2019 Spanish GP (MotoGP) – Preview

The domination by Marc Márquez at the Circuit of the Americas came to an end on Lap 9 at Turn 12 after leading the race by almost four seconds, crashing out of the lead inexplicably after having the race completely under his control. However, this opened the door for Álex Rins, who managed to hold off Valentino Rossi on his Suzuki to claim his first-ever MotoGP race victory, and as a result, there are only nine points separating four riders as the 2019 MotoGP World Championship heads back to Europe, and to the Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto for the fourth race of the season.

Andrea Dovizioso (54 points) leads the championship by three points for Mission Winnow Ducati over Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP rider Valentino Rossi (51 points) after finishing fourth in the Grand Prix of the Americas after starting 13th in what was a brilliant ride, with Rins (49 points) for Team SUZUKI ECSTAR a further two points behind after claiming his first premier class win, becoming just the second rider not only to win a MotoGP race at the Circuit of the Americas, but to claim their first MotoGP win in Austin.

Marc Márquez (45 points) is fourth in the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team, on exactly the same amount of points he scored after the opening three rounds of last year, but after failing to finish a race that he has won on each of the previous six occasions before 2019. The reigning world champion will be looking to bounce back big time with a race victory in the south of Spain, but Márquez has opened the door, albeit slightly, for his rivals to maybe take away his crown by the end of the season.

Behind the Top 4 in the championship, Dovizioso’s teammate Danilo Petrucci (30 points) sits fifth, one point ahead of Jack Miller (29 points), who claimed his second premier class podium after finishing third for Alma Pramac Racing, followed by Takaaki Nakagami (22 points) and Cal Crutchlow (19 points) for LCR Honda. It was a disappointing race for Crutchlow, who along with Márquez and Jorge Lorenzo, failed to finish the race on his Honda, with only Nakagami managing to finish the race at the Circuit of the Americas for Honda.

The Top 10 in the championship is completed by Pol Espargaró (18 points) for the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, and Fabio Quartararo (17 points) for Petronas Yamaha SRT, but there are two big name riders, who were thought of as championship contenders before the start of the season, languishing outside of the Top 10 in the championship.

Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (14 points) is currently 12th in the championship, 40 points behind championship leader Dovizioso, while the teammate of Márquez, Lorenzo, sits in 17th position in the standings on just seven points!

We all know that Lorenzo has been struggling with injury and physical ailments throughout the start of 2019 to date, but it is a mystery as to why Viñales, other than the fact he continues to start races poorly, is unable to go with the pace of the leaders during races, and it seems to be a phenomena that just affects him out of all the Yamaha riders, and it has been effecting his performance in races, not only in the first three races of 2019, but also throughout 2018 as well.

In my opinion, Viñales needs to have a good long look at himself in the mirror, and work out how he can adapt his riding style to suit the Yamaha, rather than expecting that he can ride in what ever way that he wants, and then find out that it is not delivering the results that he expects on a consistent basis.

It is a crucial race for both Viñales and Lorenzo, and really both of them need to win at the Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto if they are to realistically keep their championship hopes alive!

So, who is going to win the Spanish Grand Prix?

I expect, given his strong record in Jerez de la Frontera, for Marc Márquez to bounce back and gain swift redemption for his shock result in the Grand Prix of the Americas, and win in Spain, ahead of both his teammate Jorge Lorenzo, and Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP rider Maverick Viñales in an all-Spanish podium, with Álex Rins, Andrea Dovizioso, and Valentino Rossi close behind!

 

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2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Preview

Lewis Hamilton claimed victory in the 1000th championship race in Formula One history, the 75th of Hamilton’s legendary career, and his fourth victory in the last five races. As a result, he takes the lead of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship heading into the fourth round of the season, the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, which takes place this weekend at the Baku City Circuit in the capital of Azerbaijan.

The defending and five-time world champion Hamilton (68 points) leads the championship by six points over his teammate Valtteri Bottas (62 points) after Mercedes took a third-straight one-two finish to start the season, the first time that Mercedes as a team has achieved this since the start of the turbo-hybrid era back in 2014, and the first team to achieve this in Formula One since Williams with Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese back in 1992, but it hasn’t necessarily been anything but dominant.

In Australia, they certainly dominated, with Bottas claiming victory over Hamilton in what was arguably the best performance of his career, but in Bahrain, Ferrari were dominant, with Charles Leclerc taking his first-ever pole position, and should have taken his first-ever race victory in Formula One, before mechanical issues stopped him almost in his tracks, allowing Hamilton to take his first win of 2019, and Bottas to slip past into second spot, but Leclerc managed to hang on for his first Formula One podium in his career.

However, the form guide in China returned back to the one that we saw in Australia, with Mercedes being dominant! So, what form guide will we see in Azerbaijan?

More on that later!

Max Verstappen (39 points) is currently third in the world championship believe it or not for Red Bull Racing-Honda, 29 points behind Hamilton, and ahead of both Ferrari drivers in Sebastian Vettel (37 points) and Leclerc (36 points). Red Bull haven’t really been in the front-runners fight so far in 2019, but Ferrari have failed to capitalise on the potential that they seemingly showed in pre-season testing, and the form they showed in Bahrain, and as a result, the difference between themselves and Mercedes looks like a chasm!

Ferrari really need to hit back in Azerbaijan, otherwise their championship hopes will seemingly start slipping down the drain!

Behind the top five in the world championship, Verstappen’s teammate Pierre Gasly (13 points) is sixth in the standings, ahead of Kimi Räikkönen (12 points) for Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari, Lando Norris (eight points) for McLaren-Renault, Kevin Magnussen (eight points) for Haas-Ferrari, while Nico Hülkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo are locked on six points for Renault after the latter’s first points-scoring finish of 2019, and the former’s retirement from the Chinese Grand Prix due to a power-unit issue (the third mechanical retirement for Renault in 2019), but Hülkenberg remains ahead of his teammate due to being classified higher than Ricciardo in Bahrain after both retiring within metres of each other with separate mechanical issues.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (130 points) leads by 57 points over Ferrari (73 points), with Red Bull Racing-Honda (52 points) a further 21 points behind in third. Then, it is slim pickings, in terms of points, for Renault (12 points), Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (12 points), Haas-Ferrari (eight points), McLaren-Renault (eight points), Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (seven points), Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (four points), and Williams-Mercedes (zero points).

So, back to the earlier question of what form guide will we see in Azerbaijan? And, who is going to win on the streets of Baku?

The Baku City Circuit is a technical, but fast street circuit, which should suit Ferrari on paper compared to Mercedes, especially considering the smooth surface, but the cooler temperatures this weekend could swing the balance back in Mercedes favour. However, I think it will come down to which driver from the top two teams gets into a good grove.

With plenty on the line, Ferrari need to win in Azerbaijan to keep their championship hopes alive, and I think Sebastian Vettel will respond to give Ferrari their first victory of 2019.