2020 Spanish GP (MotoGP) – Preview

The return of grand prix motorcycle racing! The return of another global sporting competition! The return of MotoGP!

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the world, with many events of social significance and importance either cancelled or postponed as a result, and many, many people around the world losing their lives as a result of COVID-19!

However, MotoGP returns this weekend, becoming the second global sporting competition, after Formula One, to return to action, with the first of what at this stage is a 13-round season (although it could possibly extend to 16 rounds) taking place at the Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto to start the 2020 MotoGP World Championship at the 2020 Spanish Grand Prix, and can anybody beat Marc Márquez?

On Wednesday, Márquez looked strong for the Repsol Honda Team, topping the time-sheets in the morning test sesssion, before finishing third in the afternoon test session, proving to everyone that the defending world champion is fully fit after the shoulder surgery he had during the off-season, and that his team have fixed the aerodynamic issues surrounding the bike!

In my mind, Márquez is still the man to beat, and after finishing first or second in 18 of the 19 races in 2019, the legendary Spaniard will be looking to become the MotoGP World Champion for the seventh time in 2020, and win his ninth world championship across all classes, which would equal the record of Valentino Rossi across both departments in terms of premier class world championships, and world championships across all classes overall!

So, who can challenge Márquez, and deny him of this milestone?

Álex Rins put his hand up on Wednesday as a potential contender for Team Suzuki Ecstar, and although he didn’t set the fastest time in either test session, he finished a strong second and fourth in both the morning and afternoon sessions respectively. Rins will looking to improve on finishing fourth in the 2019 championship, and finish at worst inside the Top Three in the shortened 2020 world championship.

Fabio Quartararo has taken off from where he finished 2019, showing plenty of speed in finishing fifth and second in testing for Petronas Yamaha SRT, and will be aiming not only to improve on his fifth-place finish in the 2019 world championship, but also to claim his first MotoGP victory before moving to Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP in 2021.

And, the other genuine championship contender in my view is Maverick Viñales for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP. The Spaniard claimed two race victories and a further five podiums in 2019, and although he only finished 13th in the morning test session, he was the fastest in the afternoon test session, and was consistently the fastest in original pre-season testing before the COVID-19 hiatus. The question is whether he can be consistently on the pace of Márquez, something which he struggled to do in 2019, but was the only rider in 2019 to be able to win without Márquez challenging him on the final lap (when Márquez was still in the race), so if he can be consistently on the pace with Márquez, then possibly Viñales is the man to end his reign!

And, while there could be surprises and upsets throughout the field, the four championship contenders, and therefore regular challengers, for race wins in 2020 in my view are Marc Márquez, Álex Rins, Fabio Quartararo, and Maverick Viñales!

So, who is going to win the opening race of 2020?

In my mind, Marc Márquez is the man to beat this weekend for the Repsol Honda Team, and while I think Fabio Quartararo for Petronas Yamaha SRT, and Maverick Viñales for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP could be slightly quicker over one lap, although I don’t think there is much between those three over one lap on their current machinery, I think Márquez will start the shortened 2020 MotoGP World Championship in the best way possible, with Quartararo and Viñales completing the podium, and Rins in a close fourth for Team Suzuki Ecstar.

2019 Spanish Grand Prix – Preview

Another race, another Mercedes 1-2, and another race where Ferrari need to look deep within themselves, and ask themselves why they can’t live up to the potential that they had shown during pre-season testing? And you sense their championship chances are slipping away heading into Round Five of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for the 2019 Spanish Grand Prix.

Valtteri Bottas (87 points) leads the championship for Mercedes by a single point over his teammate five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton (86 points) after taking victory in Azerbaijan over Hamilton, with the difference between the two after the opening four rounds being the fastest lap achieved by Bottas in the first race of the season in Australia. However, you sense that there are a number of tracks coming up which have generally suited Hamilton in the past, and it is going to be interesting to see whether Bottas can keep pace with the defending world champion over the coming rounds.

Sebastian Vettel (52 points) has moved up into third in the world championship for Ferrari after finishing in what is now becoming a disappointing third place behind the Mercedes in Baku. Serious questions have got to be asked internally at Ferrari as to where their speed continues to go because other than in Bahrain with Charles Leclerc, they haven’t looked like having race-winning speed.

Max Verstappen (51 points) is an impressive fourth in the championship for Red Bull Racing-Honda after finishing fourth at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, ahead of Leclerc (47 points) in fifth after he came back from his crash in qualifying to finish in fifth and with the fastest lap, and like Vettel, is under pressure to deliver Ferrari their first race victory of the season in Spain this weekend.

