The 11th round of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship takes place this weekend from the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg in Austria, a week after the Czech Republic Grand Prix that amazed in so many ways.
Marc Márquez leads the world championship on 154 points after taking his second-successive victory of the season at the Brno Circuit after him and his team made some very smart calls in regards to their race strategy.
Starting in very intermediate conditions, bordering on dry conditions, Márquez and his Repsol Honda Team decided to start on the soft wet rear tyre, a tyre which in the eyes of many would degrade quicker than the medium wet rear tyre in those conditions. However, when Márquez realised that this wasn’t working, as he was falling back down the field, he pitted at the end of Lap Two to change bikes for one with dry tyres (medium front, medium rear), and it worked!
Most of the field were slow to realise that the track conditions had changed, and were made to look like fools by the fast-thinking Márquez, and his team, cruising in the end to a 12.438 second victory over his teammate Dani Pedrosa, who now sits fifth in the championship on 123 points, 31 points behind Márquez.
Second in the championship is the man who finished third in the Czech Republic, Maverick Viñales. The factory Yamaha rider was lucky not to lose more points against his main championship rival after pitting two laps later than Márquez. Viñales is now on 140 points, 14 points behind his fellow Spaniard.
Andrea Dovizioso is third in the world championship for Ducati on 133 points, 21 points behind the championship leader after finishing in sixth in the Czech Republic.
Dovizioso pitted three laps later than Márquez, and one lap later than teammate Jorge Lorenzo, who got caught out by his team not being ready for him to pit, meaning that he finished 15th in the race, and leaves Lorenzo down in 10th position in the championship on 66 points in what has been his worst season to date.
Valentino Rossi is fourth in world championship on his factory Yamaha on 132 points, 22 points behind Márquez after finishing fourth at the Brno Circuit, pitting three laps later than the race winner and championship leader.
Johann Zarco is sixth in the championship on his Yamaha on 88 points, 11 points ahead of his teammate Jonas Folger (77 points), who is ahead of both Danilo Petrucci and Cal Crutchlow, who are both on 75 points each.
Looking ahead to the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring, it looks to be a circuit on paper that suits the Ducati down to a tee. They were dominant last year at the Red Bull Ring, picking up a one-two finish with Andrea Iannone finishing ahead of Andrea Dovizioso at one of the most power sensitive circuits on the calendar, rewarding the straight-line speed and engine power of the Ducati.
The Red Bull Ring is also a circuit that also rewards a well-handling bike, with the Yamaha’s of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi finishing under four seconds behind the race winner, despite the supposed lack of power and straight-line speed from the Yamaha and their engine.
Also, despite their bad performance last year at the Red Bull Ring, you cannot rule out the two factory Honda’s having a big say in who is going to win the Austrian Grand Prix.
The maximum temperatures for the weekend in Spielberg are set to be ranging between 19 and 22 degrees Celsius, and that will certainly suit the factory Yamaha’s of Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi over the factory Honda’s of Marc Márquez and Dani Pedrosa if previous history is anything to go by in 2017.
However, as far as the track characteristics are concerned, all signs point to a Ducati win, and I believe Jorge Lorenzo will get his first victory for the Italian manufacturer in a one-two finish ahead of Andrea Dovizioso.
MotoGP Practice on Friday at 9:55am, and 2:05pm local time (5:55pm, and 10:05pm AEST). MotoGP FP3 on Saturday at 9:55am local time (5:55pm AEST), FP4 on Saturday at 1:30pm local time (9:30pm AEST), Q1 and Q2 on Saturday at 2:10pm and 2:35pm local time (10:10pm and 10:35pm AEST). MotoGP Warm Up on Sunday at 9:40am local time (5:40pm AEST), and MotoGP race on Sunday at 2:00pm local time (10:00pm AEST).