2016 MotoGP Mid-Season Review Part 6: Jorge Lorenzo

We continue our mid-season look at the performance of the MotoGP riders with the reigning world champion, Jorge Lorenzo.

2nd: Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha, 122 points

Who is the real Jorge Lorenzo? Like Marc Márquez, it sometimes looks like Jorge Lorenzo's place has been taken by an impostor in Movistar Yamaha leathers. The swap would have taken place at Barcelona: in the first six races of the season, Lorenzo's results included three wins, two second places and a crash in tricky conditions in Argentina. From Barcelona onwards, Lorenzo was taken out by Andrea Iannone as he dropped down through the field, a tenth and a fifteenth place finish. Tenth at Assen was Lorenzo's worst finish in MotoGP since his rookie season. Three weeks later, he had his worst finish in Grand Prix racing since 2004.

What has happened to Lorenzo? It is hard to say whether his results at Assen and the Sachsenring represent a decline of Lorenzo's form, or whether they were merely a collapse in confidence in difficult conditions at two of the circuits which have caused him the most physical and mental pain in the past.

With a couple of weeks break to put Assen and the Sachsenring into perspective, you have to suspect the latter. Jorge Lorenzo turned up at the Sepang tests looking fitter and slimmer than he had ever done before, and proceeded to dismantle the opposition. He was out for revenge, and started 2016 wanting to prove that he had deserved the 2015 title, and not been handed it by Marc Márquez. His only mistake up until Barcelona had been the crash at Argentina, when he went slightly off line and lost the front in a bizarre flag-to-flag race.

Yet that mistake may well point the way to Lorenzo's underlying weakness. In the history of motorcycle racing, there are few riders capable of matching Lorenzo for outright pace and precision. But Lorenzo needs one thing, above all: he must have confidence in the bike, and confidence in the feedback from the tires, especially the front. Without that feedback, he cannot carry the corner speed and lean angle which are his hallmark.

There have been times in 2016 when he has lacked that confidence. At Argentina, he tried to compensate by pushing harder and trying to stay with the leading group, forcing himself into an error which would prove costly. At Barcelona, he did not push hard, and found himself sliding down the order when he was collected by a rash move by Andrea Iannone. In Germany and Holland, awful conditions left him rattled and unwilling to push. That is a legacy of 2013, when he crashed just three times all year. Two of those crashes came at Assen and the Sachsenring. He broke his collarbone both times.

Yet there is also a sense that Lorenzo is not just lacking confidence in his bike, but in the team which surrounds him. His switch to Ducati was in part motivated by a feeling that Yamaha was not fully behind him. It has been telling that so far, only one of his crew will follow him to Ducati. Neither crew chief Ramon Forcada nor team manager Wilco Zeelenberg, both instrumental in Lorenzo's success, will make the switch, preferring to stay with Yamaha.

Is Yamaha really letting Lorenzo down? That is unthinkable for an organization as professional as Yamaha Motor Racing. But the facts on the ground are not as important as the perception of those facts in the mind of the rider. Being successful at this level of motorcycle racing is 90% mental. If Lorenzo believes that his crew are not behind him, that is enough to slow him down a couple of tenths. If Yamaha can once again instill faith in his crew in Lorenzo, then the Spaniard will be a formidable opponent for the rest of 2016. If they can't, then it will be a long year.


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Comments

I'm lost here: are you confirming that Forcada and Zeelenberg chose NOT to.go to.Ducati? If you remember at the beginning of all the rumors of JL move to Ducati word was that Dall'Igna did not want them. On the other hand last year there were rumors that Lorenzo wanted to sack Forcada.. if we got to the bottom of this all would be much clearer. Let's say that both Forcada and Zeelenberg decided to stay (just an assumption on my part) is it because they are so faithful to Yamaha that they cannot conceive the thought of leaving ? Or they don't want to work with JL any longer? And why?
As for.JL confidence in his crew: can this happen overnight? Until the Ducati announcement all seemed fine. So JL switches manufacturer and becomes paranoid? In one moment throws away years of collaboration with one of the most dedicated and skilled crews of the paddock ? I think there is a big difference between being upset with Yamaha management about canceling the party and not celebrating his WC victory and the unquestioned total support he was getting from his crew which I don't think changed. Or did it?
IMO i think that deep down what's bothering JL, besides the Michelin tires, is that his move to Ducati was more out of spite rather than desire. He expected to be treated better than VR forgetting that in 2010 Yamaha did the same thing in reversed roles. And to be fair at the time VR was their golden child, a status Lorenzo never managed to achieve.

yes i know, compared how VR manages his camp, which is go as 1 legion to ducati, what JL condition now not very convincing, BUT by gigi alone managing JL it doesn't mean it's lack of firepower, you and i know how their relationship in the past, and i hope gigi doing something about JL refusal to racing hard ... man even i feel bad for JL, even maverick know what to do if he cannot win the race, maverick try to slow the opponent down to keep his chance open, don't you remember how frustated Dani with maverick making a mess haha... but that's the truth, the truth of racing, and maverick is being honest for trying to grab dani position..
the question is, will gigi put JL back on his sense of racing?

Lorenzo's Biaggi-esque Promethean temperament seems to carry a different set of limitations than our Dionysian racers. More effort, less flexibility. They struggle in the popularity contests. But they bring the Alien territory down to the Earthly mortal atmospheric reach time and again, reaching from here with desire for skillfulness. The Rossi/Marquez/Sheene folks are dancing out in the open space and the ground isn't for effortful leverage. Glad for the diversity out there. He's got my respect, and inconsistent admiration.

He and the Yamaha are a special pairing. The Ducati will not be like that. After this season that may he a good thing for him, he can compartmentalize the Michelin - Yamaha experience, seal it up with resentment towards Yamaha organization Vale favoritism, then use it as a step up onto the Ducati with a dash of prideful striving. He has this thing in hand in his own manner, and he and the Ducati may well do something wonderful. One of his legs and that big X are already red. Italy and Spain are ready for a bridge of a gap. It is a bit of a homecoming to his Aprilia roots. And he will be welcomed into quite a culture of passion. In which he will always seem just a touch out of place, but that doesn't matter much for Lorenzo...it is the achievement via skill development that drives him for HIM and those close to him. He doesn't need wide admiration or greater harmony to thrive (unlike Marquez, which makes his late 2015 --> early 2016 experience much more significant). And that's a big pile of hams! I am guessing he knows exactly what his net worth is right now off the top of his head. If asked, Marquez would be puzzled for a moment, shrug, laugh, and say that he is thinking about buying something special he wished for as a child.