Behind the Top 5 in the world championship, Sergio Pérez for Racing Point-BWT Mercedes after finishing an impressive sixth, Pierre Gasly for Red Bull Racing-Honda after retiring with a driveshaft issue, and Kimi Räikkönen for Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari after sneaking into the points in Azerbaijan are tied for sixth in the standings on 13 points, with Lando Norris (12 points) for McLaren-Renault and Kevin Magnussen (eight points) for Haas-Ferrari completing the Top 10 in the standings after the former finished eighth, and the latter finished outside the points in 13th.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (173 points) lead by 74 points over the underachieving Ferrari (99 points), with Red Bull Racing-Honda (64 points) a further 35 points behind in third. Behind them, it is McLaren-Renault (18 points), followed by Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (17 points), Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (13 points), Renault (12 points), Haas-Ferrari (eight points), Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (four points), and Williams-Mercedes (zero points).

So, who is going to win the 2019 Spanish Grand Prix?

Mercedes have to be the favourites after four-consecutive 1-2 finishes, and while Ferrari were strong at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya during pre-season testing, they haven’t been able to translate this into consistent race-winning performances, while Red Bull haven’t really looked like challenging for victory at any of the opening four races.

I think Lewis Hamilton is the favourite to win here, and I think he will be followed closely by his teammate Valtteri Bottas in second-place, with Charles Leclerc to come home in third.



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!


2018 Spanish Grand Prix – Preview

After four interesting and exciting flyaway races to start off the season in Australia, Bahrain, China, and all of the late drama in Azerbaijan, the 2018 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship moves back into more normal territory, to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Montmeló, which is about 30 kilometres north-east of Barcelona, near the east coast of northern Spain, where pre-season testing took place in difficult conditions for the most part, so this will be the first real opportunity for the drivers and teams to test out the re-surfaced track in optimal conditions.

Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton (70 points) leads the world championship by just four points over Ferrari driver and fellow four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel (66 points) after a crazy finish to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix after the incident between the two Red Bull drivers, and the unusual crash into the wall from Romain Grosjean.

Vettel, who was looking good for his 50th win in Formula One, had lost the lead of the race under the safety car to Valtteri Bottas, tried to overtake him after the safety car came in, but couldn’t make the move stick into Turn One on Lap 48, losing a few positions, and then at the start of Lap 49, Bottas picked up a sudden tyre puncture, which forced him out of the race early, which allowed teammate Hamilton to pick up the scraps to do a Steven Bradbury, and claim his first victory of the season.

With that, Hamilton took his podium tally to 120 (63 wins) in his career, and extended his points-scoring streak to a record 29 races, and since joining Mercedes in 2013, has finished 94 of his 102 races with the team inside the points.

Kimi Räikkönen (48 points) recovered from some early misfortune in Azerbaijan to claim an eventful second in Baku in his Ferrari to overtake the unlucky and unfortunate Bottas (40 points) into third in the championship.

Next comes Daniel Ricciardo (37 points), who maintains his fifth position in the world championship in his Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer despite the collision between himself and teammate Max Verstappen, which was adjudicated by the stewards as being a racing incident, but both drivers have been forced by team principal Christian Horner to apologise to the whole team back at Milton Keynes.

However, with Ricciardo regarded as one of the hardest, but cleanest drivers in the world, the attention of scrutiny falls squarely onto the back of Verstappen, who has struggled under the weight of pressure and expectation in 2018 so far.

He has had the spin in Australia, mechanical failure in Bahrain, the collision between him and Vettel in China, and now the collision with his teammate in Azerbaijan, and despite having achieved three race victories, and a further eight podiums in his 64 race career at the age of just 20, including becoming the first (and so far only) teenage to win in Formula One (18 years, and 228 days old), you get the sense that maybe things have come too easily and too soon for Verstappen, and now for the first time in his Formula One career, he is under serious pressure, so it will be intriguing for all of us to see not only how he handles it, but also how Red Bull handles it, given the lack of patience Red Bull, with both Red Bull and Toro Rosso, has shown its drivers in the past.

Fernando Alonso (28 points) is sixth in the championship in his McLaren-Renault after a fourth-straight points finish to start the season in Baku despite some non-terminal damage suffered on the first lap, carving his way through the field to finish an impressive seventh, and is ahead of Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg (22 points), who is seventh in the championship despite his accident on Lap 10, forcing him to retire from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Verstappen (18 points) is eighth in the world championship with Sergio Pérez (15 points) in ninth position in the championship after his wonderful third-place finish in his Force India-Mercedes, while Carlos Sainz Jr. (13 points) completes the top 10 in the championship in his Renault.

As far as the Constructors’ Championship is concerned, Ferrari (114 points) have overtaken Mercedes (110 points) to take the lead of the championship, with Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (55 points) still in third despite scoring no points in Azerbaijan. They are followed by McLaren-Renault (36 points) and Renault (35 points), who are separated by a single point in their battle for fourth, and are ahead of Force India-Mercedes (16 points), Toro Rosso-Honda (13 points), Haas-Ferrari (11 points), Sauber-Ferrari (10 points), and Williams-Mercedes (four points).

