Dovi’s Mastered Last Lap Moves On Marquez

Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso beats Honda's Marc Marquez in the 2019 Austrian MotoGP at the Red Bull Ring

The 2019 Austrian MotoGP will be remembered as a landmark race as Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso pulled an overtaking move over Marc Marquez on the last corner of the last lap — and hence snatched the race victory. The final spot on the podium went to Fabio Quartararo of SRT Yamaha, the blisteringly fast young Frenchman who has been impressing us this season.

The 2019 MotoGP season started off on a promising note with the Honda, Yamaha, Ducati and Suzuki riders all in the mix. Competitive quotient across the grid was high and it seemed like Dorna’s attempt to enhance on-track racing had succeeded. However, the season seemed to fade away into yet another time of Marquez dominance — with the Spaniard crushing rivals and creating records along the way. After yet another unchallenged Marquez victory last weekend at the Czech MotoGP, we wondered whether his rivals had written off this season and were instead focussing on 2020, given the massive points lead he had built up, as well as his winning momentum. Interestingly, the Austrian MotoGP showed us that Marquez is not untouchable, and nor are his rivals defeated. It takes a different level of determination, ambition and spunk to overtake on the last corner — and Dovizioso made it count, rather than holding onto a secure second place.

Qualifying: Marquez grabs record(s)

Last weekend at Brno, Marquez had equalised Mick Doohan’s record for most premier-class poles. At the Red Bull Ring, he claimed the record for himself by securing a spectacular 59th MotoGP pole position, making the most of the prevailing weather conditions as well as Honda’s improved top speed this season. Marquez beat his closest rival (Quartararo of Yamaha) by 0.434s as he set a new lap record at the Red Bull Ring. Testament to Marquez’s outstanding qualifying performances this year, it was his seventh pole of the season.

Quartararo qualified in P2, which is the best qualifying result for a Yamaha rider at the Red Bull Ring in MotoGP. The rookie rider has repeatedly dazzled with impressive qualifying performances, despite being in his maiden season. He qualified on the front row six times in the last 11 races, including three glorious pole positions. Dovizioso took P3 in qualifying to complete the front row of the grid.

The Race: Marquez vs. Dovizioso

Marquez qualified on pole, but it was never going to be an easy victory. Despite qualifying on pole three successive times since 2017, the Red Bull Ring is the only circuit on the current racing calendar where Marquez has not had a victory. Ducati has been dominant, winning all three races since the circuit returned to the calendar in 2016. Championship challenger Dovizioso has finished on the podium every year, and hence could be counted on to pose a strong challenge yet again — and that is exactly what happened.

Marc vs. Alex – MotoGP’s Rivalry Build-Up

It was a treat for fans to watch Marquez and Dovizioso battle it out on track for supremacy — this is what the sport has been lacking lately. The thrilling result was decided only in the last corner — it was a duel to be cherished for a long time to come. After the race, a jubilant Dovizioso said, “I didn’t think I could overtake on the last corner but it was the last one and I absolutely had to try. I felt incredibly strong at that point and sometimes you have to try something crazy.”

The duo also made slight contact during this deciding overtake, and Marquez thought it would lead to a crash. He explained, “When he overtook me…my protection of the front lever was touched [caught] on his leather or some part of his bike. And then I was going wide with him, because my bike was going with his bike. I was thinking that I will crash, but then fortunately that piece broke, and then I was able to stop the bike and I didn’t crash.”

Marquez, who was disappointed to miss out on the victory despite being so close, rued about making a mistake in terms of tyre choice.

“Today we made a big mistake with the rear tyre and immediately I saw when I go out, all soft tyres had better grip and even the consistency in the end. Anyway, I try because I am Marc and I need to try. Happy because this second place, of course miss the last corner, but was sliding a lot the rear,” Marquez said.

The other winners: Quartararo shines again

Another hero from the Austrian MotoGP was rookie Quartararo, who beat the factory Yamahas to P3. The young rider had expected it to be a difficult race.

“I think this race will be the toughest one of the season. It is a track that for Yamaha it doesn’t suit us very well but it is a race that we need to learn from the other riders and take experience,” Quartararo said.

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However, he was able to leverage his front row start as well as manage his tyres, to take a comfortable third place. This is Quartararo’s third podium finish in the last five races — and he now leads the Independent Team Rider’s standings. Are we seeing the birth of a future star?

Valentino Rossi managed to get a strong P4 result for Yamaha, despite starting further back in P10. Interestingly, the Red Bull Ring is one of the two circuits on the current racing calendar where Rossi has not had a premier class podium finish. His teammate Maverick Vinales took P5.

It was also a great showing by Miguel Oliveira who took P8, the first top 10 finish for himself in MotoGP and KTM’s best finishing position at their home race. The timing of this result is excellent, as KTM extended their MotoGP commitment by five years this weekend. However, the team also announced their withdrawal from Moto2 as a chassis manufacturer, and the departure of rider Johann Zarco from the team.

The Austrian Grand Prix had a minor implication on the championship standings since it allowed Dovizioso to bridge the gap to Marquez, but the Honda rider still has a massive 58-point lead at the front. Marquez’s consistency this season has been the key to his lead, given that he is yet to finish a race outside of the top two this year. At the same time, the Austrian MotoGP proved that irrespective of the status of the championship battle, on-track racing action is exactly what the fans want to see.

This post was first published on Firstpost.

Kunal Shah is an FIA-accredited Formula 1 journalist who has been reporting on Formula 1 for nearly two decades. He worked with the Force India Formula 1 Team for 6 seasons in Marketing, Sponsorship and Commercial roles. As a former single-seater racer, he was responsible for Force India's grassroots talent program, One from a Billion Hunt. Presently, he co-writes a regular Formula 1 column for Firstpost, speaks on Inside Line F1 Podcast & Pits to Podium and produces broadcast/OTT content for NENT Group (Viasport & Viaplay).

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