2018 German GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After an extraordinary, and entertaining race at the TT Circuit Assen with Marc Márquez claiming his fourth victory of the season to extend his lead in the world championship, and his second Dutch TT success in MotoGP, Round Nine of the 2018 FIM MotoGP World Championship takes place at a venue where Márquez has won at for the last eight years across all classes (all from pole position), including the last five MotoGP races there, it is of course the Sachsenring, and it is the German Grand Prix.

Márquez (140 points) leads the championship by 41 points for the Repsol Honda Team ahead of Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider Valentino Rossi (99 points) after his fifth-place finish in Assen, and is ahead of his teammate Maverick Viñales (93 points), who claimed just his second podium finish of the season at the Dutch TT, finishing third. Both Rossi and Viñales are the only two riders within two wins of Márquez in the championship, and slowly look like slipping out of title contention.

Johann Zarco (81 points) is fourth in the world championship for Monster Yamaha Tech 3, and leads a group of six riders separated by just 10 points, including Ducati Team rider Andrea Dovizioso (79 points), LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow (79 points), Dovizioso’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo (75 points), Alma Pramac Racing rider Danilo Petrucci (71 points), and Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Andrea Iannone (71 points) after all of them with the exception of Petrucci, who crashed out on Lap 17, finished inside the points in an exciting race.

Behind this group, Jack Miller (55 points) completes the top 10 in the championship for Alma Pramac Racing after finishing 10th in Assen, a race which he won famously in extremely wet and tricky conditions back in 2016, while Alex Rins (53 points), who finished a superb second behind Márquez for Team Suzuki Ecstar, the best result of his premier class career to date, is 11th in the standings, but the biggest talking point in MotoGP is the future of Dani Pedrosa.

Pedrosa (41 points) sits 12th in the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team after finishing 15th in Assen, continuing his annus horribilis in 2018, and is set to announce to the motorsport world his future in MotoGP going forward, with some signs pointing towards retirement, and other signs pointing towards him signing for the new satellite Yamaha team for 2019 called the SIC(Sepang International Circuit)-Ángel Nieto Team.

In my view, I feel Pedrosa may not have his mind into top-level motorcycle racing, or in other words MotoGP racing anymore due to  the accumulation of injuries suffered over the years taking its toll on his ability to ride a motorcycle to the absolute limit, and I think he may well announce his retirement from MotoGP at the end of this year.

However, I believe Pedrosa would have been better suited to have left the Repsol Honda Team years ago, and going to either Yamaha, or if it had happened more recently, Ducati because I felt he would have been able to get that one thing that was missing on his career CV, and that is the MotoGP World Championship.

I believe if he was onboard the factory Ducati last year, and had been fit for the entire season, he would have beaten Marc Márquez to the 2017 world championship, instead of falling short like Andrea Dovizioso did last year.

In my opinion, he has wasted a number of his prime years on a bike not entirely suited to his riding style, continuing to sign contracts with the Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) and the Repsol Honda Team blindly without really working out what was best for him. Now, with Pedrosa leaving the Repsol Honda Team at the end of the year, he can finally (for himself) work out what is best for him.

Sadly, the chances of him winning the MotoGP World Championship may have sailed by for good!

As for my predictions for the Sachsenring, I think Marc Márquez will win for the ninth year in a row, and for the sixth time there in MotoGP in an entirely dominant weekend.

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2018 British GP – Preview

After a strange, but interesting race at the Red Bull Ring where Max Verstappen won the Austria Grand Prix, Red Bull’s first win at their home race, the two Ferrari’s finished on the podium with Kimi Räikkönen ahead of Sebastian Vettel, and three key retirements in Valtteri Bottas (Hydraulics on Lap 13), Daniel Ricciardo (Exhaust on Lap 53), and Lewis Hamilton (Fuel pressure on Lap 62), with Hamilton retiring for the first time since the 2016 Malaysia Grand Prix, the race that proved decisive in handing Nico Rosberg, Hamilton’s teammate at the time, his first and only world championship, ending a consecutive points-scoring streak of 33 races, an Formula One record, the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship heads to Silverstone to one of the jewels in the crown, the British Grand Prix.

