After a three-week break, the entire MotoGP grid is ready to return to action to commence the second half of the 2018 FIM MotoGP World Championship, which begins this weekend at the Czech Republic Grand Prix at the Automotodrom Brno in Brno, and Marc Márquez, after winning five of the opening nine races, including the last two, has a firm stranglehold of the championship race heading into the final 10 races of the season as he looks to win his fifth MotoGP World Championship, and his seventh across all categories.
Márquez (165 points) leads the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 46 points ahead of Valentino Rossi (119 points) from Movistar Yamaha MotoGP. Rossi hasn’t achieved a single win in 2018, but he has got five podiums, including a second-place finish last time out in Germany, but really needs to start winning if he wants to keep hopes of winning an eighth MotoGP World Championship in 2018 alive.
Same can be said of Maverick Viñales (109 points), Rossi’s teammate, who sits 56 points behind Márquez in the championship with only three podiums, including two third-place finishes in the last two races, but like Rossi, Viñales needs to start winning some races in order to keep his chances alive of winning a first MotoGP World Championship.
Behind the top three in the world championship, we have a tight battle for fourth between Andrea Dovizioso (88 points), Johann Zarco (88 points), Jorge Lorenzo (85 points), Danilo Petrucci (84 points), Cal Crutchlow (79 points), and Andrea Iannone (75 points).
Dovizioso has had an odd season with flashes of the speed and promise that we saw last year when he finished a close second in the world championship for the Ducati Team, getting himself two podiums, including a win, but it has been punctuated with mistakes, leading to retirements in three of the first four European races of 2018.
Zarco has been consistent for Monster Yamaha Tech 3 with two podiums, and top 10 finishes in eight of the first nine races, but the retirement at his home race in Le Mans, just his second retirement in his premier class career, was a huge blow in his quest for a top three finish in the championship.
Lorenzo is starting to come on strong you sense with back-to-back wins at Mugello and Barcelona, but the last two races, in particular the last race in Germany that you have got to make the right tyre decisions for you (the rider), and not necessarily the bike. I believe Lorenzo should be using harder, more durable tyres in races in order to maximise his potential on that Ducati, something which he started to do, resulting in two wins, but has slipped away from that again, and you sense the dynamic within the Ducati Team is not right.
Petrucci has been very consistent, and performing superbly for Alma Pramac Racing, while Crutchlow has underachieved for LCR Honda despite grabbing a win in Argentina earlier in the season. While for Iannone, the general speed of Team Suzuki Ecstar has slipped away of late, and it will need to be found again to challenge for a top five, or perhaps a top three finish in the championship.
Behind the top nine, we have a four-way battle for 10th between Jack Miller (57 points), who has struggled in the last four races due to one thing or another for Alma Pramac Racing, Álex Rins (53 points), who has made too many mistakes in 2018, but despite the general competitiveness of Team Suzuki Ecstar declining, he is still capable of a shock win, Dani Pedrosa (49 points), who seems content to be heading to the sunset right now for the Repsol Honda Team, and Álvaro Bautista (44 points), who has finished five of the last six races inside the top 10 for the Ángel Nieto Team.
So, who will win in the Czech Republic?
While it has been generally a tight grid where most have a chance of winning on any given day, there is one rider who is heads and shoulders above the rest, and that is Marc Márquez.
He is riding probably at his best level since 2014, where he won the opening 10 races on-route to winning his second MotoGP World Championship, and while the 2018 Honda isn’t as good as the 2014 bike, you sense that Márquez could ride away with this championship in the way that he dominated the opening 10 races of 2014.