Marc Márquez at the age of 25 years and 246 days became the youngest rider to win five world championships after winning the Japanese Grand Prix last weekend, surpassing the record that was held by Valentino Rossi, who was 26 years, 221 days when he claimed his fifth premier class world championship after finishing second at the Malaysian Grand Prix back in 2005, and joining Giacomo Agostini, Rossi, and Mick Doohan as the only riders to win at least five premier class world championships.
Márquez also became the youngest rider in history to win seven world championships across all classes, surpassing Mike Hailwood, who was 26 years and 140 days old when he claimed his seventh world championship across all classes back in 1966, and joins John Surtees (7), Phil Read (7), Carlo Ubbiali (9), Hailwood (9), Rossi (9), Angel Nieto (13) and Agostini (15) as the only riders to have won at least seven world championships across all classes.
So, with three races to go in the 2018 FIM MotoGP World Championship, the title may have already been decided in favour of Márquez, but the battle for second (and third) in the world championship is starting to heat up with six riders mathematically in contention for the title of “best of the rest” behind Márquez as the field heads to the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, about 140 kilometres south-east of Melbourne for the 2018 Australian Grand Prix.
For the record, Márquez (296 points) leads the championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 102 points over Ducati Team rider Andrea Dovizioso (194 points), with Rossi (185 points) only nine points behind Dovizioso in third for the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team, and is realistically the only rider who can take second in the world championship away from Dovizioso.
Behind the top three, Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (155 points) leads a group of five riders separated by 25 points, with LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow (148 points), Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco (133 points), Alma Pramac Racing’s Danilo Petrucci (133 points), and Dovizioso’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo (130 points) all in the realistic battle for fourth in the world championship.
However, Lorenzo is the only rider out of the five who is unable to challenge for a top three finish in the championship after being ruled out of the Australian Grand Prix due to a wrist injury, and will be replaced by Ángel Nieto Team rider Álvaro Bautista (83 points), who will be joining the factory Ducati team in the World Superbikes Championship next year, and currently sits in 12th in the world championship. Bautista’s seat at the Ángel Nieto Team for the Australian Grand Prix will be filled by Australian Mike Jones.
However, the two riders behind Lorenzo in the championship, the two Team SUZUKI ECSTAR riders in Álex Rins (118 points) and Andrea Iannone (113 points) still have a mathematical chance of finishing third in the championship.
So, who will win the 2018 Australian Grand Prix?
Looking at the surface of the battle, and considering the race we saw last year, where the top seven riders finished within six seconds of each other, we could potentially have a 12-rider fight for the victory at Phillip Island when you count in the top 10 in the championship (minus Lorenzo), the teammate of Marc Márquez in Dani Pedrosa (95 points), who sits in 11th in his final season in the MotoGP World Championship, Bautista, and Petrucci’s Australian teammate Jack Miller (74 points), who has slipped to 13th in the championship, but is capable of a big performance in front of his home crowd.
Under normal circumstances, I would tip Márquez to win the Australian Grand Prix, but on both occasions when he has secured the world championship at the Twin Ring Motegi, he has crashed out in the following race, which on both occasions were at Phillip Island, crashing out at Turn 10 in 2014, and at Turn Four (Honda Corner) in 2016, and was leading comfortably on both occasions.
So, if it is not to be Márquez who wins the 2018 Australian Grand Prix, who will?
When you look at the last 29 MotoGP races, the two men that have stood out have been Márquez, who has claimed 13 victories within those 29, and Andrea Dovizioso, who has claimed nine wins within those 29. However, the Ducati strengths don’t necessarily suit the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, and if that is the case, does it suit the strengths of the Yamaha?
Maybe it does, but Yamaha have generally been not in good form in 2018, with no wins and only 11 podiums (five for Rossi, four for Viñales, and two for Zarco), so you couldn’t tip a Yamaha to win with any realistic confidence, so if you take Márquez out of the picture, I feel the only two riders that can take the Australian Grand Prix are Cal Crutchlow and Dani Pedrosa, and I don’t think they will have the consistent pace of the great Spaniard.
So, in my opinion, if Márquez can stay upright, he will win the 2018 Australian Grand Prix, but it will be a thrilling race!