Vettel (146 points) has re-taken the lead of the world championship by a single point ahead of Mercedes driver Hamilton (145 points), with Vettel’s teammate Räikkönen (101 points) jumping up to third after his second-place finish in Austria, but is in close battle for third in the championship ahead of Ricciardo (96 points), Verstappen (93 points), and Hamilton’s teammate Bottas (92 points), with only nine points separating Räikkönen in third and Bottas in sixth in the championship.

Behind them in the championship, Kevin Magnussen (37 points) jumps up from 10th to seventh in the championship after finishing a brilliant fifth for Haas-Ferrari, and is ahead of Fernando Alonso (36 points) who finished eighth after another tough weekend for McLaren-Renault, with the two Renault’s in Nico Hülkenberg (34 points), and Carlos Sainz Jr. (28 points) completing the top 10 in the championship after retiring, and finishing 12th respectively at the Red Bull Ring, not scoring any points.

In terms of the Constructors’ Championship, Ferrari (247 points) have taken over the lead from Mercedes (237 points) by 10 points, with Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (189 points) comfortably in third. Renault (62 points) are still in fourth after their double retirement, but a group of teams are starting to come after them, most notably Haas-Ferrari (49 points), McLaren-Renault (44 points), and Force India-Mercedes (42 points), while Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (19 points), Sauber-Ferrari (16 points), and Williams-Mercedes (four points) look out of the battle for fourth in the Constructors’ Championship.

So, who will win the British Grand Prix?

On paper, and quite clearly on paper, the Mercedes looks like the car to beat, and Lewis Hamilton is the man to beat, looking to become not only the first man to win the British Grand Prix six times, surpassing the records of Jim Clark and Alain Prost, but Hamilton is also looking to become the first man to win the British Grand Prix five years in a row, surpassing Clark’s record.

Ferrari, and Red Bull should be strong too, but the Mercedes will have too much for them, and barring reliability or mistakes, Hamilton will win the British Grand Prix in 2018, ahead of his teammate Valtteri Bottas, with Kimi Räikkönen in third.

2018 Austrian GP – Preview

After a weekend where Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes seized the initiative in their battle with Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari for the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship by winning the French Grand Prix at the Circuit Paul Ricard, the grid heads to Austria, and the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg for Round Nine of the championship, and the second leg of Formula One’s first-ever triple-header.

Hamilton (145 points) leads the world championship by 14 points over Sebastian Vettel (131 points) after dominating the first French Grand Prix since 2008 from pole position, leading all but one lap to claim his third victory of the season while all the carnage happened behind him, with Vettel being given a five-second time penalty for colliding with Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas, which damaged both of their cars, with Vettel managing to drive his way back through the field to claim fifth, although over a minute behind Hamilton, in what was a strong damage limitation effort.

And with the difficulties for Bottas, Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer driver Daniel Ricciardo (96 points) has jumped back up to third in the championship, despite some difficulties during the race caused by a damaged front wing, which ultimately cost him a podium finish, finishing in fourth position, while Bottas (92 points) moves down to fourth position after a tough race in France, finishing seventh with a wounded car.

Kimi Räikkönen (83 points) is fifth in the world championship for Ferrari after securing his 25th podium in his last 103 races (102 starts), but with no victories in those 25 podiums after finishing third in France after showing some strong pace after a bad start, overtaking his ailing teammate in Vettel, who was struggling with his tyres, as well as the ailing Ricciardo, who had a damaged front wing, to secure his fourth podium of the season.

Max Verstappen (68 points) is sixth in the championship, but is quickly finding some strong form after picking up his third podium of the year, finishing second, and keeping Hamilton honest for much of the race. However, the hopes of Ricciardo, Bottas, Räikkönen, and Verstappen catching Hamilton and Vettel in the world championship battle appear to be evaporating by the race, and are slowly becoming non-serious championship contenders.

