Into the red: Expecting the unexpected

You wait seven years for a win, and then three of them come along at once. Sepang last year may now be last season, but it’s only nine races ago – meaning Andrea Dovizioso has now won a third of the races since the lights went out in Malaysia. That’s the same as Maverick Viñales, the man who has stolen a lot more headlines. That’s a little crazy.

Dovizioso’s line is “some people call me negative, but I’m realistic.” Realism seems to be working very well of late.

The Ducati isn’t fixed, the Ducati isn’t perfect, and the Ducati is still missing something compared to their competitors – that may be true. But this recent ‘era’ of MotoGP is often a slightly different one to what came before, and it’s realism that gave Dovizioso his second win in a week. His battle plan wasn’t based on perfection in the setup or bike, although of course every rider and manufacturer works hard to maximize both. His battle plan was based on strategy. And after winning at Mugello, Dovi’s confidence was certainly more than high enough to have confidence in himself being able to pull that off.

- MotoGP - Tito Rabat #53 - EG 0,0 MarcVDS - Andrea Iannone #29 - Suzuki Ecstar - Circuit de Barcelona - Catalunya - 2017 - 

Whereas Ducati seem to emerge as winners when grip is low – or Honda – Yamaha seem to plummet. Or maybe it’s that the red and Repsol machines can find a better compromise. With Maverick Viñales having come out the blocks incredibly quickly in preseason, Qatar and Argentina, the explanation from the other side of the garage was that Viñales’s team had been able to unlock more of the potential of the new M1 more quickly. But after both 2016 bikes (Zarco and Folger) finished well above the 2017 M1s of Rossi and Viñales in Barcelona - and the Movistar team struggled in Jerez - now questions have to be asked. There can be no going back is the line from the Japanese manufacturer, but there needs to be some investigation going forward. There aren’t that many changes from last year’s bike to this, but there has been a big difference in some races. “Some races” is how you lose Championships.

That wasn’t a problem suffered by the Moto2 winner in Montmelo. Everything came together perfectly. There has been a lot said about Alex Marquez, and the same people had a lot to say when Morbidelli crashed out in Jerez and that was the day the ‘Pistolas’ went on to take his first Moto2 win. But Franco spoke the truth – he tried to push to the limit to stay with his teammate – and he went over the limit.

Catalunya saw Morbidelli inside his limits with a solid ride, and Marquez redefining the limits. Domination all weekend, a first lap that saw him a second clear across the line, and then an advantage stretched to four seconds. This time, there is nothing else to say. But then, there wasn’t much before.

- Moto 2 - Team EG 0,0 MarcVDS - Alex Marquez #73 - Circuit de Barcelona - Catalunya - 2017

It was the EG 0,0 Marc VDS team’s 250th start on Sunday too, and to win it – although somewhat expected bar Pasini’s party pooping – is another impressive achievement for the team who have cemented themselves squarely at the top echelons of the intermediate class. But expectation never created anything good on its own. It can create motivation and set a standard, but winning is not something that happens simply because it’s expected.

For Alex Marquez, it happened because he rode a perfect weekend in Barcelona. For Andrea Dovizioso, because he rode a perfect strategy. Maybe we had come to expect too much in MotoGP, and find it too surprising when we have a new name on top. But then, next weekend, it could all be different again…but it will be the same challenge for everyone.

I guess that’s what we’ve come to expect…

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