2017 Sepang MotoGP Race Round Up, Part 1: Team Orders Or Sheer Talent?

Sometimes, winning a championship requires a little bit of help from your team. Especially when championships are tight. A little help from your teammate, perhaps persuaded by a quiet word in their ear from the team boss. Who knows, maybe even a little financial sweetener to help swallow a bitter pill, a cut of a win bonus. It helps if you and your teammate don't actively despise each other, of course.

Team orders are something of a taboo subject in motorcycle racing. Journalists, riders, teams all pussyfoot around the issue, while fans speculate like mad about which results were down to riders doing what they were told by team bosses, rather than putting it all out on the track. With no ship-to-shore radio communication, the only methods of communication are via the pit board, and since last year, via a list of permitted messages on the dashboard.

In a way, not having radio communication has led to more speculation about team orders, rather than less. Because pit boards are visible to other teams, and space is necessarily limited, the messages tend to be both terse and obscure. Valentino Rossi is forever being asked to explain what the letters BRK on his pit board mean. Dani Pedrosa is in a league of his own in this regard: at one point during a race, the word DOGMA appeared on his pit board. At another, the letters ZZTT were shown at the start of the last lap.

Security through obscurity?

What do these messages mean? Teams are loath to explain. With their only means of communication so public, they are always looking for an advantage. Even relatively banal and obvious messages can provide an advantage to a rider's rivals. Last Sunday, Marc Márquez admitted that for the first two thirds of the race, he only reads the pit boards of his rivals, rather than his own, trying to figure out what they are doing. So when teams have something important to communicate, they try to camouflage it.

All this obscurity provides a fertile breeding ground for conspiracy theories. Fans and journalists pore over messages trying to ascertain the underlying meaning, trying to link up actions on track with messages appearing on pit boards, in a giant game of post hoc, ergo propter hoc. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, they are grasping wildly at straws. But sometimes, on very rare occasions, their speculation turns out to be founded on fact.

And so to the seemingly mundane message which appeared on Jorge Lorenzo's dashboard, with six laps to go to the end of the race. The Factory Ducati rider was leading the race, and had a lead of his teammate Andrea Dovizioso which had been hovering at just under a second for a few laps. With Marc Márquez in fourth at that moment, and 26 points ahead of Dovizioso, the Repsol Honda rider would have wrapped up the title in Sepang had the two Ducati riders finished in their current order. If Dovizioso were to finish ahead of Lorenzo, then he would trail Márquez by 21 points, and the championship fight would go down to Valencia.

Tinfoil shields to maximum

The message which appeared on Lorenzo's dashboard (and thanks to demands by Dorna, live on TV screens around the world) read "SUGGESTED MAPPING: MAPPING 8". Was it Lorenzo's cue to move over and make way for Dovizioso? Or was it literally just a suggestion to switch to an engine mapping more suited to the latter stages of a soaking wet Sepang race? Perhaps the best way to figure that out is to go back over the events of the race, and what the protagonists said afterwards.

Andrea Dovizioso came into the Sepang race trailing Marc Márquez by 33 points after a disastrous race at Phillip Island. His hopes of lifting his first MotoGP title had faded, having lost control of his own destiny. The Factory Ducati rider needed to win at Sepang, and see Márquez have a poor result, if he was to get back in the game. Then he could take the fight to Valencia, and hope to do the same thing again. Improbable? Certainly. But the championship isn't over until it's over.

The Italian had been superb all weekend. Fast in the wet on Friday, fast in the dry on Saturday, qualifying on the front row of the grid. Luck swung his way a little, when Márquez crashed during Q2 and ended up just seventh on the grid. Between himself and Marquez, Dovizioso had his teammate Jorge Lorenzo who he has consistently beaten this year, and with whom he has a good understanding. He could at least rely on Lorenzo to ride cautiously around him, not try anything reckless that might take him down. At best? Well, maybe Lorenzo would help.

Conditional help

The Spaniard had already shared his willingness to help on the many occasions he was asked about it by the media. Most of the time, though, he added the caveat that he would be willing to help Dovizioso if the title came down to Valencia. He glossed over the need for help at other tracks.

As an aside, it is curious that the media spent so much time grilling Jorge Lorenzo on his willingness to help Dovizioso. Valentino Rossi was rarely asked if he would be willing to lend a hand to Maverick Viñales, to help his Movistar Yamaha teammate's shot at the championship. (And indeed, at Phillip Island, it was Rossi himself who killed off any chance which Viñales had of staying in the title race, by finishing ahead of him and leaving Viñales 50 points behind Márquez, and therefore out of contention for the championship). Nor was Dani Pedrosa peppered with questions about what he was willing to do for his teammate Marc Márquez, should he be in a situation to help Márquez out.