Behind the top six in the championship, Nico Hülkenberg (34 points) moves up to seventh in the standings for Renault after finishing ninth at the Circuit Paul Ricard, a position behind his teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. in what was a tough weekend for the German after starting in 12th position on the grid.

Fernando Alonso (32 points) has dropped a spot in the championship to eighth after being classified 16th after stopping late in the race with suspension issues with his car in what was a disastrous weekend for McLaren-Honda, while Sainz Jr. (28 points) and Kevin Magnussen (27 points) complete the top 10 in the championship for Renault and Haas-Ferrari.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship standings, Mercedes (237 points) have extended their lead over Ferrari (214 points) in the championship to 23 points, while Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (164 points) continue to lock down a comfortable third in the championship. Behind them, Renault (62 points) have pulled away from McLaren-Renault (40 points) in the battle for fourth, while Force India-Mercedes (28 points) hang onto sixth position by a point ahead of Haas-Ferrari (27 points), while Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (19 points), Sauber-Ferrari (13 points), and Williams-Mercedes (four points) complete the standings.

So, who will win the Austrian Grand Prix?

I think if the new power-unit from Mercedes gives them the sort of advantage that they had in France, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will be very hard to beat, but I suspect Ferrari will also be a strong contender for the race win, particularly with Sebastian Vettel.

2018 Dutch TT (MotoGP) – Preview

After a second-straight victory for Jorge Lorenzo in Barcelona to continue his form resurgence for the Ducati Team before his move to the Repsol Honda Team next year, the grid heads to Assen in the Netherlands, and the TT Circuit Assen for Round Eight of the 2018 FIM MotoGP World Championship with a very familiar face, as it will be for Lorenzo next year, leading the championship.

Marc Márquez (115 points) leads the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 27 points over Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider Valentino Rossi (88 points) after finishing second at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, bouncing back from the crash at Mugello, but despite putting in an impressive performance, Márquez and his Honda couldn’t match the pace of Lorenzo and his Ducati, something he will be hoping that changes this weekend at a circuit which should be better on paper for Márquez and Honda.

While for Rossi, it was another third-place finish, his third in a row, and his fourth of the season, and despite another strong performance, you sense that Yamaha may struggle to win a race this season, and that Assen might be their best chance to win a race. Right now, Rossi is not a serious championship, and he would know this because the bike hasn’t seriously looked like winning a race in 2018, with the exception of Johann Zarco in the madness of the race in Argentina back in Round Two.

Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (77 points) is third in the championship after finishing sixth in Barcelona, 38 points behind Márquez, and other than his second-place finish at the Circuit of the Americas back in Round Three, the story of his season has been his failure to get a strong start off the line. In every race, except at the Circuit of the Americas, he has been 10th or lower after the opening lap, with his two worst starts of the season coming in the last two races in Italy and Catalunya, losing eight and six places respectively, with many people explaining that his starting woes are due to dealing with a heavy-fuel tank, but I don’t think this is the case.

It is more likely that the problems for Viñales are being caused by either a failure to set-up the bike well enough, which is why Yamaha are struggling in 2018, as well as the inability for Viñales to ride around the problems of his bike to get a good result compared to Rossi and Zarco.

Talking about Zarco (73 points), he is fourth in the championship after finishing just behind Viñales in seventh at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, and is ahead of Alma Pramac Racing rider Danilo Petrucci (71 points), who has been really consistent in 2018, and is currently the leading Ducati in the championship after finishing eighth in Barcelona.

Behind them in the championship is LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow (69 points), who finished a solid fourth in Barcelona, ahead of Lorenzo (66 points), who has of course won the last two races. Lorenzo’s teammate Andrea Dovizioso (66 points), and Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Andrea Iannone (66 points) are on the same amount of points as Lorenzo after disappointing races in Catalunya, with Dovizioso crashing out, and Iannone finishing in 10th position.

