It was another nail-biting classic in Qatar with Andrea Dovizioso once again defeating Marc Márquez in a dash to the line, and after the Top 15 were covered by just 15.093 seconds, the closest in premier class history, the grid heads to the Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo in Santiago del Estero for the Argentina Grand Prix, Round Two of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship.
Dovizioso (25 points) leads the championship for Mission Winnow Ducati by five points over five-time MotoGP World Champion, and defending champion Márquez (20 points) after the opening race thriller at the Losail International Circuit, with Cal Crutchlow (16 points) finishing third to be third in the standings for LCR Honda Castrol about four and a half months after suffering a badly broken ankle at Phillip Island during practice for the 2018 Australian Grand Prix in a remarkable return to competition after struggling in pre-season testing.
Álex Rins (13 points), one of the riders I earmarked in my preview for the Qatar Grand Prix as one of six potential championship contenders, finished fourth in the opening race of the season for Team SUZUKI ECSTAR, ahead of Valentino Rossi (11 points) for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP, who came from 14th on the grid to finish in fifth, with Rossi finishing ahead of Dovizioso’s teammate Danilo Petrucci (10 points), and his own teammate Maverick Viñales (nine points).
Viñales, who had topped three of the six days of pre-season testing, and finished inside the top two on all three days of the Qatar pre-season test, was fast throughout the race weekend in Qatar, and claimed pole position for the opening race of the season, but once again, he didn’t get off the line well, and all that he could manage was a seventh-place finish. The Spaniard though will be hoping that this was just a one-off, and not the continuation of a trend that we saw throughout 2018.
Joan Mir (eight points), the teammate of Rins, was eighth on his MotoGP debut, and looked reasonably close to the pace of Rins throughout the weekend at the Losail International Circuit, while LCR Honda Idemitsu rider, and teammate of Crutchlow, Takaaki Nakagami (seven points), finished ninth in Qatar, ahead of Aprilia Factory Racing’s Aleix Espargaró (six points), who completed the Top 10 at the opening race of 2019.
However, the main headline of the first race of the season was the disappointing performance in his first race with the Repsol Honda Team, although hindered by a wrist injury, for Jorge Lorenzo (three points), who finished the 2019 Qatar Grand Prix in 13th. Lorenzo finished the opening practice session in second, behind Rossi, and head of his new teammate Márquez, but by the end of the first three practice sessions, he was 11th on the combined standings and had to go through Qualifying One (Q1).
However, he wasn’t able to qualify into Qualifying Two (Q2), and started the opening race of the season only in 15th, and from there, he found it difficult to move through the field, finishing only in 13th, making it the third year in a row that Lorenzo has either crashed out (2018), or finished 11th or lower (2017 and 2019). Lorenzo will be wanting to turn his form around quickly in Argentina at the Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo, a place where he has only finished on the podium once (2014).
So, who is going to win in Argentina?
If Marc Márquez can show the blistering speed that he showed last year, and stay on the bike, and not run into any of the problems that he ran into last year, then he will be clearly the one to beat at the Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo, but if he does run into issues, the entire race could be a complete lottery, especially given the predicted weather conditions of rain and thunderstorms, particularly for Saturday and Sunday.