The fourteenth round of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship took place at MotorLand Aragon, as Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) dominated proceedings to record an eighth victory of the season.
It was a lights-to-flag beat-down of the opposition by Marquez, winning in the end by 4.836 seconds after slowing over the line to celebrate his latest triumph – the seventy-seventh of his career in just his two-hundredth start. Other important and alarming numbers from Marquez include his points advantage in the championship, which now stands at ninety-eight, meaning the Spaniard can wrap up his eighth world title at the next race in Thailand.
This victory, and the style in which it came, was predictable from FP1, when the World Championship leader led the session by 1.6 seconds over Maverick Vinales, who was the only rider within two seconds of Marquez. This year it has been easy to say that Marquez’ life has been made simpler, by a Honda which is as fast as the Ducati in a straight line, and faster than all the other bikes, meaning he does not have to push so far over the limit as in the past when the RC213V was relatively slow. However, the gap to the second Honda, Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL), at the flag on Sunday was 10.390 seconds. In a period in MotoGP where the entire field can be within 1.5 seconds of each other over one lap, and a top fifteen within twenty seconds or less, the amount of time Marquez put into his opposition in MotorLand was nothing short of astounding, and for his rivals it was another demoralising exhibition of talent from the twenty-six-year-old.
Behind Marquez there was a good fight, the Aragon GP being almost reminiscent of the World Superbike rounds of early-2019 when Alvaro Bautista was capable of clearing off by fifteen seconds or more. Surprisingly, it was Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) who led the fight for second early on, before being overhauled by Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) after the Spaniard had passed and dropped Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT).
After Vinales passed Miller he decided to chase Marquez. This would prove to be a mistake from the #12, as he stressed his tyres excessively, leaving him defenceless at the end when both Miller and Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso arrived with superior grip and superior power. It is easy to pick this hole in Vinales’ plan, but he was almost cornered into it. Vinales’ M1 is significantly slower in the straights than the Ducatis of Miller and Dovizioso, so he could not afford to sit behind Miller and wait for the final lap, or towards the end of the race, because Miller would have been able to fight back with the straight line speed and braking stability of the Desmosedici. Nor could Vinales pass Miller and then sit half a second ahead of him to protect his tyres, since that too would have left him vulnerable to an attack he would have been unequipped to repel. Therefore, trying to escape was Vinales’ only option in view of making the podium and yet it was the strategy which cost him the trophy. This highlights the necessity for Yamaha to continue to work to give its riders a more competitive package for next season, one which is not so vulnerable in the straights in particular.
Whilst it was a difficult race for Vinales and Yamaha to miss the podium on a track they were proving to be – surprisingly – quite competitive at, for Ducati a double podium was almost a miracle. Misano had been a disaster for Ducati and, apart from Miller’s lap to put him on the second row on Saturday in Aragon, it was looking as though it could be another tough race for the Bologna bikes. Dovizioso’s pace, though, was good, and the Italian made a decent start and made good progress from the fourth row to arrive in third place with ten laps to go, whilst Miller had a brilliant beginning to the race and looked after his tyres well. Both of them were able to take advantage of the grip-less Vinales in the end, and bring Ducati its first double podium since Brno, where the podium was identical to the one in Aragon.
Three seconds behind the battle for the podium, Fabio Quartararo was the second Yamaha over the line in fifth, fifteen seconds ahead of the next Yamaha, Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), in eighth. Cal Crutchlow was sixth, ten seconds off the win but after a much better weekend than Misano. Perhaps the biggest surprise of Aragon was Aprilia, with Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) starting from fifth and finishing seventh, although the RSGP always seems to work well in MotorLand. Behind Espargaro were Rossi, Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU) who completed the top ten.
It should have been much more for Rins, who had podium potential, but taking out Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) on the opening lap in turn twelve dropped the #42 to nineteenth and a subsequent long-lap penalty further compromised his race, leaving him ninth.
Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) finished where he started – eleventh – after fighting with Nakagami, Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team, twelfth) and Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3, thirteenth) for most of the race. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was last for six laps after a mistake on lap four cost him seven seconds. The Spaniard recovered to fourteenth, finishing ahead of compatriot Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing) who completed the points.
Sixteenth place went to Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) after another difficult weekend for the Italian who was ahead of Mika Kallio (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) – the lone factory RC16 rider finishing seventeenth on his first replacement ride for Johann Zarco due to Pol Espargaro’s withdrawal from the race following his FP4 crash on Saturday. Karel Abraham (Reale Avintia Racing) was eighteenth ahead of wildcard Bradley Smith (Aprilia Racing Team) and Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team) who was disappointed in twentieth. Hafizh Syahrin (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) was the only rider behind Lorenzo, the Malaysian being the final classified finisher in twenty-first.
Featured Image courtesy of Jamie Olivers/Box Repsol