Jack Miller (49 points) completes the top ten in the championship despite crashes and technical issues forcing him to retire from the last two races, with Márquez’s teammate Dani Pedrosa (40 points), and Iannone’s teammate Alex Rins (33 points) looking like the strongest contenders from outside of the top 10 to challenge for podiums, and perhaps victories.

So, who will win the Dutch TT at Assen?

I think all 12 of these riders could contend for the victory, and it always produces a great race, but I am going to tip Marc Márquez to win in a titanic struggle with Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi.

2018 French GP – Preview

After a dominant victory for Sebastian Vettel in Montreal, achieving his 50th win in Formula One career in the process, becoming just the fourth driver in Formula One history after Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton, and Alain Prost to achieve this feat, and a disappointing fifth-place finish for Hamilton at the Canadian Grand Prix, Round Eight of the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship takes place at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet in France for the first French Grand Prix since 2008, but the first one at the Circuit Paul Ricard since 1990, with only a point separating the two main championship contenders.

Vettel (121 points) leads the world championship for Ferrari by a single point over Hamilton (120 points) heading into the French Grand Prix. Vettel has been good without being dominant in 2018 with his victory in Canada being his third of the season (the most of any driver), but his first since the second race of the season in Bahrain, while Hamilton has been trying to find consistent form for Mercedes with perhaps his two best performances of the season so far being in Australia, where a win was taken away from him due to the circumstances of the virtual safety car back in the opening race of the season, and in Spain, where he won by a dominant 20.593 seconds over his teammate Valtteri Bottas to claim his second victory of the season in a Mercedes one-two in backing up the surprising victory he had in Azerbaijan.

However, beyond Vettel and Hamilton, the battle in the championship is starting to heat up beautifully for third in championship between Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Räikkönen, and perhaps Max Verstappen.

Bottas (86 points) has regained third in the championship after an impressive second-place finish in Montreal, making it four-straight podiums for the Finnish driver in Canada, while Ricciardo (84 points) slips to fourth for Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer after finishing fourth.

He is ahead of Vettel’s teammate Räikkönen (68 points) in the championship after finishing a disappointing sixth, but is still ahead of Ricciardo’s teammate Verstappen (50 points) in the standing, despite the Dutch driver having his cleanest, and best weekend of the season so far, finishing third from third on the grid after topping all of the practice sessions.

In terms of the battle towards the back-end of the top 10 in the championship, Fernando Alonso and Nico Hülkenberg are both locked on 32 points in seventh and eighth in the championship for McLaren-Renault, and Renault respectively, with Alonso ahead of Hülkenberg in the championship due to a fifth-place finish in Australia, compared to two sixth-place finishes for Hülkenberg.

Alonso will be coming into the French Grand Prix on a high after winning the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans for Toyota Gazoo Racing alongside Sébastien Buemi (Scuderia Toro Rosso driver 2009-2011), and Kazuki Nakajima (Williams driver 2007-2009), completing the second leg of the Triple Crown (Monaco Grand Prix, 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Indianapolis 500) he is attempting to achieve after winning the Monaco Grand Prix twice (2006 and 2007), which has been a huge subject in regards to his future in Formula One, as well as the competitiveness of his McLaren.

Only time will tell in terms of what he does next.

Completing the top 10 in the championship is Hülkenberg’s teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. (24 points), and Haas-Ferrari driver Kevin Magnussen (19 points).

As far as the Constructors’ Championship is concerned, Mercedes (206 points), with a new power-unit coming in time for this weekend, leads by 17 points over Ferrari (189 points), with Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (134 points) in a comfortable third in the championship. Behind them, Renault (56 points) have pulled away from McLaren-Renault (40 points) in the battle for fourth after a double-points finish for the French constructor in Canada, with Force India-Mercedes (28 points) sitting in sixth position ahead of a battle for seventh in the championship between Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (19 points) and Haas-Ferrari (19 points), while Sauber-Ferrari (12 points), and the hapless Williams-Mercedes (four points) complete the standings.

