MotoGP 2019: Marc Marquez In A League Of His Own

Marc Marquez races his Honda to 50 premier class wins in MotoGP

Marc Marquez is literally in a league of his own in the 2019 MotoGP season. His rivals are struggling to keep up, and with every passing race, it seems that he only lifts the performance bar higher. Surely this time in the history of the sport will be remembered as the ‘Marquez Era’ – in honour of a man who is dominating the show.

The Czech MotoGP at Brno was yet another standing testimony of the sheer talent and unparalleled supremacy of Marquez. He has now won five out of the last six races, and the summer break did not interrupt his winning momentum. Crucially, this latest victory propels Marquez into the elite group of riders who have 50 premier-class victories. Only three other riders hold this major distinction – Valentino Rossi (89), Giacomo Agostini (68) and Mick Doohan (54). Moreover, Marquez also equalled Mike Hailwood’s 76 wins across all classes.

The next question is whether Marquez can beat Rossi as the most victorious rider in the premier class. Let’s just say that Marquez has all the ingredients required – talent, grit, consistency and a team that rallies around him. Even better, he is only 26-years-old and time is on his side. While the thought of Marquez chasing down Rossi’s record is upsetting for many MotoGP puritans, let’s also remember that records being created and broken is the nature of sport – and Marquez’s achievements do not in any way take away from those before him. To quote Marquez, “(The milestone) is important but I don’t like to compare, they are legends of this sport. I’m just going to keep pushing… keep the same mentality, same ambition from the beginning until the end.”

Qualifying: Marquez grabs pole

Saturday was a trailer of the Marquez masterclass to come. The Spaniard sensationally grabbed pole by over 2.5 seconds on a drying track after making a gutsy switch to slicks. This allowed him to equal Doohan’s record of 58 top-class pole positions. Marquez later admitted that he took on more risk than was required – “After analysing the situation I took a risk that I didn’t need. Some members of the team were very happy, but some of them – the important ones – the ones that push me more, they were angry because I took too much risk. The target was the front row, not the pole position.”

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Jack Miller of Pramac Ducati qualified in P2, while Johann Zarco surprised everyone by grabbing P3 – making it KTM’s first MotoGP front row start. He shared after the session, “It’s a nice thing to start the second half of the season and it gives a lot of happiness to everyone.” The strong showing also came at a time when Zarco and the team were struggling with bad results – “I was getting down with emotion. I was not finding solutions, and thinking that 10 years of experience were useless. And that was not a nice feeling…” Thanks to the qualifying result, Zarco admitted that he felt like a man who “still has the ability.”

The other interesting talking point from qualifying was the stand-off between Marquez and Suzuki’s Alex Rins in Q2. Both riders were summoned by Race Direction over the spat, but no further action was taken. Rins had some strong perspectives on the incident, saying that Marquez “does not respect other riders” and “always tries to get inside your head.” It’s interesting to reflect on how sport is as mental as it is physical – and Marquez seems to have cracked that piece perfectly. To what extent is his dominance over his rivals boosted by psychology and the mental aspect, rather than just other factors like the bike and his personal talent? Have his rivals already ‘given up’ as he notches up victory after victory, widening the championship gap? Of course, veteran rider Rossi had an alternate point of view, saying, “They always talked about psychological games but what counts is how fast you are it’s there you make the difference over the others. The rest is not worth the time.”

The race: Sudden downpour plays its part

The whimsical weather continued to play a crucial role on race day as well. An hour before the race was scheduled to begin, a sudden downpour soaked the final corner, straight and first turn – even as the rest of the circuit remained dry. As a result, the race start was postponed and the race distance was reduced to just 20 laps. Tyres also became an important decision, since the track was completely dry or drying quickly. As the race got underway, Marquez retained his lead at the start. Then onwards, he steadily worked towards opening up a gap to his rivals all the way to the chequered flag.

Andrea Dovizioso of Ducati, who is still Marquez’s closest championship rival, rode a consistent and measured race to P2. He explained after the race, “It was a strange race – really fast at the beginning, we were riding in a perfect way, same line, very smooth, but in the middle of the race he [Marquez] push a bit more on the braking and I couldn’t brake harder. I wanted to stay to the end with Marquez but his way of riding is a bit different.”

Jack Miller snatched P3 from Rins on the penultimate lap, making it to the podium for the third time in his career. He shared, “This is definitely the better one [of my podiums], that’s for sure, it’s nice to fight there in the end. The front tyre was probably my biggest downfall, we haven’t ridden on the hard tyre all weekend. Would’ve been nice to have a little more dry track time all weekend, but hey, we’re here.” This is a great result for Miller, who has still not locked down his Pramac Ducati seat despite leading the Independent Rider classification. It also keeps him in the hunt for a promotion to the main Ducati team at the next available opportunity.

What’s next?

As a result of the win, Marquez further extended his championship lead to 210 points, 63 points ahead of Dovizioso. Danilo Petrucci retained third place in the standings, but will be eager for a good showing in the upcoming race after only managed P8 in Brno. The action continues as the teams return to the track on Monday to test their new innovations – and in some cases, 2020 spec machinery. Yamaha will be testing an early version of its 2020 engine – the team are all but out of contention for this year’s title, and will be seeking to leapfrog development for next year.

Next weekend, the racing action shifts to the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring. Will anyone be able to stop Marquez there? The Ducati, Yamaha and Suzuki riders will need to dig deep to challenge Marquez – especially since he is carrying the momentum of finishing in P1 or P2 in the last seven races. From Marquez’ perspective, how quickly can he wrap up the championship? While there are prestige and comfort in sealing the title earlier, he will also need to be careful to avoid unnecessary risks – or not.

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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