2018 Malaysian GP (MotoGP) – Preview

Yamaha ended their worst losing run in their history at Phillip Island in Australia with  Maverick Viñales taking his first race victory since the 2017 French Grand Prix, and Yamaha’s first since the 2017 Dutch TT, ending a winless streak of 25-straight races, while Marc Márquez suffered yet another retirement at the Australian Grand Prix after clinching championship success in Japan, this time not of his own doing after Johann Zarco clattered into the back of his bike in what was a scary incident, and while only Zarco went down, Márquez was forced to retire from the race after sustaining significant damage to his Honda.

So, what are we install for as the grid heads to the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia for Round 18 of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship, the penultimate round of the season?

Márquez (296 points) leads the championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 86 points over Andrea Dovizioso (210 points) after the Ducati Team rider finished an impressive third, equalling his best result at Phillip Island in the premier class (2011), and solidifies a strong grip on second spot in the world championship.

Valentino Rossi (195 points) is third in the championship for Movistar Yamaha MotoGP after a slightly disappointing sixth-place finish in Australia, and has now gone seven completed races without a podium, while his teammate Viñales (180 points) closes up on him in the battle for third in the world championship.

Cal Crutchlow (148 points) is fifth in the championship at the moment for LCR Honda, but will likely miss the rest of the season after breaking his ankle during Friday practice at Phillip Island, meaning that he could potentially fall down the standings to 10th by the end of the season.

Behind the current top five in the championship, the five other riders inside the top 10 in the standings are covered by just eight points with Alma Pramac Racing’s Danilo Petrucci (137 points), Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco (133 points), Team SUZUKI ECSTAR rider Andrea Iannone (133 points), Dovizioso’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo (130 points), who should be close to being fit for the Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend, and Iannone’s teammate Álex Rins (129 points) all firmly in the battle for fifth in the world championship given Crutchlow’s injury.

With the world championship already wrapped up in favour of Marc Márquez, the battle for second in the 2018 MotoGP World Championship could be decided this weekend in favour of Andrea Dovizioso as long as he finishes inside the top six.

Dovizioso can claim second in the championship if:

  1. If Dovizioso wins, Rossi must finish 4th or lower.
  2. If Dovizioso finishes 2nd, Rossi must finish 6th or lower.
  3. If Dovizioso finishes 3rd, Rossi must finish 10th or lower, Viñales must finish 2nd or lower.
  4. If Dovizioso finishes 4th, Rossi must finish 13th or lower, Viñales must finish 3rd or lower.
  5. If Dovizioso finishes 5th, Rossi must finish 15th or lower, Viñales must finish 3rd or lower.
  6. If Dovizioso finishes 6th, Rossi must finish outside of the points, Viñales must finish 4th or lower.

So, who will win at Sepang International Circuit?

On paper it suits Ducati, and realistically, you know Marc Márquez is going to be right there with them on his Honda, and with some of the long, flowing corners around the track, you would expect Yamaha to be involved in the battle, but I don’t it is going to be that simple for them to be there at the very front and challenging the likes of Andrea Dovizioso, Márquez, and Jorge Lorenzo (if he is fit).

So, assuming Lorenzo is fit, it will be a battle between those three for the win, and if it is wet, I think Dovizioso may win, but if it is dry, I think Márquez may well claim his ninth victory of the season.

 

 

Advertisements

2017 MotoGP Malaysian GP – Preview

The 17th round of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship takes place this weekend from the Sepang International Circuit, which is about 60 kilometres south of Kuala Lumpur, and this is where Marc Márquez could clinch his fourth MotoGP World Championship, and his sixth championship across all classes.

Márquez (269 points) leads the world championship by 33 points over Andrea Dovizioso (236 points) after winning the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island a couple of days ago.

Meanwhile, Dovizioso had an absolute shocker at Phillip Island, finishing 13th after being out-dragged to the line by Scott Redding and Dani Pedrosa, severely compromising his chances of winning his first premier class title.

Dovizioso is also paying for his awful record on anti-clockwise circuits, scoring 30 points in four races on anti-clockwise circuits, compared to Márquez, who has scored a perfect 100 points from the same four races. If the championship was raced just on clockwise circuits, Dovizioso would be leading Márquez by 37 points.

