Sunday, 5 May 2013
After the first race the general consensus was that Lorenzo would march away with the title, that Marquez would easily have the measure of Pedrosa, and that Rossi was back to his championship challenging ways. 2 races later, things could not be more different.
A difficult weekend in terms of track conditions set the scene for a litany of incidents. Of the top 5, only Lorenzo managed not to crash on Saturday, which compensated for Crutchlow going down twice in qualifying. Lorenzo's birthday pole ahead of the Honda's looked ominous, however Pedrosa maintained that his race pace was stronger than it seeemed.
An action packed start saw Pedrosa get in front of Lorenzo, before swapping back at turn 3. Rossi managed to pass Crutchlow into fourth, and maintained momentum in the opening laps, passing Marquez.
After a difficult Austin GP, we all wanted to see Rossi scything through the field like Qatar, but it was not to be. Marquez, as in Qatar, was not afraid to put the move back on Rossi, and from there disappeared to catch the leading duo. It would be a lonely ride in fourth for Rossi.
Biding his time until mid race, Pedrosa managed to pass Lorenzo, who was showing front end grip problems. From there, Pedrosa rose with purpose, churning out error free (Lorenzo like) laps to build a 4 second gap.
And so the action rested with the battle for second. Marquez displayed glimpses of his Moto2 madness, almost colliding with Lorenzo on numerous occasions as he struggled to find a way past Lorenzo's defensive riding. Able to resist the surges, it seemed that Lorenzo was on track to salvage second place when on the last corner Marquez gave us all flashbacks of Rossi/Gibernau through the ironically newly named Lorenzo Curve. With no hope to pass cleanly, Marquez threw a hail Mary up the inside, using Lorenzo as a backstop and punted him off the track proper. A controversial way to take second place, it will raise questions in the paddock about whether he should be up before the stewards. Marquez is no stranger to controversy, but had been warned coming into MotoGP that the stunts he pulled in Moto2 would not be tolerated. With a new penalty system in place we will see whether it is put into action against the rising Repsol star.
So the key takeaways contradict what we thought after round 1. Pedrosa is a firm title contender, Marquez is still green and despite bundles of riding talent needs to work on his risk management if he is to be a serious threat to the title. Lorenzo is still the best rider, but the deficiencies of the Yamaha make it difficult for both he and Rossi to compete evenly with the better acceleration and tyre management of the Hondas. Rossi, for his part, looks like he is struggling to adapt to a M1 that was not developed for him. It forces him to ride like Lorenzo, carrying lean angles that he is not comfortable with. I expect him to show us glimpes of the old through regular podiums and an occasional win, but it is hard to see how Rossi will seriously mount a challenge to team Spain.
Le Mans in 2 weeks!