2017 Mugello Sunday Round Up: Il Canto Degli Italiani

Each MotoGP event has its own character. Ostensibly, most Grand Prix are the national races of a particular country. The Grand Prix of Great Britain. The Czech Grand Prix. The Grand Prix of The Americas. Most, however, are only the national Grand Prix by virtue of taking place in a particular country. A few, a very few, are much more than that. There are only really two races which fully embody the national character of the country which holds them though: the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez, and of course, the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello.

This year, Mugello was rendered even more Italian by virtue of the fact that it started on the Festa della Repubblica, the day on which Italy celebrates its founding as a republic at the end of the Second World War. It was a moment for Italian teams and Italian riders to break out Tricolore-themed liveries and helmets. The Sky VR46 team added a tasteful green, white, and red pinstripe to their mainly black fairings. The Forward Racing team clad their bikes and riders in a particularly well-done green, white, and red fairing and leathers. Valentino Rossi added a homage to an Italian soccer legend which was only really comprehensible to those steeped in the Italian language and Italian sport.

The home crowds

The pressure on Italian riders to perform is immense. They lie awake at night imagining a thousand different ways to triumph, to win a race. They find extra motivation to train harder to prepare, to ride harder during practice, to race harder on Sunday. Valentino Rossi was a case in point: ten days ago, he was hospitalized with internal injuries after a motocross crash. He could barely conceive of even taking part in the race at Mugello, yet on Sunday, he started from the front row, with race pace in practice that gave him a genuine shot at the podium. And perhaps even more...

It's not just Italian riders. The Ducati grandstand fills with Ducatisti from around the world, many of whom have traveled the Passo della Futa, the glorious road which twists its way through the Tuscan hills from Ducati's factory in Bologna all the way to the circuit at Mugello, then on to Florence. It is the road where, legend has it, every Ducati road bike is tested to test it has the character which the Italian marque demands. Ducati fans come to Mugello hoping to celebrate a Ducati success.

To give themselves the best chance of living up to – or even exceeding – expectations, Ducati spent two days testing to prepare, including one day with factory riders Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo. They had no new parts to test, all they were doing was chasing a setup, something that would give them an advantage in front of their home crowds. Italy expects.

History in the making

At Mugello, Italy's expectations would be fulfilled. For the first time since 2014, when Romano Fenati won the Moto3 race, the Italian national anthem - Il Canto degli Italiani – rang out through the valley which cradles the track. It rang out not once, but three times, something which had not happened since 2008, when Simone Corsi, Marco Simoncelli, and Valentino Rossi won in 125s, 250s, and the MotoGP class respectively.

It got even better than that for Italy. Andrea Dovizioso became the first Italian rider to win a race on Italian soil on an Italian bike since Mattia Pasini on an Aprilia RSA 250 at Mugello in 2009. And he became the first Italian rider to win a race in the premier class in Italy on an Italian bike since Gianfranco Bonera at Imola, riding a 500cc MV Agusta. It was truly a historic day for Italy, in Italy.

Best of all was the fact that Mugello served up three utterly breathtaking races. The slipstream at Mugello meant that Moto3 turned into a mass brawl, with sixteen riders crossing the line to start the final lap within a second of each other. Andrea Migno turned out to be the smartest of the bunch, pushing hard on that final lap to make a break, taking only Fabio Di Giannantonio in his wake, but going hard enough to just edge home for the win.

Moto2 followed much the same path, this time with three riders battling it out for victory. In a stunning last lap, Tom Luthi passed Alex Márquez and Mattia Pasini into and through San Donato to take the lead, before Pasini passed first Márquez through Casanova and Savelli, then Luthi at Arrabbiata 1 in two of the finest moves you will see all season, then holding on to win again, his first since that day in 2009.

The people's favorite

And finally MotoGP. The premier class lived up to its name, bringing breathtaking early laps followed by a fierce and tense battle for victory in the latter stages. After Valentino Rossi faded from out of podium contention, as the aftermath of his motocross crash started to take its toll, the crowd swung behind the two Italians still left in the podium battle. In the end, Dovizioso prevailed, and Danilo Petrucci could not stay ahead of Maverick Viñales, but to cap a day of Italian success with a Ducati on the top step, ridden by an Italian, was everything the crowd could have asked for.