In fact, Maverick Viñales (219 points), who finished third in Australia to consolidate third in the championship, trailing Márquez by 50 points, and out of championship contention due to the fact he cannot achieve the same amount of wins as Márquez, would be behind Dovizioso by 29 points if the championship was contested on clockwise circuits, and with only one more race on a clockwise circuit left on the 2017 calendar, Dovizioso would be the champion!

Instead, the stranglehold that Márquez has had on the opposition on anti-clockwise circuits, and the improved form of the Honda has really changed the course of this championship.

Valentino Rossi (188 points) has moved past Dani Pedrosa (174 points) into fourth in the championship after finishing in second spot at Phillip Island, while Pedrosa finished 12th in a disappointing race for the Spaniard.

Johann Zarco (138 points), Jorge Lorenzo (117 points), Danilo Petrucci (111 points), and Cal Crutchlow (103 points) complete the top nine in the championship after having mixed races in Australia, with Zarco and Crutchlow finishing fourth and fifth respectively, while Lorenzo and Petrucci struggled on their Ducati bikes, with Lorenzo finishing 15th, while Petrucci finished 21st and was second-last, 48.768 seconds behind the race winner.

Jonas Folger (84 points), who didn’t race in Australia, and won’t race in Malaysia due to a virus, is 10th in the championship, but may struggle to hang onto that position unless he can come back for the final race of the season in Valencia.

So, for Márquez to secure his fourth premier class world championship at the Malaysian Grand Prix, one of these scenarios must happen:

  1. If Márquez wins the race.
  2. If Dovizioso wins the race, Márquez must finish second.
  3. If Dovizioso finishes second, Márquez must finish fourth or higher.
  4. If Dovizioso finishes third, Márquez must finish eighth or higher.
  5. If Dovizioso finishes fourth, Márquez must finish 11th or higher.
  6. If Dovizioso finishes fifth, Márquez must finish 13th or higher.
  7. If Dovizioso finishes sixth, Márquez must finish 14th or higher.
  8. If Dovizioso finishes seventh, Márquez must finish 15th or higher.
  9. If Dovizioso finishes eighth or lower, Márquez is the world champion!

So, what will happen in Malaysia?

The usual unstable weather features in the forecast, and while Marc Márquez has proven himself to being much stronger in wet conditions that what he may have been in the past, he hasn’t quite mastered the wet conditions in the tropical climates, suffering a crash during the race last year, he has had two more race crashes in the wet at the Sepang International Circuit, both in the lower classes, while in 2011, suffered a huge accident in Friday practice in strange conditions in Moto2, denying him the chance of winning the championship, and almost ending his career, due to the eye injury he suffered, which was fixed via surgery.

That happened on the same weekend that Marco Simoncelli was killed in an horrific accident during the MotoGP race, which was eventually cancelled as the news filtered through of his tragic passing, with yesterday marking six years since his passing.

However, if it is a dry race, you would have to tip Márquez to win the race, given his current form, and secure a well-deserved championship. It is all up to Andrea Dovizioso to bounce back and win the race to keep the title battle going to the final race in Valencia.

 

MotoGP Practice on Friday at 9:55am, and 2:05pm local time (12:55pm, and 5:05pm AEDT). MotoGP FP3 on Saturday at 9:55am local time (12:55pm AEDT), FP4 on Saturday at 1:30pm local time (4:30pm AEDT), Q1 and Q2 on Saturday at 2:10pm and 2:35pm local time (5:10pm and 5:35pm AEDT). MotoGP Warm Up on Sunday at 9:40am local time (12:40pm AEDT), and MotoGP race on Sunday at 3:00pm local time (6:00pm AEDT).

 

2017 Malaysian Grand Prix – Preview

This weekend, the 15th round of the 2017 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship takes place at the Sepang International Circuit, which is about 60 kilometres south of Kuala Lumpur, for what will be, at least for the foreseeable future, the final Malaysian Grand Prix.

