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!

 

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.

2019 Americas GP (MotoGP) – Preview

Marc Márquez blew the entire field away in Argentina to take the lead in the 2019 MotoGP World Championship, the question is whether the reigning world champion can extend his narrow four point lead in the standings at the third round of the championship at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas?

Very likely given that Márquez (45 points) has won every MotoGP race (six) at the Circuit of the Americas, and being credited with every MotoGP pole position at the circuit, although not starting from pole position last year due to blocking Maverick Viñales in qualifying, but is there anyone that can stop the Repsol Honda Team from winning for a seventh time in Austin?

The contenders are not exactly lining up, but Andrea Dovizioso (41 points), who sits second in the championship for Mission Winnow Ducati is the most obvious contender after backing up his win in Qatar by finishing third in Argentina after a great battle with Valentino Rossi, and has finished on the podium twice at the Circuit of the Americas, along with Rossi (31 points), who sits third in the world championship for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP.

Maybe Álex Rins (24 points) can stop Márquez for Team SUZUKI ECSTAR, if he can qualify well, while Dovizioso’s teammate Danilo Petrucci (20 points) and LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow (19 points) are certainly dark horses if everything goes to plan, and they receive a slice of luck.

Crutchlow’s teammate Takaaki Nakagami (16 points) is less likely to challenge, but Alma Pramac Racing’s Jack Miller (13 points) is certainly a chance if things are thrown up out of the ordinary, while Aleix Espargaró (13 points) for Aprilia Factory Racing, and Pol Espargaró (10 points) for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing complete the Top 10 in the world championship.

However, two of the greatest challengers for Márquez this weekend sit outside of the Top 10 in the standings in Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (nine points), and his own teammate in Jorge Lorenzo (seven points).

Viñales has had a disappointing start to the season, struggling badly off the start line after claiming pole position in Qatar, and could only finish seventh, while in Argentina, he was taken out by Franco Morbidelli on the final lap of the race when he was in seventh position, while Lorenzo has struggled in recovering from injury, finishing 13th and 12th in the opening two races of the season respectively.

However, Viñales has been on the podium once at the Circuit of the Americas in the premier class last year, and won the Moto2 race in Austin back in 2014, the year after finishing second in the Moto3 race back in 2013, while Lorenzo has finished on the podium twice at the Circuit of the Americas back in 2013 and 2016.

So, if they can hit their best form this weekend, they could give Márquez a run for his money.

However, in the Lone Star state of the United States, at arguably his favourite MotoGP venue, I am predicting Marc Márquez to make it seven from seven at the Circuit of the Americas, which would be the 46th race victory in his premier class career, and his 80th podium finish in MotoGP.

 

 

2019 Chinese Grand Prix – Preview

It was heartbreak in Bahrain for Charles Leclerc as a first-ever win in Formula One disappeared due to an engine issue, it was devastation for both Nico Hülkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo for Renault, who were heading towards points finishes before they retired at the start of Lap 54 (and within metres of each other) due to power-unit and power loss issues respectively, with Ricciardo lucky not to be electrocuted by his own car, but it was joy once again for Mercedes as Sebastian Vettel succumbed once again to the pressure that Lewis Hamilton applied to him, and then took advantage of Leclerc’s problems to take the 74th race victory of his career in a Mercedes 1-2.

So, what will happen this weekend at the Shanghai International Circuit in Round Three of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship, which is also the 1000th race in the history of Formula One?

Looking at the championship standings, Valtteri Bottas (44 points) leads the championship by a single point over teammate Hamilton (43 points) after finishing second at the Bahrain Grand Prix after taking advantage of Leclerc’s issues. However, you sense Mercedes have plenty of work to do as Ferrari showed the speed that they had during pre-season testing, and without the problems for Leclerc, would have won in Bahrain.

Max Verstappen (27 points) is third in the world championship for Red Bull Racing-Honda after finishing fourth in Bahrain, but Red Bull right now don’t look like serious championship contenders, and maybe, despite the reliability of the Honda power-unit compared with the Renault power-unit, may not be getting the results from it that they have been looking for.

Leclerc (26 points) is a point behind Verstappen in fourth, ahead of teammate Vettel (22 points) after a performance throughout the weekend in Bahrain, which included him becoming the second-youngest driver in history to take pole position in Formula One, that should have been rewarded with his first-ever race win.

However, Ferrari have at least shown the speed that everyone was expecting from them, but they must sort out any niggling reliability issues they might have because they can’t afford to give a team like Mercedes any sort of advantage, and have now given themselves a bigger mountain to climb than what it should have been.

As for Vettel, he was dominated by his teammate in Bahrain, and then had his pants, figuratively speaking, pulled down by Hamilton. Vettel really needs to win in China to reassert his authority over teammate Leclerc, and lay down some kind of marker towards Mercedes in the championship battle.

Behind the top five in the world championship, Kimi Räikkönen (10 points) is sixth in the standings for Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari, ahead of Lando Norris (eight points) for McLaren-Renault, who claimed his first-ever points finish in Formula One after finishing sixth in Bahrain, while Kevin Magnussen (eight points) for Haas-Ferrari, Hülkenberg (six points) for Renault, despite stopping near the end of the Bahrain Grand Prix, and Pierre Gasly (four points) for Red Bull Racing-Honda complete the Top 10 in the championship after the opening two rounds.

Gasly has struggled so far to match the performance of his teammate Verstappen in his first two races with Red Bull, and really needs to put in a great performance in Shanghai to keep any doubters at bay.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (87 points) leads by 39 points over Ferrari (48 points), with Red Bull Racing-Honda (31 points) a further 17 points behind in third. Behind them, Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (10 points), McLaren-Renault (eight points), Haas-Ferrari (eight points), Renault (six points), Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (three points), and Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (three points) have all scored points in 2019, while Williams-Mercedes (zero points) don’t look close to scoring a single point right now with a best finish of 15th through George Russell in Bahrain proving how far the once mighty team have fallen.

So, who will win Formula One’s 1000th race?

It is looking like a battle between Mercedes and Ferrari, and quite possibly, the straight-line performance of Ferrari might show through this weekend, but you cannot rule out Lewis Hamilton, and I am predicting a battle between him and Sebastian Vettel, the most successful drivers currently in the sport with five and four world championships respectively, and 74 and 52 race victories respectively, to decide who will win the 2019 Chinese Grand Prix, and the 1000th race in Formula One history.