If the crowd were enthusiastic at the end of the race, they had far more mixed feelings at the start. Valentino Rossi fired into the lead on the first lap, but as the bikes came back around the circuit to fire down the front straight, Jorge Lorenzo used the rocketship power of the Desmosedici GP17 to blast into the lead. He couldn't quite hold on at San Donato, but as they climbed up through Luca and Poggio Secco, Lorenzo thrust his way rudely into the lead.

The crowd were uncertain whether to boo or cheer. Lorenzo is deeply unloved in this part of Italy: he has committed the unpardonable crime in the past of beating Valentino Rossi at Mugello on the same bike. But Lorenzo was riding a Ducati, and showing every sign of being able to bring the Italian factory their first win of 2017.

Not as fast as he looks

Looks proved to be deceiving. Lorenzo held on for another lap and a half, before Rossi put a decisive move on the Spaniard through Scarperia. The Ducati was pushed out wide, allowing both Rossi and his teammate Viñales to get past. From that point, Lorenzo gradually lost ground, eventually crossing the line in eighth.

Lorenzo was brutally honest about what happened in those early laps at Mugello. "I wasn't fast enough," he said. "I have more top speed and I was very brave, but I wasn’t fastest." His first flying laps were a 1'48.8 and a 1'48.6, where the others were quickly heading for the low 1'48s, and towards the high 1'47s. Lorenzo could not match the pace, and was dropped.

His problem, he explained later, was that he was still struggling to get the best from the bike. He was not using the strong point of the bike, failing to maximize the strength of the bike on corner entry and on the brakes, and trying to carry lean angle and corner speed, something which the Ducati simply did not want to do. The problem with the bike not wanting to turn needed to be fixed, Lorenzo said, but he also needed to fix his riding style, to brake later and deeper. Having learned to ride one way – carrying corner speed – for the past twenty years, it would take some time to adapt, Lorenzo said.

Relentless

With Lorenzo gone, a three-way battle unfolded during the middle section of the race. Viñales led the way, while Dovizioso and Rossi sniped at each other behind the Spaniard, though there was really nothing to choose between the top three. Viñales seemed to have everything under control, but he was unable to withstand the onslaught of top speed the Ducati would unleash down the front straight.

On lap 14, Viñales' defenses failed. The Ducati came past along the front straight, then Dovizioso pushed a little harder to open a gap. Danilo Petrucci followed a lap later, and looked like he would chase Dovizioso down, but that proved illusory. Once his tires and his fitness went, Viñales was back, to take second from him, and then Rossi looked like he might think about taking the final podium spot from Petrucci.

Mr. Popular

"When I was fourth behind Maverick, Dovi and Valentino, I say, okay, you are fourth," Petrucci narrated in the press conference. "Wait the last lap. But after a moment I said, okay, it’s your home Grand Prix. Try. I try with Valentino. I pass him. Then after one lap I pass Maverick. But then I say, okay, there is left only one rider. Try with Dovi, but was not so easy. Was very, very close. Then for stay with him I finish my rear tire. I finish the breath, I finish my tire, I finish my head, and I say, manage to stay up."

Once Viñales got back past Petrucci with four laps to go, he started to believe he could still get the win. The Movistar Yamaha rider put in a supreme effort to cut the gap from 1.2 seconds to 0.8 seconds, but Dovizioso saw, and responded. On the penultimate lap, Dovizioso matched the pace of a rampaging Viñales, the Spaniard on a bike that was on the ragged edge of control. The Italian upped the pace once again, and Viñales couldn't follow, deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, and that 20 points in the hand are worth more than risking a crash trying to salvage 25 points from the bush.

No question marks here

It was a remarkable win for Andrea Dovizioso. His third victory in MotoGP, but this one was by far the cleanest, and the most deserved. His previous wins, at Donington in 2009 and Sepang in 2016, were both taken in the wet. Victory at Mugello was taken in a dry race, and with no extenuating circumstances whatsoever. The weather was perfect for motorcycle racing, nobody crashed out, nor was anyone missing due to injury. This was Andrea Dovizioso simply riding faster than everyone else on the day.

Dovizioso's victory is just deserts for all the hard work Dovizioso has put into the project since joining in 2013. The Desmosedici has been developed very much based on the Italian's input, and he has remained patient while others have come and gone. After Dani Pedrosa, Dovizioso is probably the most underrated rider on the grid. Mugello 2017 showed exactly why.