So, who will win the Spanish Grand Prix?

Usually the fastest and best car wins, and if you judge that by the opening four races, it is the Ferrari that looks the strongest, but I sense Mercedes are going to come strong with their car with some timely upgrades, and I also think Red Bull will also be strong.

However, to do well at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, first you must qualify well! 20 out of the 27 winners of the Spanish Grand Prix at this circuit have won from pole position with a further four winning from second-place on the grid. In addition to this, no one has won from lower than fifth on the grid at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Given Red Bull’s failures to match the engine modes of both Ferrari and Mercedes, you sense it is going to be between those two teams, and most likely Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton as to who will win the Spanish Grand Prix!

2018 Spanish GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After a more straight-forward round, where Marc Márquez won for the sixth time at the Circuit of the Americas, we head to southern Spain, and to Jerez for Round Four of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship for the first European round of the year.

Andrea Dovizioso (46 points) leads the world championship on his factory Ducati (Ducati Team) by single point over Márquez (45 points). Dovizioso looked very strong in Qatar where he took the victory, but after that, he has struggled to find that form with a shocking sixth-place finish in Argentina, and a mediocre fifth-place finish at the Circuit of the Americas. It appears as if the pattern of last year is continuing for Ducati, with Dovizioso really strong on circuits with long straights, and plenty of hard braking zones, and I am not sure if Dovizioso will find much joy in southern Spain this weekend.

Meanwhile, Márquez is normally fast everywhere, and his factory Honda (Repsol Honda Team) appears to be better than it was last year, particularly in the earlier stages of last year when he was fighting to find top form. He was quick in Qatar, a bogey circuit of his, and finished a very close second behind Dovizioso. He was out of this world quick in Argentina, and came reasonably close to winning the race twice over before a third penalty, yes, a third penalty relegated him from fifth to 18th, and carried on this speed, this time without error, with the exception of the three-place grid penalty for blocking Maverick Viñales in qualifying, to claim his sixth win in Austin in his 93rd MotoGP race! I expect him and his Honda to be strong in Jerez!

Talking about Viñales (41 points), he is just five points behind Dovizioso in the championship on his factory Yamaha (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) after finishing a comfortable second in Austin after sixth and fifth-place finishes in Qatar and Argentina respectively. In my opinion, the Yamaha is lacking by about three of four tenths of a second compared to the Honda, particularly when it is in the hands of Márquez, and maybe on par with the speed of Dani Pedrosa on a normal weekend, but they will need to find that time, otherwise it will be another long year for Movistar Yamaha MotoGP!

Cal Crutchlow (38 points) is fourth in the championship, eight points behind Dovizioso after crashing and not scoring points at the Circuit of the Americas after coming into Austin leading the championship after winning in Argentina, and a strong fourth in Qatar. In my view, Crutchlow could be a dark horse for the championship long term should anything happen to Márquez, and possibly his teammate Pedrosa, but he must consistently finish races in the points! He had five retirements in 2017, seven races where he retired, or didn’t finish in the points in 2016, and five retirements in 2015 since he joined LCR Honda. If Crutchlow approaches his racing with a touch more care, he could be title contender!

Johann Zarco (38 points) is fifth in the championship, and tied on points with Crutchlow for Monster Yamaha Tech 3 after a sixth-place finish in Austin, backing up a brilliant second in Argentina, and a slightly disappointing race in Qatar finishing in eighth. Zarco is currently on a run of 20-consecutive race finishes in MotoGP, and has been very consistent without having the bike underneath him! At the moment, his future is up in the air, with many big name teams and manufacturers chasing his signature with the latest reports suggesting that Red Bull KTM Factory Racing have won that race over the Repsol Honda Team, although nothing has been officially confirmed.

Below them in the championship standings, Andrea Iannone (31 points) is sixth for Team Suzuki Ecstar, Valentino Rossi (29 points) is seventh for Movistar Yamaha MotoGP, Jack Miller (26 points) is eighth for Alma Pramac Racing, Tito Rabat (22 points) is ninth for Reale Avintia Racing, and Danilo Petrucci (21 points) completes the top 10 in the championship for Alma Pramac Racing, ahead of the only other two riders to have double-figured points in 2018 in Dani Pedrosa (18 points) for the Repsol Honda Team, and Álex Rins (16 points) for Team Suzuki Ecstar.

So, who will win the Spanish Grand Prix?

Given his speed, and the speed of his bike at the moment, I cannot go past Marc Márquez to claim his second victory of the season, and his second MotoGP victory (and across all classes) at Jerez, but I think Dani Pedrosa, assuming that he is fully-fit, should be on the podium with his teammate Márquez, ahead of a resurgent Jorge Lorenzo on his factory Ducati (Ducati Team), who will be ahead of a great scrap for fourth involving Dovizioso, Viñales, Rossi, Iannone, Rins, Crutchlow, and Zarco!