So, who will win the first French Grand Prix since 2008?

Looking at the Circuit Paul Ricard, the layout of the circuit suits Mercedes and Ferrari a little better on paper compared to Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer, but I am not willing to pick a definitive winner given how tight this season has been, but I think it will either be Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, or Kimi Räikkönen lifting the winner’s trophy come Sunday.

 

 

Catalan GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After another dramatic round in Italy, where Jorge Lorenzo ended his victory drought, and won for the first time on a Ducati after championship leader Marc Márquez crashed out of the race, the 2018 FIM MotoGP World Championship heads to the Spanish city of Barcelona for Round Seven of the championship after an interesting couple of weeks.

Márquez (95 points), despite not scoring a point at Mugello, leads the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 23 points over Valentino Rossi (72 points) from the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP, who managed to pick up a third podium of the season after starting from pole position at a venue where he has won at seven times in the premier class from 2002 to 2008.

However, the pace over race distance remains a concern for Yamaha, as shown by Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (67 points), who slipped to third in the championship after an eighth-place, which is his worst result of the season so far, and with a second-place finish in Austin, and a distant second at that, the best finish he has finished in 2018, it doesn’t seem likely, barring any sort of divine intervention, that either Viñales or Rossi will win a race in 2018 based on the current state of play.

Someone who has already won a race in 2018 is the Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso (66 points), who has moved up to fourth position in the championship after a second place finish at Mugello behind teammate Lorenzo, completing a Ducati one-two. However, he knows that won’t be enough if he wants to genuinely compete for the championship with Márquez, and will be keen to win at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this weekend.

Johann Zarco (64 points) is fifth in the championship for Monster Yamaha Tech3 after a disappointing 10th place finish in Italy, and will be looking to rebound this weekend in Barcelona to keep his slim championship hopes alive. Like Rossi and Viñales, he have struggled to get on terms with Márquez, and at the moment, it is very hard at the moment to see Zarco winning a race.

Behind Zarco in the championship is Danilo Petrucci (63 points) in sixth position in the championship for Alma Pramac Racing after finishing seventh at Mugello, but the big news in regards to him is that Petrucci will be joining the Ducati Team next year, while Andrea Iannone (60 points), who sits in seventh position in the championship for Team Suzuki Ecstar after finishing fourth in his home race, announced that he would be heading to Aprilla Racing Team Gresini in 2019.

Completing the top 10 in the championship are Cal Crutchlow (56 points) for LCR Honda, Petrucci’s teammate Jack Miller (49 points), and Jorge Lorenzo (41 points), with the huge announcement that Lorenzo would be leaving the Ducati Team at the end of 2018 to join the Repsol Honda Team to partner up with Márquez in 2019, a move that not many people predicted, but I certainly did! As former MotoGP commentator Nick Harris use to say, “Never Say Never in MotoGP”.

While behind Lorenzo in the championship, Iannone’s teammate Alex Rins (33 points) is 11th in the championship after a strong fifth place finish at Mugello, while Dani Pedrosa (29 points), who will be leaving the Repsol Honda Team at the end of the year is currently 12th in the championship after a crash on the opening lap of the Italian Grand Prix.

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

Despite his crash, and subsequent non-pointscoring finish at Mugello, I am predicting Marc Márquez to bounce back to take victory in Barcelona, with a tight battle in behind between a number of riders who won’t be wanting .

 

 

 

 

2018 Canadian GP – Preview

After one of the all-time great performances in Formula One history by Daniel Ricciardo to win the Monaco Grand Prix, winning after his MGU-K failed after just 18 laps, managing to keep the opposition, including Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, behind him for the remaining 60 laps of the race to take a famous victory, the seventh of his career, and the first from pole position, the 2018 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship heads to Montreal and to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for the Canadian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton (110 points) still leads the world championship for Mercedes after finishing third in Monaco, and leads by 14 points over Vettel (96 points), who finished second behind Ricciardo in the principality for Ferrari.