It was also something of a comeback for Dovizioso. He had woken up at 4am in the morning vomiting and feeling terrible, having come down with some form of food poisoning. That had forced him to sit out the morning warm up, only rolling out to do a quick lap to check the bike over, then going out to do practice starts.

His pace had taken even him by surprise. "I was scared to lose the energy during the race," Dovizioso told the press conference. "But the reality was I was able to ride fast in a smooth way, that for me make a big difference during the race to stay behind Maverick. I understood his positive point and my positive point. Ten laps to the end I decide to overtake him but without a strategy. I saw, we are fourth. It’s better to be in front. We will see. But after I realize nobody have margin to be faster."

Saving his skin

For Viñales, Mugello was an exercise in damage limitation. He took home 20 points in the championship, after deciding that a sure 20 points beat the possibility of crashing out while chasing 25. His patience was rewarded: Viñales' lead in the championship grew from 17 points to 26, mainly because of what happened behind him. Dani Pedrosa, unable to get any kind of feeling in his tires, and struggling to gain control over the bike, crashed out of the race taking Cal Crutchlow with him.

That dropped Pedrosa from second in the championship to fifth, while race winner Dovizioso leapfrogged the rest to jump up into second. Viñales increased his gap over this teammate from 23 to 30 points, and his gap over Marc Márquez from 27 points to 37 points. Though Dovizioso's win made it four different winners in six MotoGP races this year, it is Viñales who is seeing luck run his way, and extending his championship lead.

Petrux Rox

If Andrea Dovizioso's win was a popular one, Danilo Petrucci's podium was just as big a hit with the crowds. Petrucci has shown his potential in the past, getting on the podium in the wet at Silverstone in 2015. But this podium meant more to him. "If anyone ask me what can you give for stay on the podium on Sunday? I say okay, I can sell my house for stay on the podium here," he said. He had crashed twice on Saturday, and had a lap time canceled during Q2 that would have put him on the front row. But he came through on Sunday, to triumph.

Petrucci's podium place meant Valentino Rossi had to settle for fourth. He was resigned, but content after the race. "For sure is a great shame for the podium, because it's always a more important target here at Mugello in front of all the crowd," Rossi said. "And sincerely, I believed I could do it, because in the practice I was quite fast. But inside of me, I knew that 23 laps would be difficult because I suffer more than normal, and during the practice, when you do four or five laps, you can recover, but all in a row is more difficult. Already eight laps to go I was finished, and I start to suffer more. And when you ride this bike and you are not at 100% in movement on the bike, everything becomes more difficult."

First you must finish

Alvaro Bautista crossed the line in fifth, delighted to get some points back on the board. After two DNFs in a row, both his own fault, his aim had been first just to finish the race. On Saturday, when we asked him about the fact that his pace looked good for the top five, Bautista replied that his objective was only to finish. So crossing the line in fifth, and holding off Marc Márquez in the attempt, gave the Spaniard a deep sense of satisfaction.

This fifth place was better than his fourth in Argentina, Bautista explained. He had inherited a couple of spots at Termas De Rio Hondo, he said, after both Márquez and Pedrosa had crashed out ahead of him. This result had been entirely earned.

That left Marc Márquez stuck in sixth place, and unable to do anything more. The problem was a familiar one: with a lack of acceleration and top speed, the Repsol Honda rider had been forced to rely on the exceptional braking ability of the RC213V. But the front tires which Michelin had brought to Mugello were not hard enough to support the massive loads the Honda places on them, and that had left Márquez struggling.

Tire talk

"When I was in the middle of the group I saw I was taking a lot of risks in the corners and two bikes overtook me on the straight at the same time," Márquez said. "It was difficult to manage that situation with the front tire. I went out with the medium because the right side was harder than the hard option; it was not mandatory but it was the only option I had. I was able to do twelve laps – more or less – on the hard and the tire was destroyed."

Cal Crutchlow was a little more vociferous in his complaint about the front Michelin. "It was always going to be difficult to beat the Ducatis here with the tire allocation," Crutchlow said. "The front tires were too soft for Dani. The hardest front tire was way too soft for Dani, so how are me and Marc feeling, and Jack? It was pointless to even turn up, especially when we have a last lap like that. We may as well have stayed at home because we were just chasing our tail all weekend with the front tire. I wonder when they'll start helping us as a manufacturer out because they seem to be helping everyone else out."

