San-MarinoGP: Sometimes You Lose, Sometimes Somebody Else Wins.
The weather forecast was right for race day at Misano and it definitely didn’t disappoint. The stakes for the three men on the front row – Viñales, Dovizioso and Marquez – were high, and one mistake, however small, could cost a title. As it turned out, no one made any and it’s even tighter at the top – equal, even. But whilst nobody lost, somebody definitely won.
“My attitude has won me five World Championships,” said Marquez when questioned on his seeming necessity to crash over the limit in practice so as to be aware of that limit in the race. After Misano, Marquez may well need to cross out “five” and write “six” because the Championship may have just been decided.
- Marc Marquez #93 - Repsol Honda Team - MotoGP - Misano 2017 -
From the outside, it looks as though Marquez played with risk at Misano and that lady luck was kind. But from the inside it looks a little different, because he wasn’t actually willing to put everything on the line, at least not recklessly. He didn’t gamble, he judged. He judged that a battle with Petrucci would be too risky and so planned where and when to attack, knowing one lap at the front at full tack in the wet is much safer than a whole race. So one lap it would be: first corner, final lap, final push. That makes it 15 corners of risk - once - and no more. That makes it the perfect hand played in the perfect way, and one hell of a headache for everyone else. And next we’re going to Aragon – a track that will have had attack written next to it since pre-season.
- Andrea Dovizioso #04 - Ducati Corse - MotoGP - Misano 2017 -
However, praising Marquez’s willingness to push doesn’t necessarily mean disparaging Dovizioso’s slightly safer option - something the Italian said himself in the Press Conference, when he said that Marc could take the risk because he felt good, and he didn’t take it himself because he felt bad. Not having the best feeling on the bike makes Dovi’s third place finish even more impressive, and his points mean he’s still a true contender for the crown. But this is how it is in the premier class of anything – sometimes it’s not that you lose, it’s that somebody else wins. And that’s what happened at Misano, although there is some hope on the horizon: Sepang, where Dovizioso won last year. Motegi? Phillip Island will likely be a tough one for the Italian. But Aragon? That’s where Dovi needs to try and hit back. And if he can’t, it won’t be equal anymore.
- Maverick Viñales #25 - Movistar Yamaha - MotoGP - 2017 -
Maverick Viñales is the other contender we can still pencil in. Maybe he’ll be unbeatable from here on in, but he may need to be. When you’re the man trailing, fourth and last title challenger over the line is not enough. A tenth off the win in Silverstone and not trying a move is not enough. If it was, that’s what Marquez would have done in Austria. Yes, a crash would have been disastrous. But no, a tenth off the win and no attempt to overtake is not miraculous. The youngest in the fight may think he’s playing a long game with favourable odds like Dovizioso, but what he’s doing is staying between the lines. As well as points, that means he loses something else: he’s not honing this judgment. He’s not learning a lesson from winning or losing, he’s just managing. Managing is for large gaps when you’re clear in the lead. “But he’s not far back,” you say, and he’s not - but he could have been, if not for the Honda’s engine failure at Silverstone. That really is a matter of luck, and nothing to do with the rider.
Maybe Maverick’s head is still stuck back in Argentina when he was the fastest man alive, but those days are over and he’ll need to realise soon that being fastest only applies to pole position. Winning Championships is about being the best, and the best at everything.
That’s what Marquez was at Misano. Class to the core.
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