The Argentina MotoGP at the Termas de Rio Hondo showed us yet again why Marc Marquez is the superstar of this generation of racers. The six-time MotoGP World Champion cruised to a comprehensive victory on his Honda, effortlessly staying in control from lights to flag. The second spot on the podium went to the much-loved Valentino Rossi for Yamaha (who declared that he “rode like when I was young”) while Qatar MotoGP winner Andrea Dovizioso finished third for Ducati. Interestingly, the top three riders all rode different bikes while the top five riders belonged to different teams.
The master and the apprentice
— MotoGP™ (@MotoGP) March 31, 2019
Marquez dominates the race
The weekend brought its share of drama for Marquez, who suffered from an unusual mechanical issue — a broken chain — in FP4 (but still topped the session). Thankfully, it was fairly smooth for the Spanish rider going forward — he grabbed pole in a typically close qualifying session. Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) and Dovizioso (Ducati) completed the front row of the grid.
Typically, Argentina has been a track where Marquez has shone during qualifying — in six MotoGP appearances here over the years, he has started on pole five times; while setting the lap record in 2014. However, Marquez’s results on Sunday have been less consistent. From his four previous pole starts, he won twice and retired twice. In recent memory, the 2018 Argentina MotoGP was a debacle as Marquez was heavily criticised for collisions with Aleix Espargaro and Valentino Rossi — and finished in P18. In 2015, he was forced to retire after starting from pole but making contact with Rossi’s bike. Surely coming into this year’s race, Marquez would have been eager to set the record right with a super result — just as he did.
After a strong start, Marquez’s fearsome pace let him pull away. He quickly opened up a gap to his rivals at the rate of approximately a second a lap in the initial period to seven seconds by lap 10. From then on, it was Marquez’s race to lose — as he carefully managed the tyres and the bike to coming home 9.8 seconds in front of Rossi. A delighted Marquez after the race said, “today was a perfect day. I was so concentrated since FP1, everything worked well, just small trouble in FP4 but then just keep pushing and on the race I knew that my strong point was the first five laps. I put all in and then I saw the difference… (It was a) really sweet feeling with the bike.”
— MotoGP™ 🇦🇷 (@MotoGP) March 31, 2019
The tough battle for P2: Rossi pips Dovizioso on the last lap
Argentina has usually been a race where Rossi performs well — he has had four podium finishes (including a race win) and holds the track record for the fastest race lap. 2019 was no different — Rossi earned a well-fought P2 after a battle with third place man Dovizioso with the duo trading positions several times during the race. Heroically, Rossi dove past Dovizioso on Turn 7 of the final lap of the race to clinch the position. Even better, this ends Rossi’s podium absence since the German MotoGP in July 2018. Expressed Rossi after the race, "I am very happy for me, for my team and for Yamaha because was a long time that I don't arrive on the podium. I ride like when I was young, I enjoy very much. The race was good, I expect to have a bit more pace than Dovi but no so I stay behind but at the end, I have two or three points where I was a bit faster than him so I try on the last lap, was good.”
Dovizioso revealed that he was struggling with his tyres and strategy, saying, “I am not happy in the way the tyre worked during the race and I have to stay in front to manage the tyres. At the end, Valentino was able to study me. I am not happy about third position because the second was there but we have to be happy about the podium."
Disappointment for Vinales and Lorenzo
Further down the grid, Jack Miller of Pramac Ducati was able to bag P4 from Alex Rins in the first of the Suzukis (P5). Since Rins started way down the grid in P16, he will be glad to salvage some useful points. Speaking of Suzuki, the team had shockingly slow qualifying pace in Argentina — getting knocked out in Q1 with P16 (Rins) and P19 (Mir) and will be looking for answers about what happened. In order to be seen as a threat to the frontrunners, consistency will be important for Suzuki’s form. Danilo Petrucci on the second Ducati finished in P6.
Beautifully judged by @Rins42!
— MotoGP™ (@MotoGP) March 31, 2019
Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the day was Maverick Vinales, Rossi’s Yamaha teammate. Despite starting in P2 alongside Marquez, Vinales had yet another poor start. To jog our memories, Vinales was plagued by these poor starts all through last season. Although he claimed to have been working to improve his starts in the off-season, the problem persisted at the season-opening Qatar MotoGP when Vinales started on pole but dropped back to P6 after the Turn 1. Vinales’ problems in Argentina did not end at his poor start — while running in P7, he was taken out of the race by Franco Morbidelli of Petronas SRT Yamaha on the last lap of the race.
The other disappointing run was from Jorge Lorenzo, Marquez’s new teammate at Honda. All eyes have been on Lorenzo with the expectation that he will challenge Marquez up front, but instead, Lorenzo has struggled. After qualifying in P12, he was running in P19 after a poor start and recovered to finish back in P12. Lorenzo will need to do some quick soul-searching before the next MotoGP to ride himself back to the front. Speaking to the press, Lorenzo shared the reasons for his poor result in Argentina. He revealed, “Physically I am quite well...I probably need one, two or three weeks more to recover completely both injuries. But it’s not the real problem to be in this position; it’s more my inexperience with the bike together with a track I never liked.” He also shared that he expects the Jerez to be where he returns to the front (scheduled for 5th of May).
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) who grabbed P3 at the Qatar MotoGP, could only manage P13 after being doled out a ride-through penalty for jumping the start. Special mention to KTM rookie Miguel Oliveira, who finished one tenth behind Pol Espargaro in 11th.
— MotoGP™ (@MotoGP) March 31, 2019
While as many as three different teams were represented on the podium in Argentina, the sheer dominance of Marquez’s result is both delightful and concerning. Though his masterclasses are always a pleasure to watch, it does not bode well for the sport and Dorna’s ambition of bringing the field closer. Will 2019 be a repeat of 2018, with Marquez running away with the title unchallenged? Worse, Lorenzo, who many hoped would provide that challenge, is nowhere to be seen. Will Jerez actually be where things swing around for him? In the championship, Marquez is four points clear of Dovizioso at the top. In the teams’ standings, the picture is different with Ducati steering 9 points clear of Repsol Honda at the top. This is a result of Lorenzo’s lack of performance, while both Ducati drivers have been consistently showing strong results. As the action next moves to the Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas, there is plenty to look forward to!
With inputs from Kunal Ghate
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Updated Date: Apr 01, 2019 15:59:50 IST