It is not entirely fair to allege some kind of conspiracy to allow the Ducatis to win at Mugello. It is true that the front tires do not suit the Hondas, but the issue is more that the Honda places extraordinary loads on the front tire, which none of the other manufacturers do. As a result, the tires Michelin brings are a happy medium between suiting the buttery smooth style of, say, Johann Zarco, and the harsh braking loads placed upon them by the Hondas. Michelin are building tires to suit the median, but the Honda is very much a 99th percentile bike when it comes to braking.

From Mugello, the circus packs up and heads to Barcelona, just a short week away. They arrive to something of an unknown, as the newly reconfigured chicane will have a major effect on the track. After three Italians taking the honors at their home Grand Prix at Mugello, would you bet against three Catalans doing the same at Montmelo?


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Total votes: 114
Total votes: 108

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Comments

It is not beyond imagination that anti-Honda sentiment has penetrated Dorna; after all from a business point of view domination by one manufacturer seems to dim fan interest, so there may be little pressure on Michelin to change the situation (unlike Bridgestone, where among entrants in MotoGP, Honda was by far their largest OEM customer - Ducati parent VW has to be Michelin's).

So does Honda build a completely different bike for 2018, or do their own arm-twisting by threatening to withdraw (not something Dorna wants either) if the tyre situation is not improved?  Past precedence is not of much help, since we have seen Honda do both when they feel the playing field is not level (or in Honda speak, let the company who puts the most resources into racing win).

Total votes: 98

thanks David.  Also interesting to read your thoughts about Sunday's tyres and the Honda.  Enjoyed the honesty from all the riders post race interviews, from Lorenzo admitting he has a way to go yet and basically unlearn his previous style, to Rossi admitting that he was pretty lucky just to be racing this weekend.  I particularly liked Cal's final comment regarding Dani's take down.  After accepting an apology his frank asssessment of brain fades that they are part of racing and that he is also not exempt from having them.  Lastly, well done Dovi.

Total votes: 109

I've got to comment on Dovi's "celebration" in front of the Ducati grandstand after the race. He got off the bike and with his back to the grandstand bent over and patted his posterior. I assume he was tapping the "Desmo Dovi" moniker on his leathers. It could just have easily been interpreted as "kiss my a--". I'm sure he caught some flak for that one.

Total votes: 133

Doubtfull, as "kiss my a--" is a regional colloquialism, not a universal expression. Acually ass to most of the world is an equine sub genus that contains donkeys and only in the North American variation of English is it an informal term for buttocks. Speaking of funny labels ever wonder what WLF means on Rossi's leathers?

 

Total votes: 92

I might have an answer but i cannot ever write it down.... too crude, very frat boys like.
if i find a confirmation that it's really what i think i will try some euphemism to give you some chaste version :)

Total votes: 94

W La Ferrari
the W stands for viva which translates to "all hail" or "long live"
But that's just the official version
the F stands for an anatomical part of the female body.... and I'll say no more
He has had it for a very long time and if you notice he tries not to show it too much. Basically he would probably want to take it off his leathers, but being superstitious my guess is that he cannot. For fear of bad luck.

Total votes: 99

In the post race press conference Dovi was asked about the celebration in front of the Ducati stands, where he pointed to his butt, and he confirmed that he was indeed simply pointing to his "Desmo Dovi" logo.

Total votes: 99

A tremendous trifecta of races. Italians x 3 on the top step, on Fiesta Della Republica. Great riding pushing to the edge  in all 3 classes.  Sunday at Mugello this year offered a perfect distillation of the passion that runs so deep in and defines Italy. A true 3 course feast.  Who could ask for more?

If MotoGP doesn't work out Petrux might have a future in stand-up. He is truly funny. Dovi had some very insightful comments about the relative strengths and weaknesses of bikes at different tracks. A well-deserved well-earned win. Dovi's description of how small differences can result in big gaps at different tracks was not only insightful but spot-on. i enjoyed his self-description about being "realistic."  Maverick maintains a mature  "championship" outlook in his comments about being satisfied with 20 points. 

Thanks for getting us such a good piece so quickly. I particularly enjoyed the "tire talk" part. Just like the riders, you make something that is devilishly difficult to do well consistently seem easy when it certainly is not. Let's all wish for more of the same level of competition, outstanding clean hard close racing at Barcelona and in the following weeks. Races like Mugello  make it worthwhile for this old guy not to go to bed on Saturday night here on the US West Coast so I can watch live.  Looking forward to Barcelona.  Mille grazie!

