2019 French GP (MotoGP) – Preview

Marc Márquez got the swift redemption that he was looking for after crashing out of the Grand Prix of the Americas by winning the Spanish Grand Prix for the second-straight year, and for just the third time in his career, Álex Rins backed up his first MotoGP victory, which he achieved at the Circuit of the Americas by finishing second behind his fellow Spaniard at the Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto, while Maverick Viñales got his first podium of the season, and his first since winning in Australia last year as he attempts to bounce back after his awful start to 2019.

However, the struggles continued for Jorge Lorenzo at home, finishing only 12th, and he will be desperate to change his fortunes very quickly as the 2019 MotoGP World Championship heads to the Circuit Bugatti in Le Mans in France for Round Five of the championship, the 2019 French Grand Prix.

Márquez (70 points) re-takes the lead of the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by a single point over Team SUZUKI ECSTAR rider Rins (69 points) after claiming his 46th MotoGP victory, and his 72nd race victory across all classes. Márquez is just one win away from moving into equal-fourth for most premier class victories alongside his current teammate Lorenzo.

Meanwhile, Rins extended his streak of Top Five finishes to eight after claiming his second podium of the season. Rins has now achieved Top Five finishes in 10 of his last 11 races, but needs to qualify a little bit closer to the front if he is to challenge Márquez on a consistent basis.

Andrea Dovizioso (67 points) is third in the championship for Mission Winnow Ducati after a second-straight fourth-place finish in 2019 at the Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto, but will be feeling optimistic about his chances over the course of the next three races, maybe not necessarily at Le Mans, but certainly at Mugello and Barcelona, circuits which should suit the characteristics of the Ducati extremely well.

Valentino Rossi (61 points) is fourth in the championship for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP after finishing a difficult race in sixth after starting the Spanish Grand Prix in 13th after failing to qualify into the second part (Q2) of qualifying. He is 20 points ahead of Dovizioso’s teammate in Danilo Petrucci (41 points) in the standings after the Ducati rider continued his consistent run in 2019 by finishing in fifth-place in Jerez de la Frontera after finishing in sixth in each of the opening three races.

Rossi’s teammate Viñales (30 points) is just 11 points behind Petrucci after finishing third in Spain, but is already 40 points behind Márquez, and his hopes of claiming his first MotoGP World Championship in 2019 almost gone. However, Viñales is certainly capable of winning in France just like he did back in 2017, but he needs to qualify well, and most importantly start well to give himself the best possible chance.

Jack Miller (29 points) is seventh in the world championship for Alma Pramac Racing despite crashing out of the Spanish Grand Prix, and is ahead of Takaaki Nakagami (29 points) in the standings by virtue of his third-place finish at the Grand Prix of the Americas.

Nakagami’s LCR Honda teammate Cal Crutchlow (27 points) is ninth in the championship just two points behind his teammate after finishing eighth at the Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto, while Franco Morbidelli (25 points) completes the Top 10 in the standings by finishing the Spanish Grand Prix in seventh for Petronas Yamaha SRT.

However, it was heartbreak for Morbidelli’s teammate Fabio Quartararo (17 points), who after becoming the youngest rider to claim pole position in the history of the premier class, was running in a comfortable second behind Márquez before a gearbox issue struck on Lap 14, ending his chances of a first MotoGP podium and leaving him in 13th position in the world championship.

Immediately behind Quartararo in the standings, it is Lorenzo (11 points), who had an absolutely awful race in Jerez de la Frontera, finishing 12th and 18.473 behind his teammate and race winner Márquez, and looking like a shadow of the rider that has won five world championships, including three in the premier class, and really needs to do some serious soul searching if he wants to return to the level of rider we all know that he can be!

However, Lorenzo has finished inside the Top Seven in all of his MotoGP races at the Circuit Bugatti, and has finished inside the Top Two in nine of his last 10 races at Mugello, so if he doesn’t perform well at either, if not both, of those two races, there will be some serious question marks regarding Lorenzo’s future.

So, who will win the 2019 French Grand Prix?

I think the safest bet will be Marc Márquez, but I think Álex Rins on the Suzuki, Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales on the Yamaha, as well as Andrea Dovizioso on the Ducati will be his closest challengers in Le Mans.

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2019 Spanish GP (MotoGP) – Preview

The domination by Marc Márquez at the Circuit of the Americas came to an end on Lap 9 at Turn 12 after leading the race by almost four seconds, crashing out of the lead inexplicably after having the race completely under his control. However, this opened the door for Álex Rins, who managed to hold off Valentino Rossi on his Suzuki to claim his first-ever MotoGP race victory, and as a result, there are only nine points separating four riders as the 2019 MotoGP World Championship heads back to Europe, and to the Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto for the fourth race of the season.

