The twelfth round of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship took place in a strangely warm Silverstone, as Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) took a dramatic victory.
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) took the holeshot from his 60th MotoGP pole position in his 120th premier class start. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Alex Rins were behind the championship leader.
Rins lost the rear of his GSX-RR on the exit of the first corner, and Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) rolled the throttle in reaction. The Frenchman’s response caused him to lose the rear of his YZR-M1, and it flicked him. It was unfortunate for the #20, who had been fast all weekend and looked to be a guaranteed factor in the podium fight. However, instead of a trophy, Quartararo left Silverstone with a concussion.
Things were slightly worse for Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), who was right behind Quartararo when he went down. The Italian had nowhere to go, so hit the Petronas Yamaha and went down, his Desmosedici GP20 bursting into flames as it hurtled towards the barriers. Dovizioso himself had to be carried away on a stretcher which, somehow, was able to be done by the marshals before the rest of the pack completed the first lap, and thus there was no need for a red flag. Dovizioso was carried behind the barriers, where he was able to stand up. The #04 displayed signs of memory loss, and so had to be taken to hospital, where it was confirmed that he had no significant injury.
Back to the British GP and Marquez was leading from Rossi, who was coming under pressure from Rins. That did not last long, though, as the Spaniard passed Rossi for third into turn eight on lap two with an impressive out-braking manoeuvre, taking yards out of Rossi into the Vale chicane. It was here that Rossi’s prospective struggles became apparent, immediately dropping off the back of Rins, out of the lead fight, and further into the clutches of fourth-placed teammate Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP).
Vinales was eventually able to pass Rossi on lap seven in turn seven. But by this point he was over two seconds back of his two leading compatriots and with a lot of work to do. The bigger problem for Vinales’ victory hopes than his gap to the front was his lack of superior pace to the leading pair, who were able to keep the gap to him relatively stable throughout the majority of the remaining thirteen laps.
That meant it was a duel between Marquez and Rins. As in Austria, Marquez led for the majority of the race, showing Rins the way, showing Rins his rear tyre; where he was strong, where he was weak. Marquez knew this, and around the mid-point of the race slowed to allow Rins through. The #42, though, saw Marquez’ tactics, and the threat they posed, so allowed the #93 back through six corners after he took the lead. Rins was entirely uninterested in showing Marquez anything, knowing that the seven-times World Champion is always capable of finding more time than you expect, especially with a target to aim at.
Rins followed Marquez from lap two until the penultimate lap, when he made a move at Aintree, which was a surprise. The Suzuki rider had been especially strong on corner entry, in the last part of the braking, so to pass in a corner with no braking zone was strange. But Marquez fought straight back, reclaiming the lead into the next corner at Brooklands.
At this point, Rins saw he had one chance left. This was strange for a penultimate lap, but Rins thought it was the final lap; he tried to ride round the outside of Marquez in Woodcote. Whilst Rins led, officially, onto the final lap, Marquez had – rightly – forced him out onto the run-off area on the outside of Woodcote. Unlike in 2014, at Brno, when Rins thought the penultimate lap was the final lap, the Spaniard did not completely roll out of the throttle on this occasion, and was able to re-engage before the first corner of the final lap. But he was never able to get close enough to make a move on the brakes.
Marquez defended very well, taking excessively tight lines and blocking the path of the flowing Suzuki, meaning Rins was not able to try to pass before the final section. He knew he had to try to out-drive Marquez and the Honda through the final corner, and when Marquez had a slide in the middle of it, he sensed his opportunity, cut to the inside and took the victory on the line by 0.013 seconds, the second MotoGP win of his career in another battle with one of the greatest of the sport’s history.
Second place for Marquez represented another final corner defeat to a rider with superior rear grip on the right side of the tyre. It also represented a twenty-point increase in his championship advantage thanks to Dovizioso’s retirement from the race, an advantage which now sits at 78 points, and an extension of his top two finishing record which stretches back to Austria 2018.
Maverick Vinales’ third place was a welcome return to the podium for the Spaniard having missed it since the summer break. The #12 was close to his compatriots at the end courtesy of them fighting in the penultimate lap and Marquez’ protective lines. In reality Vinales’ only shot at victory was an overly ambitious move from one of the front two. Perhaps to be only in a somewhat detached third place was disappointing for Yamaha, having looked like they could be with three bikes on the podium through the weekend.
Fourth place for Valentino Rossi was determined from the start, where he missed performance from the rear tyre and was unable to match the speed of the Spanish trio who finished ahead of him. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL) and Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) were eight seconds back of Rossi and split by Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team), the ex-teammates also suffering with rear tyre problems in the race which saw them lapping over one second slower than they had in practice.
Between Rossi in fourth and Crutchlow in sixth was Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) who equalled his best finish of the season with fifth, completing a strong weekend in a good way, albeit thirteen seconds adrift of the win.
Behind Miller in eighth were Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) who completed the top ten, good results for both factories.
Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) saw his race weekend go sour in qualifying, where he lost grip. The Italian was unable to rediscover the grip lost on Saturday afternoon and ended up fifteen seconds adrift of the top ten in eleventh place, five seconds ahead of Joan Mir’s replacement at Team Suzuki Ecstar, Sylvain Guintoli. Hafizh Syahrin (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) was thirteenth ahead of the returning Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team) and Karel Abaham (Reale Avintia Racing) who completed.
Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing) suffered a crash, but got back on to finish sixteenth ahead of fellow crasher Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU) who also got back on for seventeenth, and was the final classified rider.
After Quartararo and Dovizioso were out on the first lap, Johann Zarco (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) collided on lap nine, for which Zarco received a three-place grid penalty for the next round in Misano. The final retirement was Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) on the last lap.