Total votes: 102

Is it as simple as saying that Honda is loading the front of the bike too much? if that is the case a simple move of loading the rear should do the trick right? 

lets say the above statement is true, then why are the honda guys blaming the tire allocation so much?, they can might as well re configure the bike loading... 

I am not well experienced hence I am a bit confused.

Total votes: 81

Honda lacks acceleration(back wheel spins & wheelie),  their riders need to brake deep to gain back the time lost therefore overused the front.  If they improved on acceleration and top speed, they don't need to ride bike this way.

 

Total votes: 82

I'm no race engineer but allow me a stab at this...

Bear in mind that, under straight line braking, these bikes are basically balanced on the front wheel. Moving weight back would allow greater deceleration before the rear wheel lifted. Which would mean *greater* braking load on the front tyre. The trade off is that the bike would be more prone to wheelie.

My guess is that the Honda's mass may be a little further back than the others but the key issue is that it's lower in the frame. But I'm only guessing...

Does anyone have more understanding or, better yet, information?

PS: As an aside, about Cal's comments... If I was Honda (ie Nakamoto), I'd be pressuring Michelin for a tyre that suited. And if it didn't suit other teams so much the better. Hell, I'm sure the other teams are doing the same. Getting a satellite rider to make some forthright comments might be a more diplomatic approach. Think plausible deniability!

Total votes: 108

Surely, the general admittance areas at Phillip Island encapsulates our culture as well as any European round does theirs....

Total votes: 81

Cal made himself look stupid by saying michelin helps all the others when are they helping us!!

If the tires are working for everybuddy its not up to michelin to give Honda what they want its Honda who has to respond.
If im not mistaken mm still has the 2014 frame and didnt like any other frame honda brought and standing stil is going backwards. Mm aint no development rider and it seems dp aint to.
Dovi said Honda wants him back but he would be a fool if he would.
Cs left because they didnt listen to him. That was a big mistake.

Total votes: 90

Thanks David for the great write up. Yes, it was truly an amazing day with amazing races. Very emotional too, Nicky in everybody's heart and mind.
Moto 3 was so entertaining. There were moments it was as though we were watching a recap and not the actual race: one turn Bulega is P1 and the next is P12 then Fenati is P3 and then, one flinch of the eyes and there he is : P13! And that final lap ! Who would have thought Migno!? He may not have the sheer natural talent of others but what he lacks there he compensates with determination hard work and passion. And then comes Moto 2.... Pasini final lap is pure perfection. To be watched over and over again. People probably got accustomed to say "Pasini who?" And now they will say you know the guy that smoked everyone in Mugello with breathtaking passes on the final lap to victory.
And then Dovi: I'm truly happy for him. Often we say about him that he thinks too much and that prevents him from being more successful. I think there is some truth in it. Personally I find disgraceful that they cut his pay down and that now he gets one twelfth of JL salary. And Petrucci! Another nice guy who gave it all and got a deserved podium.
So yesterday it was underdogs day and the crowd just loved it. As I did.
The one thing that comes out in all this is that so far the only certainty is Vinales on top. Who's gonna stop him?
VR must be thinking that he lost 20 precious points in Le Mans and it will cost him dearly. I thought his helmet was going to be a remake of the Donkey....
Considering his physical condition he did great. I think that without injuries he could have won.... or at least put up an epic fight with Dovi.
One final remark, David: it's extremely unfair and rather inaccurate to state that the Mugello crowd doesn't love Lorenzo because he beat Rossi on Italian soil.... Come on, you know better than that. And both you and me and many many others could fill an entire book with reasons why people don't like Lorenzo without even having to mention that he beat Rossi. Interesting enough, not even the Ducati grandstand, that sea of people in red, wholeheartedly cheered him.... even they, the Ducati forever people, find it difficult to like him.....and as long as he gets 12" from his team mate and is beaten by Petrucci and he is spared further humiliation by Pirro's choice to stay behind him well.... There won't be much love. But please don't make that kind of statement when you know that it's much more complex than that.
Ah what an interesting season!

Total votes: 150

It's very short sighted and extremely presumptuous to vilify those fans on such a weak pretence. If Lorenzo is unloved, which there is enormous amounts of evidence to suggest that he is, its of his own making-mostly off-track. And what is clear in this case, is that they are not paying to come and see him anyway.