Andrea Dovizioso (54 points) leads the championship by three points for Mission Winnow Ducati over Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP rider Valentino Rossi (51 points) after finishing fourth in the Grand Prix of the Americas after starting 13th in what was a brilliant ride, with Rins (49 points) for Team SUZUKI ECSTAR a further two points behind after claiming his first premier class win, becoming just the second rider not only to win a MotoGP race at the Circuit of the Americas, but to claim their first MotoGP win in Austin.

Marc Márquez (45 points) is fourth in the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team, on exactly the same amount of points he scored after the opening three rounds of last year, but after failing to finish a race that he has won on each of the previous six occasions before 2019. The reigning world champion will be looking to bounce back big time with a race victory in the south of Spain, but Márquez has opened the door, albeit slightly, for his rivals to maybe take away his crown by the end of the season.

Behind the Top 4 in the championship, Dovizioso’s teammate Danilo Petrucci (30 points) sits fifth, one point ahead of Jack Miller (29 points), who claimed his second premier class podium after finishing third for Alma Pramac Racing, followed by Takaaki Nakagami (22 points) and Cal Crutchlow (19 points) for LCR Honda. It was a disappointing race for Crutchlow, who along with Márquez and Jorge Lorenzo, failed to finish the race on his Honda, with only Nakagami managing to finish the race at the Circuit of the Americas for Honda.

The Top 10 in the championship is completed by Pol Espargaró (18 points) for the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, and Fabio Quartararo (17 points) for Petronas Yamaha SRT, but there are two big name riders, who were thought of as championship contenders before the start of the season, languishing outside of the Top 10 in the championship.

Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (14 points) is currently 12th in the championship, 40 points behind championship leader Dovizioso, while the teammate of Márquez, Lorenzo, sits in 17th position in the standings on just seven points!

We all know that Lorenzo has been struggling with injury and physical ailments throughout the start of 2019 to date, but it is a mystery as to why Viñales, other than the fact he continues to start races poorly, is unable to go with the pace of the leaders during races, and it seems to be a phenomena that just affects him out of all the Yamaha riders, and it has been effecting his performance in races, not only in the first three races of 2019, but also throughout 2018 as well.

In my opinion, Viñales needs to have a good long look at himself in the mirror, and work out how he can adapt his riding style to suit the Yamaha, rather than expecting that he can ride in what ever way that he wants, and then find out that it is not delivering the results that he expects on a consistent basis.

It is a crucial race for both Viñales and Lorenzo, and really both of them need to win at the Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto if they are to realistically keep their championship hopes alive!

So, who is going to win the Spanish Grand Prix?

I expect, given his strong record in Jerez de la Frontera, for Marc Márquez to bounce back and gain swift redemption for his shock result in the Grand Prix of the Americas, and win in Spain, ahead of both his teammate Jorge Lorenzo, and Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP rider Maverick Viñales in an all-Spanish podium, with Álex Rins, Andrea Dovizioso, and Valentino Rossi close behind!

 

2019 Americas GP (MotoGP) – Preview

Marc Márquez blew the entire field away in Argentina to take the lead in the 2019 MotoGP World Championship, the question is whether the reigning world champion can extend his narrow four point lead in the standings at the third round of the championship at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas?

Very likely given that Márquez (45 points) has won every MotoGP race (six) at the Circuit of the Americas, and being credited with every MotoGP pole position at the circuit, although not starting from pole position last year due to blocking Maverick Viñales in qualifying, but is there anyone that can stop the Repsol Honda Team from winning for a seventh time in Austin?

The contenders are not exactly lining up, but Andrea Dovizioso (41 points), who sits second in the championship for Mission Winnow Ducati is the most obvious contender after backing up his win in Qatar by finishing third in Argentina after a great battle with Valentino Rossi, and has finished on the podium twice at the Circuit of the Americas, along with Rossi (31 points), who sits third in the world championship for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP.

Maybe Álex Rins (24 points) can stop Márquez for Team SUZUKI ECSTAR, if he can qualify well, while Dovizioso’s teammate Danilo Petrucci (20 points) and LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow (19 points) are certainly dark horses if everything goes to plan, and they receive a slice of luck.