Talking about Ricciardo (72 points), he has moved up to third in the world championship for Red Bull-TAG Heuer after his second victory of the season, although 38 points behind, but appears likely to have his ambitions of a victory in Canada, the scene of his first victory in Formula One, dented with Red Bull-TAG Heuer likely to elected to use a third MGU-K for the season, exceeding the limit of two, which will mean a 10-place grid penalty.

In a summary of the 2018 Sporting Regulations on the official Formula One website in regards to the power unit and ERS,

“Each driver is permitted to use only three ICE, MGU-H and TC, and only two ES, CE and MGU-K during a championship season and any combination of them may be fitted to a car at any one time. Should a driver use more than that during the course of a season, a grid penalty will be imposed.

“The first time a driver uses an additional element over and above the prescribed limits, a ten-place grid penalty will be given. If he then uses other additional elements a five-place penalty (or penalties) is imposed. Use yet a further example of any given element and another ten-place penalty is received – and so on.

“During any single event, if a driver introduces more than one of a power unit element that is subject to a grid penalty, only the last element fitted may be used at subsequent events without further penalty.”

So, it appears that Ricciardo will have to start near or at the back of the grid, which should make for a very interesting race come Sunday (Monday morning Australian time)!

Valtteri Bottas (68 points) slips back to fourth in the championship for Mercedes after finishing fifth in Monaco, eight points ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen (60 points), who finished a place ahead of Bottas in the streets of the principality, while Ricciardo’s teammate Max Verstappen (35 points) is 25 points behind Räikkönen in sixth position after coming back to finish ninth in Monaco, paying for his shaky and erratic form at the start of the season, being involved in incidents or making mistakes in each of the first six races.

I know he is young, but Verstappen has got to learn that he cannot continue making the sorts of mistakes that he is making because it has, and it will continue to cost him dearly. Big mistakes have arguably cost him the Chinese Grand Prix, and the Monaco Grand Prix, as well as the chance to be in the world championship.

He may be young, but Red Bull have a long and proud history of showing no leniency to anyone performing below expectations, no matter how old, young, or experienced they are, and at the moment, you sense things are happening way too soon for Verstappen.

Behind Verstappen in the championship is Fernando Alonso (32 points) for McLaren-Renault, who is just three points behind Verstappen in seventh despite his first retirement of the season (gearbox) in a race where McLaren-Renault would have expected to have garnered a big points haul.

Nico Hülkenberg (26 points) is eighth in the championship for Renault after finishing eighth in Monaco, ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. (20 points), who completed a double-points finish for Renault in 10th, while Kevin Magnussen (19 points) hangs onto his spot inside the top 10 for Haas-Ferrari despite finishing 13th on what was a difficult weekend on the streets of the principality.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (178 points) have a 22 point lead over Ferrari (156 points) with Red Bull-TAG Heuer (107 points) comfortably in third. Behind them, there is a great battle for fourth between Renault (46 points) and McLaren-Renault (40 points) with only six points separating them, while a huge fight is developing for sixth in the championship between Force India-Mercedes (26 points), Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (19 points), Haas-Ferrari (19 points), and Sauber-Ferrari (11 points), while Williams-Mercedes (four points) will be hoping Canada is a better reflection of what their car is capable of.

So, who will win in Canada?

Looking at the form book of not only the drivers, but also the teams, you can’t go past Lewis Hamilton equalling Michael Schumacher’s record of seven wins in Montreal, and on Saturday equalling Schumacher’s record of 10 front row starts at one circuit, but you can also see Sebastian Vettel being a close rival in Canada, along with Valtteri Bottas, and Kimi Räikkönen, with Red Bull-TAG Heuer being a little bit behind on this power-dependent circuit.