This is the narrative of a lot of the online Anti-Rossi brigade, for which some colourful descriptive adjectives also apply, dissappointing to see it embedded in this otherwise fine article.

Total votes: 118

Thks for the great write up David.

About Dovi's victory. I consider myself as a Dovi fanboy. I greatly support this rider and i always felt he was a kinda underestimated rider. the fact he's a great guy who always behaves and speaks in a good way doesn't hurt.  So I'm sincerely happy for this well deserved victory. I'm also a Ducati fan so I should enjoy the ride quietly but it's not the case.

Lorenzo was at Le mans and even more in Italy on tracks heshould be almost unbeatable and in 2017 he finished very far from the front with no real sign of any competitiveness. At the beginning of the 2017 season, i told to a friend if lorenzo wouldn't be at least on the podium in Italy, the whole adventure with Ducati would sound compromised to my ears. Lorenzo is 8th , didn't exhibit any pace that could help him to take a slot on the podium.

As much as i can be happy with Dovi's victory, i don't see any shining future here. He's a very good rider but not a title contender and i'm afraid this victory could lead Ducati to a dead end. if they want to compete for the title they can't keep a bike that allows Dovi or Petrucci to win a few races and podiums here or there. They definitely need to change something whereas such victory could make Ducati choose the easiest way and think their bike is good enough for a title.  I'm not that confident anymore in Lorenzo/Ducati success to say the least. 

My 2 cents.  

Total votes: 78

This race was an unmitigated disaster for Jorge, and the decision to leave Yamaha is looking like a huge miscalculation on his part. His teammate wins the race, he gets beaten by Petrucci on an older machine, and only just beat the test rider at a track he traditionally excels at. Every time Stoner gets on the bike he's lightning fast immediately, and Casey has said he feels the bike should be a contender.

For him to come out and say the bike needs to improve with DucatI winning the race and having 2 bikes on the podium is a bad sign. Clearly he is having trouble adapting his style to the Duc, which is exactly what most people thought would happen. Lorenzo is lightning fast as long as he has the ideal bike, tyres and conditions for his riding style, otherwise he's nowhere. And where does he go if it doesn't work? It's looking like Zarco might be the ideal replacement for Rossi when he retires, and Vinales won't be going anywhere for a while. He could potentially replace Pedrosa at Honda but the Honda is even more unsuited to his riding style than the Duc. We might be seeing the end of Jorge as an alien in MotoGP.

Total votes: 107

not that this should change your view on JL's performace in Mugello, but Petrucci rides a GP17.

Anyway, it's interesting what you say later on JL. I've always assumed that by next year he'll be able to exploit Ducati's potential at its best...but what if he doesn't? Would Jarvis take him back? (granted VR won't be riding in '19) I don't think he'd risk another manufacturer change by that stage...
 

Total votes: 89

That Lorenzo must change his riding style to succeed on a Ducati is as obvious that it can be termed a fact. However, his journey, I assume, is going to be far too long to achieve that. His adaptation will come gradually, while the data from all tracks will help him in setting up his bike next year, the real success will depend on the moment when he starts converting his adaptation into a consistent riding style on all 18 tracks.

Each track demands its own setup changes and that, in turn, would require sophisticated changes into the rider's riding style itself. So first, he must learn to basically manhandle the Ducati and then turn that into a habit in order to achieve regular success to be a title contender. Not to mention his inability to cope up with changing conditions. Till then, he may taste small success here and there just like in Jerez.

Total votes: 111

Even if Lorenzo had somehow managed to win the race, it seems unlikely that his welcome to the top step of the podium would have seen the cheers drown out the boos from the Italian crowd. Globally, Rossi fans must outnumber Lorenzo fans by more than ten to one, at Mugello it's probably more like a hundred to one. Lorenzo was deeply unpopular long before the oft revisited saga that was the end of the 2015 season and I would suggest that regardless of how long he races on (even after Rossi has retired), he will remain one of the most unloved riders in the paddock.

I say regardless, because things are not looking too bright for Jorge at the moment. After the brief flash of success that was Jerez, he has been roundly beaten by his teammate (a teammate who is rumoured to take home less than a tenth of his salary) and a satelite rider from the same manufacturer on an old bike. What's more, Ducati had held a test at Mugello to give Lorenzo the very best chance of success, so he could not even claim it was the first time he had been to the circuit on a Ducati. Likewise, considering his record at Mugello, Lorenzo can hardly claim that Mugello is not one of his favourite tracks.

