Yamaha ended their worst losing run in their history at Phillip Island in Australia with Maverick Viñales taking his first race victory since the 2017 French Grand Prix, and Yamaha’s first since the 2017 Dutch TT, ending a winless streak of 25-straight races, while Marc Márquez suffered yet another retirement at the Australian Grand Prix after clinching championship success in Japan, this time not of his own doing after Johann Zarco clattered into the back of his bike in what was a scary incident, and while only Zarco went down, Márquez was forced to retire from the race after sustaining significant damage to his Honda.
So, what are we install for as the grid heads to the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia for Round 18 of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship, the penultimate round of the season?
Márquez (296 points) leads the championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 86 points over Andrea Dovizioso (210 points) after the Ducati Team rider finished an impressive third, equalling his best result at Phillip Island in the premier class (2011), and solidifies a strong grip on second spot in the world championship.
Valentino Rossi (195 points) is third in the championship for Movistar Yamaha MotoGP after a slightly disappointing sixth-place finish in Australia, and has now gone seven completed races without a podium, while his teammate Viñales (180 points) closes up on him in the battle for third in the world championship.
Cal Crutchlow (148 points) is fifth in the championship at the moment for LCR Honda, but will likely miss the rest of the season after breaking his ankle during Friday practice at Phillip Island, meaning that he could potentially fall down the standings to 10th by the end of the season.
Behind the current top five in the championship, the five other riders inside the top 10 in the standings are covered by just eight points with Alma Pramac Racing’s Danilo Petrucci (137 points), Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco (133 points), Team SUZUKI ECSTAR rider Andrea Iannone (133 points), Dovizioso’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo (130 points), who should be close to being fit for the Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend, and Iannone’s teammate Álex Rins (129 points) all firmly in the battle for fifth in the world championship given Crutchlow’s injury.
With the world championship already wrapped up in favour of Marc Márquez, the battle for second in the 2018 MotoGP World Championship could be decided this weekend in favour of Andrea Dovizioso as long as he finishes inside the top six.
Dovizioso can claim second in the championship if:
- If Dovizioso wins, Rossi must finish 4th or lower.
- If Dovizioso finishes 2nd, Rossi must finish 6th or lower.
- If Dovizioso finishes 3rd, Rossi must finish 10th or lower, Viñales must finish 2nd or lower.
- If Dovizioso finishes 4th, Rossi must finish 13th or lower, Viñales must finish 3rd or lower.
- If Dovizioso finishes 5th, Rossi must finish 15th or lower, Viñales must finish 3rd or lower.
- If Dovizioso finishes 6th, Rossi must finish outside of the points, Viñales must finish 4th or lower.
So, who will win at Sepang International Circuit?
On paper it suits Ducati, and realistically, you know Marc Márquez is going to be right there with them on his Honda, and with some of the long, flowing corners around the track, you would expect Yamaha to be involved in the battle, but I don’t it is going to be that simple for them to be there at the very front and challenging the likes of Andrea Dovizioso, Márquez, and Jorge Lorenzo (if he is fit).
So, assuming Lorenzo is fit, it will be a battle between those three for the win, and if it is wet, I think Dovizioso may win, but if it is dry, I think Márquez may well claim his ninth victory of the season.