Crutchlow’s teammate Takaaki Nakagami (16 points) is less likely to challenge, but Alma Pramac Racing’s Jack Miller (13 points) is certainly a chance if things are thrown up out of the ordinary, while Aleix Espargaró (13 points) for Aprilia Factory Racing, and Pol Espargaró (10 points) for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing complete the Top 10 in the world championship.

However, two of the greatest challengers for Márquez this weekend sit outside of the Top 10 in the standings in Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (nine points), and his own teammate in Jorge Lorenzo (seven points).

Viñales has had a disappointing start to the season, struggling badly off the start line after claiming pole position in Qatar, and could only finish seventh, while in Argentina, he was taken out by Franco Morbidelli on the final lap of the race when he was in seventh position, while Lorenzo has struggled in recovering from injury, finishing 13th and 12th in the opening two races of the season respectively.

However, Viñales has been on the podium once at the Circuit of the Americas in the premier class last year, and won the Moto2 race in Austin back in 2014, the year after finishing second in the Moto3 race back in 2013, while Lorenzo has finished on the podium twice at the Circuit of the Americas back in 2013 and 2016.

So, if they can hit their best form this weekend, they could give Márquez a run for his money.

However, in the Lone Star state of the United States, at arguably his favourite MotoGP venue, I am predicting Marc Márquez to make it seven from seven at the Circuit of the Americas, which would be the 46th race victory in his premier class career, and his 80th podium finish in MotoGP.

 

 

2019 Argentina GP (MotoGP) – Preview

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.

 

 

2019 Qatar GP (MotoGP) – Preview

It has been an interesting off-season in MotoGP, and with many changes within teams, in particular Jorge Lorenzo leaving Ducati to become the teammate of five-time MotoGP world champion, and seven-time world champion across all classes Marc Márquez at the Repsol Honda Team, and Tech 3 changing from Yamaha machinery to KTM machinery after a 20 year relationship with the Japanese manufacturer, leaving us with many questions as to how the 2019 MotoGP World Championship will pan out, a 19-race championship that begins in earnest this weekend at the Losail International Circuit in Lusail in Qatar, which is about 23 kilometres north of the capital Doha.

So, who are the championship contenders?

Looking at the entire field, their form during pre-season testing, and their reputations, I believe there are six riders from four teams who are capable of winning the 2019 world championship.

The obvious ones are the two Repsol Honda Team riders in Marc Márquez and Jorge Lorenzo, but how are they physically coming into the 2019 season?

Márquez is coming into the new season off the back of off-season surgery on his left shoulder after suffering multiple dislocations towards the back end of 2018, but after topping the opening day of testing at the Sepang International Circuit at the start of February, the reigning world champion has been rather low-key throughout testing until the final two days of the Qatar test at the end of last month, finishing fifth on the penultimate day, and third on the final day as he started to find full fitness.

If Márquez (or any other Spaniard in the field) can win the championship, Spain will become the first country to win eight-straight premier class world championships, and when Márquez has won the opening race of the season in the grand prix motorcycle career across all classes, he has gone onto win the world championship, and both times he was under injury clouds.

In 2012, his career was in serious threat of being ended prematurely after vision problems stemming from a Moto2 practice crash the previous year in Malaysia, the same weekend that Marco Simoncelli was tragically killed in the MotoGP race, which was later declared as a cancelled race, but thankfully, Márquez had his vision problems rectified, and went onto win the 2012 Moto2 World Championship.

In 2014, Márquez broke his right leg in a dirt-bike training accident after topping all three days of the opening test in Malaysia, forcing him to miss the second Malaysian test, and the Phillip Island test in Australia, but Márquez managed to win the opening race in Qatar over Valentino Rossi on-route to winning the opening 10 races, and 11 of the first 12 to claim his second premier class crown in as many years.

So, will history repeat itself for Marc Márquez?

Well, new teammate Jorge Lorenzo might have something to say about this, but he too has been under an injury cloud, perhaps more so than Márquez to be truthful after fracturing his wrist in a training accident in January, forcing him to miss the opening test in Malaysia, and after struggling on the opening two days of the Qatar test, Lorenzo managed to finish fifth on the final day of testing, finishing within half a tenth of his teammate.

If Lorenzo were to win the Qatar Grand Prix, he would become the third rider after Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi to win the MotoGP race in Qatar on four occasions, and if he were to win, it would be his seventh victory in Qatar overall across all classes.

The next obvious ones are the two Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP riders in Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales, but have Yamaha fixed the problems that they had with their bike last year?

Looking at the evidence from testing, the answer seems to be Yes!

