good progress in the first few laps and even then he’ll also have to maintain his teammate’s pace.
Crutchlow should be on for a good result but might have to contend with Iannone and Marquez and it’s likely Pedrosa will be in the mix too.