The rain which started falling between the end of the Moto2 race and the start of the MotoGP race swung the balance in Dovizioso's favor. The Ducati GP17 was fast in the wet, that much was obvious from FP2. And not just the GP17: four of the top ten bikes in the wet were Ducatis, and Márquez was the only Honda rider. The Movistar Yamaha riders were quick in FP2, the progress found at Phillip Island paying dividends in Malaysia as well. Even the Suzukis were in contention. If the pattern established in FP2 continued during the race, there was every reason for Dovizioso to hope that he could make a serious dent in Márquez' championship lead.

Panic stations?

A similar thought process must have been running through Marc Márquez' mind. The Repsol Honda rider got a flying start off the line, threading his way through the field to position himself to get the holeshot into Turn 1. That required being brave on the brakes, and gambling on getting the bike turned and ready for Turn 2. But Márquez got in a fraction hot, running a little wide and pushing Jorge Lorenzo out toward the edge of the track. Márquez' lead lasted for approximately 50 meters, before Johann Zarco swung through underneath and into first.

While Márquez had left the line like a rocket, Andrea Dovizioso got off to a dismal start. Slow off the line, he was seventh as they approached the braking zone for the first corner. Perhaps nerves had gotten the better of him, as they probably had for Marc Márquez. But where Márquez' paid the price for being nervous by losing places in Turn 1, Dovizioso's slow entry into the corner put him tight on the inside of the turn, not far behind Zarco. When they swung back left for Turn 2, Dovizioso was right behind Jorge Lorenzo, who was in turn chasing the two Repsol Hondas.

Johann Zarco sped off into the distance, and behind him, Jorge Lorenzo set sights on Márquez and Pedrosa. The combination of Ducati horsepower and a willingness to brake late allowed Lorenzo to whip past the two Hondas and into second. While one Ducati took off ahead of them, the two Hondas were coming under attack from the rear. Dani Pedrosa put up a stiff resistance for a lap, swapping places with Dovizioso three or four times. But when they exited Turn 14 onto the back straight, it was obvious that the Ducati had the better drive. Dovizioso swept past Pedrosa into fourth, and started running down Márquez.

Take what you can

It took him just over three laps to finally get past Márquez, and take over third place. He slid through at Turn 14, holding his advantage down the back straight, but made a mistake into Turn 15 and and ran a little wide, allowing Márquez to come back underneath him. Dovizioso almost wiped the pair of them out when he tried to cut back to the inside of the corner, right where Márquez was riding, but he corrected and stayed upright. He got a second chance at Turn 4, this time using better drive and strong braking to slip past and into third place.

Márquez had expected to lose out to the Ducatis on acceleration, but it wasn't there where he was really losing out. Instead it was on corner entry, normally the strong point of the Honda RC213V, no matter what the weather. "Today they were strong in the acceleration like always," Márquez explained after the race. "But the problem is that one of my strongest points – the brake point and the entry of the corner – I was not strong like the other races. The feeling was not so good. They are always very good in the acceleration side but we are very good on entry. The problem today was the entry."

Being third would not be good enough for Dovizioso to keep his title hopes alive. Especially not if Márquez were to finish fourth. That looked increasingly likely, as the front four were quicker than the rest of the field, the gap to Dani Pedrosa in fifth having opened up already. With Márquez in fourth, Dovizioso was going to have to try to win.

One down, two to go

The Italian had two problems to deal with: his teammate Jorge Lorenzo, and Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider Johann Zarco, who had taken off like a scalded cat on the first lap. Zarco was helped by his choice of the soft rear tire, giving him extra grip at the start of the race. The question was how long the soft rear would last, and if Zarco would be able to build enough of a gap to manage it when it did.

The soft rear lasted longer than expected. The Frenchman never really slowed up, his pace holding steady, and fast enough to hold on to the lead. Zarco's problem was that the Ducatis were both a lot quicker, getting better drive and quickly closing him down. They caught him on lap 9, Lorenzo passing at Turn 9, then Dovizioso following at Turn 14, and the race was down to just the two of them.

