The 2017 MotoGP season has finally commenced with Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales having a cracking battle with Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso en route to his second career victory. The race gave us a lot of indications of what is to expect in the following 17 rounds and well, we are in for one of the most competitive seasons ever!
The Argentinian GP is annually held at the Termas De Rio Hondo which has been on the MotoGP calendar since 2014. The track is relatively short and fast, with the lap record here being a 1’39.019 set by Valentino Rossi on his Yamaha in 2015. The track has a total of 14 corners and is indeed very fast with the average speed over a single lap being 168.4 km/h! This track also features several prominent overtaking spots which promises an exciting race ahead!
Those who have a point to prove
- Jorge Lorenzo : The Spaniard’s move from Yamaha to Ducati is looking to have backfired for him as the pre-season tests and the first race in Qatar produced some pretty disappointing results. Lorenzo finished a poor 11th with his teammate Andrea Dovizioso running a wonderful race to finish 2nd. For Jorge, he has to step up his game in the coming few races or else it would be too late to catch up, even on a really strong bike.
- Honda : Although the Japanese team were pretty happy with the progress that they made in the pre-season tests, the results in Qatar showed otherwise. Both, Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa were well off the pace of the Yamahas and the Ducatis. LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow also seemed to be struggling with the updates made to the RC213V. The Honda factory riders seemed to have a very similar pace to Andrea Iannone’s Suzuki and the aggressive Italian’s riding style might give Honda some headaches if their pace truly is almost identical.
- Valentino Rossi : The Italian legend struggled with the new M1 in the pre-season tests and it felt almost certain that Rossi would not be able to be strong this season. In the race, Valentino was at his best, finishing 7 places ahead of his starting position and also pulling off a fantastic move on Marc Marquez late in the race. Yet, this race was purely a feat of his immense experience but if Valentino is to fight for the World Championship like most of the time, he will have to fight even harder and adjust to the bike before his teammate Viñales runs away with the World Title.
Those who have proved a point
- Johann Zarco : The MotoGP rookie was on fire in Qatar, storming to the lead in his Tech 3 Yamaha on Lap 1. The Frenchman was enjoying a dream race, leading for almost a third of the complete distance before unfortunately crashing out mid race. Zarco’s stunning performance did raise a lot of eyebrows in the paddock and from the looks of it, he will definitely be the hottest young rider available on the market at the end of the season. Tech 3’s gamble to field 2 rookies in their lineup looks to be paying off for them.
- Maverick Viñales : Viñales looks to be a certain threat this season, topping the timings in all the pre-season testing sessions and also taking pole position for the Qatar GP. His golden run of form continued in the race as he staged a superb comeback from a dismal start. Viñales’ hard but clean battle with Dovizioso towards the end of the race proved that he is a true fighter. The best part of the same is that he is only 25 and has a long career ahead!
- Aleix Espargro : The Spainiard put up arguably the ride of his life, taking a generally non-competitive Aprillia to a remarkable 6th position losing a hard fought battle with Honda’s Dani Pedrosa who clearly had the better bike. Starting in a weak 15th position, Espargro took advantage of the multiple crashes to work his way up to 5th place where he stayed for the majority of the race. For Aprillia, this is some solid improvement and hopefully, the Italian squad will be able to make some more amends and finish in the points for every race.
All eyes were and will be on KTM this year as they enter their first year in MotoGP as a manufacturer. KTM were off the pace in the tests and also in the race which leaves them with a lot of room for improvement. Luckily for them, they will use a new and upgraded engine this week at Argentina and possibly, that might be the key for a more competitive bike. The Austrian team have set a goal of fighting for the World Championship in the next 3 years and with the amount of money that they have, this looks very well in sight. They are in for a rough ride at least for this season but since MotoGP is ultra-competitive, they might as well rack up a surprise as their bike keeps on developing.
My bet for the Argentinian GP is on Andrea Dovizioso as the Termas De Rio Hondo is quite a quick track which I feel will favour the Ducati more than the Yamaha or the Honda. I also expect a good ride from Jorge Lorenzo who tested the radical new Ducati Aero Fairing at Jerez last week; that might have certainly helped him adapt a little more to the bike. Well, I can be proven wrong as nothing is certain in the world of motorsports!