That the Ducati is difficult to ride is a fact, no one has come close to doing what Stoner was capable of doing on the red beast - and even he struggled in later years to get it to work. Yet the bike is a significant improvement on the bike that Rossi rode - and that is Lorenzo's biggest problem. Had Dovi finished mid-pack alongside him, then Ducati could have returned to the factory for some navel-gazing introspection and promises of a better showing next year. I can picture the Ducati engineers triumphantly carrying Dovi aloft on their shoulders into the factory, the race trophy clenched in his hand, with Lorenzo walking sulkily behind, dragging his feet. The only introspection the management at Ducati are currently faced with is where it is best to focus their efforts/resouces and for how long they will perservere with the Lorenzo experiment.

It doesn't help that Dovi is not the only person to have won a race on a Ducati either, Iannonne won a race last year as well.Unless Lorenzo can find a way to be competitive - or at least to start regularly beating his teammate, his unpopularity might start to extend beyond Rossi fans to his employers.

While Ducati can focus on Dovi, promote a satelite rider, find a new star, poach an existing one and even part ways with Lorenzo; the Mallorcan's choices are far more limited. A return to Yamaha is pretty much unthinkable considering the cloud he left under. Even when Rossi retires, he will still work closely with Yamaha (and may even take over the satelite team for his VR46 team) and with Vinales doing so well, why would Yamaha have him back? As long as Honda have Marquez, there is unlikey to be any chance of him allowing them to find room for Lorenzo, even in a satelite team. And even if Honda were to insist, it is debatable whether the Honda suits Lorenzo any better than the Ducati does.

This only leaves the "lesser" manufacturers; however would Lorenzo fair any better at Suzuki or KTM? I can't imagine he finds either possiblity particularly appealing and a move to either team would see him bound to take a massive pay cut and work with a team that has resouces to develop a winning bike.

Without the worldwide adulation and influence on bike sales that other riders offer, I would suggest the clock is ticking for Lorenzo to start to deliver and how he responds could define his legacy.

Total votes: 98

Make no mistake, Lorenzo is one of the greatest out there current and in spite of his popularity, unpopularity, I rate him big time. He was never going to adapt to this bike anymore than Rossi was and never will. Get over it. Marc Maquez is the next big thing for Ducati. Yeah, I'm chucking 'political correctness' out of the window. Gigi should accept this too. George, like Valentino are demons on any Sunday when all the tech, hype and stars are aligned and that triumvirate was aligned aplenty. Marc Marquez is clearly the most tallented package I have seen since Casey Stoner. Like Rossi past and Vinales current, Jorge is the same mould. Best platform, best rubber and they are brilliant. Lorenzo's biggest mistake was to concede a Rossi return to Yamha back then. Dovi does not have the stats to warrant argument and status but he would give Marc Marquez a run for his money on a GP19, afterall, Dovi has consistently defeated his team mates bar Dani and Casey. A 90% cut in pay, a contract with Aprilia or Suzuki will see Lorenzo right up there. Like Rossi, he can't ride the bikes 1948 to now DNA.  Were I managing Ducati's race section right now, I would be cosying up to a bunch of riders in the junior classes whilst tempting Marc to join Dovi for a moderate pay just for the personal satisfaction of knowing he could do it with two manufacturer's, diametrically opposed.

Total votes: 107

Marquez, as brilliant as he is, is not immune to the conditions and neither to the state of his motorcycle. Sunday's result is an example of that, he got beat by Alvaro Bautista! While imperfect, the RCV remains a better motorcycle to ride than the GP17. Yes, Marquez's wild style gives an impression that he could manhandle the Ducati which is what is required. But the crux of the issue still is that the Ducati doesn't turn well, and Honda does that very well infact. So it may not be a cake walk for Marquez either.

Total votes: 100

What's a 3 time premier class champ to do?  Assume he'll be slow?  He had to try the switch to Ducati.  If he won 3 more titles with Yamaha and then retired, the naysayers would bash him for never having done it on another bike.  Futhermore, as a top competitor, I'm sure the challenge to himself was enough to influence the move, alone.  

Remember when your favorite band put out that new album that "sucked" because it had a different sound?  They had to try.  

Total votes: 101