At the halfway mark, with Lorenzo leading and Dovizioso in second, and Marc Márquez starting to close on Johann Zarco, the championship was still in Márquez' hands. If the flag had dropped at that moment, Márquez would have led by 26 points, enough to tie up the title. The Repsol Honda rider saw that he was closing on Zarco, and started to think about taking 3 more points to consolidate his position.

Time to settle

Márquez pushed to try to catch the Tech 3 Yamaha bike, but Zarco was settling in to his rhythm. The Repsol Honda rider inched closer, but getting close enough to pass meant taking a little bit too much risk. With so much on the line, Márquez backed off a fraction, and let Zarco go. Fourth would have to be good enough.

"I felt really good after the race because it was like the worst conditions I could have today," Márquez said afterwards. "It was wet, so slippery the track and so difficult to find the limit because it was so easy to make a mistake. But anyway I tried. I started the race quite aggressive on the start. But I realized both Ducatis were faster than me and when I was catching Zarco I was taking some risks. Then I was thinking on the bike that it is more or less the same to arrive at Valencia with 24 points of advantage or 21 points. So I decided to stay in fourth. Something that was so important in this race was to try and be calm all of the laps and not to be in a rush."

Márquez was disarmingly honest about the pressure he had felt during the race. "Honestly speaking, in the end I’m human and when you’re fighting for the championship, you have a small movement and already you feel like you are about to have a big crash. It’s something normal and natural and today, OK, maybe if I took more risks I could be champion here. But maybe if I crashed now would only be like eight or seven points ahead. So it’s better to do it step by step." Better to start at Valencia with a big advantage than go all out a handful of extra points and throw it all away.

With Zarco safely in third and out of the equation as far as the lead was concerned, it all came down to the two Ducatis at the front. If Andrea Dovizioso wanted to keep his championship hopes alive, he would have to pass Jorge Lorenzo. But Lorenzo was tantalizingly close to his first win on the Ducati, something he had been denied by circumstances a couple of times previously this season. Would Lorenzo yield?

Mapping the territory

That is when the message came up on Lorenzo's dashboard. Suggested Mapping: Mapping 8. Was it code, a sign telling Lorenzo that he must move aside? Or was it exactly what it said on the tin: a suggestion that it might be about the right time to switch to a different TC and engine braking map?

The truth is, we will never know – or rather, we won't know until after both Dovizioso and Lorenzo have retired and are willing to talk openly – but we can walk through what we know about racing, about team orders, and about riders. By a process of deduction, we can get some feeling for what might be the right answer.

First, could this have been exactly what it appears: a suggestion to swap mapping? That is entirely plausible. Firstly, we know that riders switch mappings during the race: for an in-depth explanation of what the electronics do, how they are set up, and how and when riders decide to switch maps, read our two-part interview with Bradley Smith from last year, where he lays it all out.

Secondly, we know that teams tell riders when to swap maps. Before the introduction of dashboard messages (and even now they are available) teams put messages on the pit board advising riders to switch. Pit boards will say MODE and a number, or a letter, or both, and riders will know what to do. We also know that riders sometimes disregard such messages. When Andrea Iannone first joined the factory Ducati team, he had a couple of races where he simply forgot to switch the mapping during the race, despite a reminder.

So yes, it could have been just a suggestion to switch engine mappings. Could it also have been a coded message on team orders? To answer that question, we need to break it down into its constituent components. Do team orders exist in MotoGP? If they did, how would Ducati communicate them? Would Ducati (or any factory, for that matter) be open and honest about team orders, or would they try to hide it? And would a rider follow orders, if he was given them?

Team orders: truth or fantasy?

First things first. Do team orders exist in MotoGP? Beyond a shadow of a doubt, though the words "team orders" require a certain amount of explanation. Because of the lack of ship-to-shore radio, any team orders would have to be discussed beforehand. After the race, Ducati team bosses were in great demand among journalists. Davide Tardozzi told Crash.net that they had spoken to the riders about this situation. "We talked with the riders about what can happen," Tardozzi said. "In this situation, it is good to have the opportunity to have the championship open. I think that it would be stupid to give a present to Marc. We know it’s very difficult. Why not keep it open until Valencia?"

Speaking to the Spanish press, Ducati Corse MotoGP boss Paolo Ciabatti admitted that it was a situation the factory had discussed. It was what the factory had to do if they had a chance to win the championship, Ciabatti said. More importantly, Ducati have previous experience with this, Andrea Iannone having taken out Andrea Dovizioso in the penultimate corner in Argentina in 2016, a move which ultimately cost Iannone his seat at Ducati. Ducati had warned both Lorenzo and Dovizioso about battling too aggressively with each other. Asked directly if the message meant that Lorenzo had to let Dovizioso past, Ciabatti had smiled and said, "If that's what you want to think..."

Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna told Italian media something similar. Of course they had had discussions with the riders. "It's obvious that you have to think about the team, about the people who are working at the factory," he said. "And certain choices have to be made, even if they are painful."

Precedents

We also know that Ducati have handed out team orders before, and sent them via dashboard messages. At Phillip Island, Scott Redding received a message telling him to let Dovizioso pass early in the race. At previous races, people from Ducati had discussed the need to give up places to Dovizioso, though not at Phillip Island. "Honestly, beforehand no," Redding had told the press in Australia. "In Japan and other places yes, but here no. But I did have a message on the dashboard during the race to say let Dovi through, which I did and let him go."

But it was a decision which Redding later reversed, when he found himself catching Dovizioso, and battling with the Italian and with Dani Pedrosa. "When you're catching someone and you're a lot stronger, what are you supposed to do?" Redding asked. "I have to think about my career as well. I have a championship. If it was for a top five position, then you have a bigger point difference, then you think, OK. Maybe I would have thought different. But for 1 point? It's not something I'm going to lose any sleep over. I've been struggling week in, week out, and to be honest, they're not really helping me right now. I'm going, leaving. That's fine, I also know that. I'll help them if I can help them, but for one point, and after the situation I've been in, I have to sometimes think of myself."

Knowing the stakes

What is clear is that the factory spoke to the riders about this possibility, that it might be necessary for Lorenzo to give up a place to Dovizioso if it it was important for the championship. Whether this was a discussion which needed to take very long is another matter. Dovizioso needed all his attention and energy for the race, and would only have needed to know that if he got close to Lorenzo, Lorenzo would not put up too much of a fight.

Lorenzo probably did not need much persuading. He is paid handsomely by the factory – the figure of €12.5 million a year is constantly being bandied about – and understands that he has to ride in the interest of the factory. "I didn’t need any people to tell me what to do in any situation," Lorenzo said in the press conference. "I knew that the world title was important in case of Marquez have crash or something like that. I knew he was maybe fourth or fifth position. So obviously I wanted to win the race. I wanted to keep pushing until the end, but as I told you, the front was very at the limit. And to stay with Dovi until the end I needed to be too much at the limit on the braking."

Beating Dovizioso would have meant taking a major risk, and there was too much on the line for that. Yes, he said, he was keen to get a first win for Ducati, but not at any price. "I've won 44 races in MotoGP, and I know that it's just a question of time until I do it with the Ducati," he told Italian media. He could perhaps have forced the issue, but it would have meant a 90% chance of them both ending up in the gravel, Lorenzo said.

With such frank confessions after the race, would Ducati have tried to hide the message during the race by using a code with a double meaning? Possibly. But that would not make a great deal of sense if they are going to confess afterwards anyway. There is nothing in the rules forbidding team orders, so there is no reason for Ducati to hide it.

Informed consent

Would Lorenzo have had a reason to disobey team orders if they were sent? Not really. The Spaniard has had a good rapport with this Italian teammate since he joined Ducati. Dovizioso explained the situation. "I said this from last year in Valencia. I feel immediately good with him," the Italian said of Lorenzo. "Like what happened in the past, he didn’t think to try to make something bad to me or try to create a strange situation inside of the box. He is so concentrated in himself and his work with the team, and looks like I don’t feel him about teammate because for sure every time everybody look on the TV the lap times. You make a comparison. His riding style is different. Everybody can learn from everybody. But I didn’t have any problem about that. He has his character and didn’t create to me any problems."

Of course, first, Lorenzo would have had to have been aware of the team orders. After the race, he insisted he hadn't seen the message on his dashboard. "Honestly, I didn’t see anything," Lorenzo said. "I just was very focused on the line, on the next corner, because on the rain you cannot lose the concentration. I just lose the concentration at Misano and you know what happened. So just see the board, just see the RPM to change every gear." At Misano, in the wet, Lorenzo had tried to change maps and become distracted, crashing as a result. In worse conditions than Italy, Lorenzo didn't want to make the same mistake again.

In the end, team orders weren't even needed. Dovizioso had been bouncing back and forth behind Lorenzo as if he were attached by an elastic band. One lap, he would close up, then he would lose ground, then close up again. On lap 16, with Dovizioso once again right on his tail, Lorenzo had a massive moment in the final corner, losing the front and only saving the bike on his knee, leaving a long red mark on the asphalt in the process. That cost him just enough time that Dovizioso was able to get a run on Lorenzo out of the corner and take over the lead.

