Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) entered the race for the 2019 MotoGP Argentinian Grand Prix as the clear favourite. The race saw him claim his third win in Termas, as well as the championship lead.
Marquez’ race was a strange one for him. He led from lights to flag, making the holeshot and did not see another rider before the chequered flag. By the end of lap one the Spaniard was already one second clear, and his advantage extended as far as twelve seconds, eventually winning by 9.8 seconds after slowing down to celebrate as he crossed the finish line. The reigning champion’s pace was stunning, and almost every lap was faster than the best lap time of any of his competitors.
That rule, however, excepted Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL) whose race was over before it began, as he received a ride through penalty for a jump start. The validity of the penalty is arguable, to say the least, but looking retrospectively at Crutchlow’s pace it is impossible to debate that the trip through pit lane cost the Briton his second podium of the season.
Instead, the podium battle was fought between Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), Andrea Dovizioso (Mission Winnow Ducati), Jack Miller (Pramac Racing), Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT), Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati) and eventually Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar).
Initially, it was Dovizioso in second from Miller, the two Ducati riders able to use the power of the Desmosedici to repel any attacks from the more nimble Yamahas of Rossi, Vinales and Morbidelli.
Eventually, however, Rossi broke through Miller, and set about Dovizioso, who ultimately proved a tougher task for The Doctor.
Behind, Morbidelli was engaging in strongly contested battles with both Miller and Petrucci, which lasted for most of the second half of the race.
Maverick Vinales no doubt would have been involved in these fights from the outset, too, but a mistake in the middle of the race in turn five cost him a couple of seconds and a position to Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU). Vinales recovered the position from Nakagami, but only got back to Miller, Morbidelli and Petrucci by the time Alex Rins had arrived, and Dovizioso had escaped to have a private battle with Rossi for the final two podium spots.
That battle went down to the wire. Rossi passed Dovizioso a couple of times in turn thirteen, but the GP19 simply powered back by on the pit straight. The nine-times World Champion thought he would have a better pace than Dovizioso, however when he realised this was not the case, he let the #04 take point and chose to study his rival.
It always looked as though Rossi would make his final push for P2 in turn thirteen, he seemed to be sizing up Dovizioso into there on every lap, but the factory Ducati man was covering the line well on the entry. In the end, it was at turn seven that Rossi made his move on the final lap, with a neat out-braking manoeuvre on the inside of his compatriot. The move took away Dovizioso’s line sufficiently that he was unable to respond, as well, and Rossi was able to make a gap to the Desmosedici big enough to prevent an attack from his fellow Italian.
Second place for Rossi marked his first podium since Sachsenring last year, the factory Yamaha team’s first since Vinales’ win in Phillip Island, and Yamaha’s first podium as a factory since Johann Zarco finished second on the Tech3 Yamaha in Malaysia last season.
For the championship, Rossi’s defeat of Dovizioso was important too, as it meant that Marquez now leads the championship out-right by four points from Dovizioso. However, the #04 was content with the podium, as in the past couple of seasons the Ducati had not enjoyed Termas, and with Marquez being so strong in Argentina the damage limitation was somewhat successful for the Italian. Of course, with Texas next up on the calendar, damage limitation is a mindset Dovizioso will have to maintain.
The battle for fourth ended up being extremely closely fought, in the end by Jack Miller and Alex Rins, with the Australian coming out on top. Miller had looked to be riding quite aggressively throughout the race, but he still managed to save a lot of tyre for the end. It had initially looked like Rins would be able to break away in fourth and chase after the squabbling Italians ahead, but Miller fought back on the penultimate lap, and held Rins at bay for the closing two tours.
Alex Rins had looked strong on the race pace all weekend. In the two sessions where riders work exclusively on race pace: FP4 and warm up, Rins had featured towards the top of the times. His qualifying made things difficult, but from mid-race onwards it was clear he had the chance to fight for the podium. The move from Miller with two to go ended his hopes of that, but sixteenth to fifth is a stunning fight back from the Spaniard.
Sixth place went to Danilo Petrucci. He came under fire on the final lap from Maverick Vinales, but the Spaniard crashed with Franco Morbidelli on the final lap. Morbidelli seemed to be taking a normal line, but Vinales seemed to stop the bike on the apex to try and square off Petrucci, and the Petronas Yamaha rider piled straight into the back of the Spaniard. There was no anger from Vinales, however. In fact, the Spaniard checked on his Yamaha stablemate to see if he was okay. Furthermore, as trivial and ridiculous as it sounds, the public declaration on Instagram by Vinales that it was a ‘racing incident’ shows how the Spaniard viewed the crash which ended his race.
For Petrucci, though, the race represented a strong turnaround. Sixth might not seem so spectacular for a factory Ducati rider, especially when he was the last of the GP19s to cross the line, but after a poor weekend and disastrous qualifying he showed good resolve to fight for a top five and end up with a top six. In Qatar, the #9 rider had a great weekend and a poor race, but in Argentina he reversed that, somewhat. For the next races he needs to find the middle ground.
The double retirement of Vinales and Morbidelli promoted Nakagami to seventh, a position he deserved after what had been a stellar weekend for the Japanese, on in which he had been very strong and looked like a completely different rider on the RC213V.
Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) may not have had the stand out weekend he had in Qatar, but he took his first MotoGP points and first premier class top ten with eighth spot, and finished five seconds ahead of the duelling Espargaro brothers who finished ninth and tenth, Aleix (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) ahead of Pol (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) by just under four tenths over the line.
Eleventh place went to Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) who also scored his first MotoGP points, and came home as second KTM, only two tenths behind factory rider Pol Espargaro. An incredibly impressive result for the rookie.
1.6 seconds behind rookie Miguel Oliveira was Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team) who finished twelfth after having a problem on the start which dropped him to twenty-first. A couple more laps and Lorenzo would have been thirteenth, as Cal Crutchlow crossed the line only four seconds back of Lorenzo after the Brit’s ride through.
In fourteenth, it was Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing), who also scored his first MotoGP points after a pretty quiet weekend for the reigning Moto2 World Champion. Johann Zarco (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) took the final point in fifteenth.
Hafizh Syahrin (Red Bull KTM Tech3) had a much better weekend aboard the RC16 this weekend, and came home sixteenth, only two seconds behind Zarco, and just under three seconds ahead of Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) who had a nightmare weekend, finishing seventeenth and last of the finishers.
There were five retirements: the Reale Avintia Racing pairing of Karel Abraham and Tito Rabat went down within a lap of each other, whilst Joan Mir retired the Team Suzuki Ecstar GSX-RR in the pit lane with four laps to go, before Morbidelli and Vinales crashed out on the final lap.