After a third-straight victory for Marc Márquez, and a race where three of his main rivals (Johann Zarco, Andrea Iannone, and Andrea Dovizioso) all came tumbling down in Le Mans, the grid heads to Italy, and to a heartland of motorcycle racing in Italy, and to arguably the most enjoyable and exciting circuit on the MotoGP calendar, Mugello, for Round Six of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship.
Márquez (95 points) leads the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 36 points over Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Maverick Viñales (59 points) in a season which could have been a whole lot worse for the rivals of the current championship leader and four-time MotoGP World Champion.
In Qatar, Márquez, despite having the better bike through the corners, had to settle for second-place after being unable to pass the slippery Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso, while in Argentina, he almost won the race twice over before a third penalty sent Márquez all the way back in the field to finish 18th after crossing the line in fifth-place after the first two penalties.
After this, Márquez was dominant as he always has been at the Circuit of the Americas to take his sixth victory in as many races in Austin, before dominating at the Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez, before winning comfortably in the end at the French Grand Prix in Le Mans.
Meanwhile, it has been much harder for Maverick Viñales on his Yamaha, with only one podium, which was a second-place finish behind the current championship leader in Austin, and only one other top five finish in a season where Yamaha have really struggled to match their competitors for outright speed.
To be quite honest, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco (58 points) and Viñales’ teammate Valentino Rossi (56 points), who sit in third and fourth in the world championship respectively, have been in better form than Viñales, but have had one non-scoring finish each compared to Viñales who has finished every race in the points so far.
Yamaha must find their top form quickly otherwise Márquez could run away with the championship.
However, the story of the season so far has been the two riders from Alma Pramac Racing in Danilo Petrucci (54 points) and Jack Miller (49 points), who are fifth and sixth in the championship respectively. Petrucci has been superb in riding this year’s Ducati, finishing all five races, four of them in the top 10, and three of them in the top five, claiming a podium last time out in France, while Miller, who has been riding last year’s Ducati, has arguably been even better with five top 10 finishes, with a best finish of fourth in Argentina, where he started from pole position, as well as fourth-place finish last time out in France.
Andrea Iannone (47 points) sits in seventh position in the world championship for Team Suzuki Ecstar after missing out on a possible third-successive podium finish after crashing out at Le Mans, but the speed from the factory Suzuki is certainly encouraging to challenge perhaps for a top three finish in the championship.
Cal Crutchlow (46 points) is eighth in the championship for LCR Honda, but has struggled since winning in Argentina, suffering crashes in the race in Austin and Jerez, as well as a massive crash in qualifying in France, which left him sore and sorry before the race, a race where he fought hard to finish in eighth, but he has got to learn to stay on the bike if he wants to be a strong championship contender in the future.
Andrea Dovizioso (46 points) is ninth in the championship for the Ducati Team after two-successive retirements in Jerez and Le Mans, the first time that has happened for Dovizioso since retiring from three-straight races in 2016, and with his championship hopes in tatters, must hit back at Mugello, a track predicted to be a strong one for Ducati, if he harbours any hope of catching Márquez in the championship.
While Dani Pedrosa (29 points), the teammate of Márquez, is 10th in the championship after a start to the season affected by injury, and he, along with Álex Rins (22 points), the teammate of Andrea Iannone, and Dovizioso’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo (16 points), will believe they can get into the battle behind Márquez for second in the championship.
However, before I get to my predictions for the Italian Grand Prix, I want to say a few words about Lorenzo, and his inability to find success on the Ducati.
Lorenzo must realise and understand that how hard you inherently push the tyres doesn’t change whether you are on a Yamaha, or whether you are on a Ducati, and he must change his thought process on this immediately!
It is not Formula One, where the car characteristics usually dominate who is good and bad at managing their tyres, it is MotoGP, and the riders always have more of a say as to whether their tyres last in a race, and riders who have been historically harder on their tyres have usually used harder tyres!
Lorenzo must stop trying to find a direction on what tyres to use from Dovizioso, who has always been kinder to his tyres, and start going for tyre choices generally a step harder than what he has been! It is not rocket science, and if he does that, Lorenzo might suddenly find much greater success on a Ducati!
However, will he listen to people like me saying this, or will he keep on listening to his team, who are simply running out of ideas and following the opposition because they are?
Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure is that Marc Márquez, despite his lack of success at Mugello, with his only win there in the premier class coming back in 2014, the sixth win of his 10-race winning streak at the start of 2014, in a gripping battle with Jorge Lorenzo, and if Lorenzo and Ducati take heed of my advice, it might be another titanic struggle!
However, other than Márquez making a mistake, I can see only the straight-line speed and power of the Ducati stopping the Spaniard from a fourth win in a row, and right now, I can see Márquez potentially winning all of the remaining races in 2018, and as I said earlier, it could have been a whole lot worse for his rivals!