Once past, Dovizioso soon built enough of a cushion to ride home safely to victory. Only on the last lap, when it started raining again, would Lorenzo have had a chance, but the risks were too high. Aware of the risks, Lorenzo rode cautiously and settled for second.

Given or earned?

So, was Andrea Dovizioso's victory at Sepang the result of team orders, of Jorge Lorenzo letting his teammate through after receiving a message to do so? While you can never know for certain, the fact is that Dovizioso was faster than Lorenzo, and Lorenzo made a mistake. It was Lorenzo's big moment in the final corner which caused him to lose the position, and that big moment was a result of having to push at the limit to stay ahead.

The verdict? Unless "Suggested Mapping: Mapping 8" means "Have massive front-end slide at Turn 15, then save it on your knee," it seems unlikely this was a direct instruction. Even if it was, Andrea Dovizioso won this race on merit: whatever Ducati may have told Jorge Lorenzo, there was no way he was going to be faster than Dovizioso anyway. On this day, Dovizioso was not going to be beaten by anyone, even his teammate.

If anything, Andrea Dovizioso's win at Sepang is a testament to the ice that runs through his veins, even when he is racing under incredible pressure. Dovizioso had to win, but he also had to make sure he wasn't panicked into throwing it all away by pushing too had. To an extent, it is a little easier for Dovizioso than it is for Márquez: the Italian came from a very difficult position, and so had less to lose. But the manner of his victory here is emblematic of just how good Dovizioso has been this season.

All still to play for

It was an important win for another reason. Dovizioso now draws level with Márquez with six wins apiece this year. If he wins the race at Valencia, he will have seven wins, meaning that Márquez will have to outscore him, as in the event of a draw, the number of wins will be the deciding factor. In practice, this means that Márquez will have to finish eleventh or better at Valencia, and score at least 5 points.

It is still a massive ask for Dovizioso to actually win the title. Dovizioso has to win at Valencia, because second place only scores 20 points, and Márquez' lead is 21 points. But not only does Dovizioso have to win, but Márquez has to have his worst result of the season, at a track which is one of his best. A track which also suits the Honda far better than the Ducati.

But when a title comes down to the final race of the year, anything can happen. This is the fourth time in the four-stroke era that the title will be decided in Valencia. In 2015, Valentino Rossi started off from the back of the grid, and could never have gotten close enough to Jorge Lorenzo to take the title. In 2013, Marc Márquez rode a conservative but shaky race to take sufficient points to prevent the winner, Jorge Lorenzo, from taking the title.

But in 2006, Valentino Rossi threw away a championship lead by crashing out of the race, then remounting, handing the title to the late lamented Nicky Hayden. It was fitting that the 2006 season should end that way for Hayden, who repeated to anyone who would listen, "that's why we line up on Sunday. Because you never know what's gonna happen."

Andrea Dovizioso is going to need a miracle at Valencia to become champion. Miracles are rare, but they do happen. But whatever happens, both Dovizioso and Márquez have deserved to win the title this year. Márquez has been dazzling, his talent far outperforming the bike he is on, and matching consistency to a series of wins. Márquez rarely finishes outside the top four, and has not finished outside the top six this season. His early weakness was a tendency to fall off, but a new front tire and improvements to the Honda helped fix that.

For his part, Dovizioso has been outstanding. He has grown as a rider, and his calm and quiet focus has allowed him to far exceed expectations. He is consistent, but he has also used the strengths of the Ducati perfectly, while coping well with its weak points. His only weakness has been that when he has a bad day, it can sometimes be pretty awful. But whoever takes the title, MotoGP is the winner this season.


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Total votes: 56
Total votes: 92

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Comments

... what happened in the race is the best result for Ducati. Why and how don't matter in the end.

 

It is fairly simple in my opinion. Lorenzo, even as one of the best racers of his time, is still learning and getting to grips with the Ducati motorcycle. And given that he is far away from being a title contendor this year, it was a no-brainer for him and everybody in the team of what he should do in a situation like yesterday.

 

Of course, Ducati discussed this probable situation beforehand.

 

Lorenzo can always win races next year, he will be stronger. He can wait for his first win given the present situation Ducati is in. But like I said, this year he's still learning the Ducati very much and Dovizioso is possibly on the verge of getting his first ever MotoGP title. And Ducati is looking to get their second one since 2007 especially after things with Rossi didn't work out (we were all hoping it would be one more Rossi/Yamaha like dream team).