Rossi, who turned 40 in February, endured his first winless year for a Japanese manufacturer last year, and despite finishing third in the 2018 championship, he has not been on the podium in his last nine races, and won’t want to endure a run like that in 2019, regardless of the competitiveness of the bike, but the signs are looking positive for Yamaha, but perhaps much more positive for Viñales, who topped three of the six days of testing, and finishing inside the top five on all six days.

At this stage, Viñales may well be the favourite to take out the Qatar Grand Prix, but I don’t think you cannot rule out Mission Winnow Ducati Team rider Andrea Dovizioso and Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Álex Rins.

Dovizioso is coming off the back of finishing second in the championship for the second-straight year, but made a number of uncharacteristic mistakes in 2018, which cost him any chance of challenging Marc Márquez for the world championship on a bike which has improved significantly over the last two years. The question is whether he can win his first MotoGP World Championship in 2019, or whether that opportunity has passed?

The bike is well-suited to circuits with long-straights and big braking zones, the whole team will essentially be behind Dovizioso, and you wouldn’t expect his teammate Danilo Petrucci to challenge for the championship, so you would have to think that this may well be his last chance to win a premier class world championship.

As for Álex Rins, he is very much the dark horse in the 2019 championship, and if Team Suzuki Ecstar can deliver him a good bike on a consistent basis, and Rins can have a better start to the season than he did in 2018, he has the ability to surprise the entire motorcycle world, and perhaps win his first world championship across all classes.

However, who will win the opening race in Qatar, and who is my tip to win the 2019 MotoGP World Championship?

I think given his form in pre-season testing that Maverick Viñales will be the one to beat in Qatar, just ahead of Andrea Dovizioso and defending world champion Marc Márquez, but as far as the world championship is concerned, it is going to take something special to defeat Márquez over the course of a full season, something which I cannot see anyone doing at the moment.

 

2018 Valencian GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After 18 rounds (17 races after the British Grand Prix didn’t get underway), and countless races that we will remember for a long time, the 2018 MotoGP World Championship comes to a conclusion at the final round (Round 19) at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, a chance to celebrate the season, and farewell a number of riders that will be leaving the MotoGP grid, including Scott Redding, Bradley Smith, Álvaro Bautista, Xavier Simeon, and the retiring Dani Pedrosa.

Pedrosa is the biggest name from this group of riders to be moving on from MotoGP after 54 wins (31 in MotoGP), 153 podiums (112 in MotoGP), 49 pole positions (31 in MotoGP), and 64 fastest laps (44 in MotoGP), claiming the 125cc World Championship in 2003, as well as the 250cc World Championship in 2004 and 2005, with a best championship finish in the MotoGP World Championship of second in 2007, 2010, and 2012, falling 18 points short of Jorge Lorenzo in 2012 after becoming the Repsol Honda Team’s main championship contender after the ankle injury suffered by Casey Stoner at Indianapolis.

Overall, Pedrosa has scored 4151 points across all classes (2959 points in MotoGP), and will start for the 295th and final time across all classes on Sunday (217th time in MotoGP).

However, that won’t be the only focal point in Valencia, and while Marc Márquez (321 points) and Andrea Dovizioso (220 points) have secured first and second in the world championship respectively, the battle for third is still alive between the two Movistar Yamaha MotoGP teammates in Valentino Rossi (195 points) and Maverick Viñales (193 points) in what is a “winner takes all” scenario in terms of finishing third in the championship in very simplistic terms, although it could be more complicated than that should they finish the race in Valencia down the field.

In addition to this, the fight for fifth in the world championship is still alive in what is also a “winner takes all” scenario between Álex Rins (149 points), Johann Zarco (149 points), and Danilo Petrucci (144 points). Cal Crutchlow (148 points) is in-between Zarco and Petrucci in the standings, but is out of Valencia after breaking his right ankle in Friday practice at Phillip Island.

Andrea Iannone (133 points) could also finish fifth in the world championship, as can Jorge Lorenzo (130 points), but both would need results to go their way to achieve that, while Dani Pedrosa (106 points) can still finish his final MotoGP season in 10th-place in the championship should he win in Valencia, and Lorenzo scores no points.

So, who will take out the final race of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship?

Judging by recent form, and his four wins from his last five races, it has to be Marc Márquez to claim what would be his 10th race victory of the season, and it would be just the second time in his premier class career, third across all classes, that he would have won 10 races or more in a single season.

I think on the podium with Márquez will be Andrea Dovizioso, while Dani Pedrosa will claim his first podium of 2018 in his final MotoGP race.

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.