The Sepang International Circuit was the second circuit ever designed by legendary circuit designer Hermann Tilke, and since 1999, it has been a circuit that has seen some crazy races in Formula One, many great triumphs, and even some heartbreak.

Someone who has experienced both emotions in Malaysia has been Lewis Hamilton, who won the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2014, but was forced to retire while leading comfortably in 2016, ultimately costing him the world championship.

Hamilton (263 points) leads the world drivers’ championship for Mercedes by 28 points over Sebastian Vettel (235 points) after the former’s victory in Singapore, which happened after the latter’s collision in wet conditions with both Max Verstappen, and his Ferrari teammate Kimi Räikkönen, which caused all three of them to retire, which was only the fourth time in Formula One history that the entire front row (Vettel and Verstappen) was wiped out on the opening lap of a grand prix.

It was a gift that Hamilton had no hesitation in grabbing to take complete control of the championship as he seeks to equal Vettel with four world championships.

Vettel and Ferrari you sense will have to find something extra special if they want to topple Hamilton and Mercedes in the championship battle in the final six races of 2017, at circuits that on balance suit the Mercedes better.

Third in the world championship is Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas (212 points), who finished third at the Singapore Grand Prix to help Mercedes gain crucial points over Ferrari, who scored zero points in Singapore, in the Constructors’ World Championship.

Fourth in the championship is Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo (162 points) after what you could say was a disappointing second-place finish in Singapore, after suffering non-terminal gearbox issues, preventing him from driving as fast as he could have, potentially costing him victory.

Räikkönen is fifth in the championship on 138 points after his retirement in Singapore, and has really got to lift his game if he wants to see his teammate, Vettel, win his fifth world championship. Räikkönen needs to steal points away from Hamilton, and when Vettel wins during the final six races of the season, he must finish second. So far, he has shown little signs recently that he is capable of stealing big points away from Hamilton, and you would think that Vettel’s attitude towards his team about his teammate will change quickly if Räikkönen can’t step up to the plate for the remainder of 2017, starting at this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

Verstappen (68 points) is sixth the world championship for Red Bull, and his bad luck continued at the Singapore Grand Prix, suffering his seventh retirement from 14 races in 2017 after being taken out by the two Ferrari drivers. Verstappen cannot take a trick, and while most of the retirements haven’t been his fault, somewhere along the line, you would have to look at his approach to racing, and look at ways to tinker with it slightly to ensure he doesn’t get involved in so many incidents like we saw in Singapore off the start-line.

Equal on points with Verstappen in the championship is Sergio Pérez (68 points) after finishing fifth in Singapore, and is followed by his Force India teammate Esteban Ocon (56 points), who is 12 points behind the Mexican in the championship.

Carlos Sainz Jr. is ninth in the world championship in his Toro Rosso on 48 points after signing for Renault for 2018, while his teammate for next year, Nico Hülkenberg, is 10th in the championship on 34 points in his Renault, leading a four-way battle for 10th in the drivers’ championship between Felipe Massa (31 points), Lance Stroll (28 points), and Romain Grosjean (26 points).

In the Constructors’ World Championship, Mercedes (475 points) lead by 102 points over Ferrari (373 points). Red Bull (230 points) are third in the constructors’ championship, comfortably ahead of Force India (124 points), who are comfortably ahead of a four-way battle for fifth between Williams (59 points), Toro Rosso (52 points), Renault (42 points), and Haas (37 points), while McLaren (17 points) are starting pull away from Sauber (five points) in the battle for ninth in the constructors’ championship.

So, who will win the final-ever Malaysian Grand Prix?

I think it could be an epic battle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, similar to the battle they had in Spain earlier this year, and if that is the case, it may be too close to call, but Vettel desperately needs to win, and if he doesn’t, and Hamilton wins, it could well be game over in terms of his championship hopes!

 

The first two practice sessions (90 minutes each) are on Friday at 11am and 3pm local time (1pm and 5pm AEST).

The final practice session (60 minutes) and qualifying is on Saturday at 2pm and 5pm local time (4pm and 7pm AEST).

The 56 lap race is on Sunday from 3pm local time (6pm AEDT).