MotoGP 2019: In home race, Marc Marquez inches closer to coronation by holding off Andrea Dovizioso's challenge

  • While the race results suggest that Marquez has been absolutely in a league of his own all season, that is only half the truth.

  • The fact is that the grid has been closer and more competitive than ever, with five riders and three constructors winning in 2019.

  • The other noteworthy thing about Marquez in 2019 is the sheer consistency he has brought to the table.

The year was 1997. A four-year-old boy, who had grown up around motorbikes, was so fascinated by them that he begged his parents for his own. His parents obliged, and they bought a small bike fitted with stabilisers to keep him from tipping over.

Two decades later, that young boy is the undisputed king of MotoGP — Marc Marquez, the Honda rider who is dominating the scene. Marquez grabbed a classic victory at his home race at Aragon, Spain — on his 200th Grand Prix start. The circuit is located a mere 200 kilometres from Marquez’s childhood home, making it a wildly popular victory. Remarkably, it was Marquez’s fourth consecutive victory at Aragon.

Second place went to Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso, while Jack Miller grabbed the final spot on the podium.

Decoding Marquez’s dominance

When we talk about Marquez’s dominance, it’s important to put a few things into perspective. While the race results suggest that Marquez has been absolutely in a league of his own all season, that is only half the truth. The fact is that the grid has been closer and more competitive than ever, with five riders and three constructors winning thus far in 2019. Marquez has been within striking distance throughout for his rivals — in fact, he’s even been beaten to the victory on the last corner of the race, twice. This is unlike say Formula 1, where a period of dominance means being absolutely untouchable. In our opinion, this context makes Marquez’s achievement even more commendable.

The other noteworthy thing about Marquez’s 2019 season is the sheer consistency he’s brought to the table. Apart from his retirement at the 2019 Americas MotoGP, Marquez has finished in the top two at every single race. This is the key reason why he’s pulled away from his rivals in the championship hunt. For his challengers to put up a strong fight next year, they will need to bring this powerful mix of speed and consistency to the table. That’s no small task, but then again, nor is beating Marquez.

Qualifying: Marquez on pole

Qualifying was a Marquez masterclass as he grabbed pole — which was not unexpected after going comfortably fastest on Friday. Fabio Quartararo, the young Yamaha rookie who has been making waves this season, took P2 on the grid. It was no doubt a fine result for the Frenchman, but he seemed rather upset to not have grabbed pole. Even so, it’s interesting how Quartararo has stamped his authority all over qualifying — his one lap pace is legendary. Maverick Vinales grabbed the final place on the front row of the grid.

The race: podium sitters

The race was predicted to be a dry one, which took weather out of the equation — and all signs suggested that Marquez would claim victory. His pace around this circuit is known to be spectacular, making this his race to lose. After jumping into the lead at the start, Marquez was able to pull out a second after just the first lap. This was pretty much a sign of the times to come as the Spaniard disappeared into the distance, leaving his rivals to slug it out behind him. Declared a triumphant Marquez, “Happy for this victory. Looks easy, but in the end we're working very hard. We crashed on Friday, so we are pushing. Dovizioso never gives up.”

Marquez’s strategy of pushing hard in the early laps to build up a lead of around five seconds (and then not pushing further) worked very well. The Spaniard said that he was “convinced about the strategy” and had a “good feeling about it” all through.

Speaking of Dovizioso, he was the dark horse at Aragon. After only qualifying in P10, he managed to pick his way up the order all the way to P2. His progress was aided by the fact that the field was stuck behind Jack Miller’s Ducati for crucial parts of the race, which allowed him to hunt them down. A visibly pleased Dovizioso said after the race, “We knew we can fight for the podium, and on the start I was really determined, I felt ready to really push at the beginning. I couldn't make a really good start but after I was able to be fast and not use too much the tyre. Really happy about that, we needed that result, especially when you start 10th.”

The final spot on the podium went to Pramac Ducati’s Miller, who was in the podium mix the entire race. Miller shared that he did not even try to hunt down Marquez up ahead, and instead just focussed on his own race. “I just tried to keep my pace, we did a lot of runs throughout the weekend, just working on that, and I sort of stuck to it, I switched map really early and tried to switch rear tyre, I didn't want to get sucked into trying to chase Marc. I kept my cool and was able to bring home a podium.” We’d hail this as an exceptionally mature ride from the young Aussie rider, who has now scored three podiums this season. This performance also boosts his chance of grabbing a ride with the Ducati works team in 2020, though only time will tell on that front.

Other riders to watch

Vinales rode a good race and was always in the leading pack behind Marquez, finally taking home P4. That said, he will be disappointed to have not grabbed a podium. P5 went to Quartararo, once again showing that the rookie needs to work on his race pace in comparison to his stellar qualifying rides. Whispers in the paddock are suggesting that Quartararo may be elevated to the Yamaha works team in 2020 — but has he done enough to make it happen?

It was a turbulent race for Suzuki rider Alex Rins who only managed P9 — a disappointing outcome in his home race. Rins made headlines for all the wrong reasons as he wiped out Franco Morbidelli on Lap 1. Rins fell to the back of the grid as a result of the incident and was also slapped with a long lap penalty. Cameras picked up Rins heading over to the Yamaha garage after the race, and apologising to Morbidelli. Hopefully Morbidelli appreciated that a part of the apology was in Italian, his mother tongue.

Perhaps the rider with the most dreadful weekend was the one who wasn’t even on track — Johann Zarco, who was dropped by KTM with immediate effect and replaced by Mika Kallio. Zarco was anyway slated to leave the team at the end of the season after requesting to be released from his contract, but was shocked by the accelerated departure. He shared, “Not finishing (the season) is weird, something was ripped out of my stomach a little bit, my heart was ripped out, I don't know... It's not easy to digest. I was a little shocked at first, and when the days go by, it's like everything else, you accept it better and move on.” The team shared that this move was necessary to signal to the team to stay positive and keep working, while shielding them from the negative mindspace that Zarco was in.

Marquez: ‘almost’ world champion

Marquez’s victory puts him within touching distance of the championship — he now leads Dovizioso by a staggering 98 points. His win at Aragon eliminated Petrucci, Rins, Vinales and Valentino Rossi from title contention, leaving only Dovizioso — who lives to fight another day. It would have been perfect for Marquez to lift the championship at home in Aragon, but it wasn’t meant to be. For Marquez to become world champion at the next available opportunity (the upcoming Thai MotoGP) he needs to outscore Dovizioso by two points or more. That is a fairly small ask, making it likely that he will wrap up his sixth MotoGP championship with four races to spare.

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Updated Date: Sep 23, 2019 14:25:28 IST