 

In the end, team orders or not. Whether Lorenzo deliberately slowed down or not, he (none could) still couldn't have faked that losing front. The result that Ducati and Dovi got is best. The end.

Total votes: 26

After getting punched in the balls for putting on such a convincing show.

-0:44 MotoGp website. Missing The Apex - Turn 11 - the Triple Header.

Total votes: 16

No one else in here but a couple stragglers like us now -

Hey falseflag, have you found "Dear George" yet?
It is PERFECT FOR you! I can post a link here if you need one...

Total votes: 0

thank you David,  for the report part I. I will hold my thoughts on Morbidelli, KTM and Yamahas for the next piece.

Personally I don't understand all this obsession about yesterday's team orders...: Dovi has done an outstanding job all this season (well, actually, since last year's win in Sepang) and rightly deserves to fight it until the end. Given Ducati history, and the way they operate, it's un understatement that they will do all is necessary to give Dovi every chance, including asking JL to help. There is too much at stake ! And do you really think that JL would have dared to start a dogfight with Dovi right there and then? What for? Dovi seemed faster and more in control anyway...  The one thing i disliked about all this, is Dall'Igna's public display in front of cameras in parc fermé, when he so openly said "thank you" to JL... it could have been a bit more private, more elegant.

Your aside on how curious that the press is grilling Ducati about team orders but not Yamaha nor Honda, well, it's a very different situation:  Yamaha makes no secret that their policy is to have strong riders who can play it until the end. And at Honda, well, it's like the solar system : MM is the sun and everything turns around him.  I guess that in Ducati they were expecting to have JL very strong and Dovi as the good, reliable, consistent team mate... it turned out that the roles were reversed (this season. JL is improving, so maybe next year things might be different)

I disagree on luck swinging slightly in Dovis's favor. Marquez crash in Q2 has nothing to do with luck. Moreover, the rain on Sunday, had automatically excluded the two Yamahas from the equation giving more opportunities to MM to be closer to the podium. And finally Petrucci mechanical problem, was the straw... so, i really think that once again Dovi was rather unlucky. given that he was very strong both on wet and dry.

No matter what happens in Valencia Dovi (but we do know the outcome....) has done a superb season. And he is the only one this year who can proudly say that he beat MM brilliantly on the last corner. Twice ! on wet and dry.  

looking forward to part II

 

Total votes: 51

I don't understand why you think Marc was lucky. He would've sealed the title in Phillip Island if it wasn't for his mechanical issue. Remember dovi has two less DNFs than Marc. That's​ as much luck as you're ever gonna get in this sport. Also there were a lot of wet races this year with crutchlow and Pedrosa saying the Honda went backwards in the wet. There were three Ducatis consistently in the top six in the wet races, ready to pounce and take points away from Marc if he made the slightest mistake (remember misano?). Marc never had any of those and he had to do it all the hard way by consistently riding to top 2 positions.

Total votes: 30

I am responding to David saying that Dovi was somewhat lucky and i replied he was not. And explained why.
As for the ifs and buts.... : if you count MM mechanical issue then you must also count that Dovi too had a DNF not of his doing.
So we would still have the same point difference. In my book i say unlucky when the engine breaks or if someone crashes into your bike. All the rest is one's own doing. That Dovi has less DNF than MM just shows that he was more consistent and still managing to win 6 races....
But I will concede that both MM and Dovi were somewhat lucky that both Yamaha boys are lost in the woods since Jerez. And Dani is affected by these Michelins in a way that is beyond comprehension.
Or should I say WE as fans of the sport were unlucky because we lost the opportunity to see a season long thrilling battle among many champions.

Total votes: 26

Marc was on for a podium at least in Silverstone and dovi was not on for a podium in Argentina. So it's not a fair comparison. I don't think you understand what I meant by dovi not being unlucky. Dovi was a bit lucky in the sense marc made two more mistakes than him. And that it took Honda until Brno to sort the bike out.

Total votes: 21

By calling him "lucky"..He is there because he deserves it. He is 21 points ahead despite having engine breakdown. He is capable of beating the Yamaha riders any race of the year, so he is not "lucky" that vaunted Valentino andVinales are having issues. Calling him "Lucky" for being at the top is just cheap.

Total votes: 29

I don't know whether my English is very poor or you don't understand what you read
I apologize for my poor English, and i kindly ask you to read more carefully.
You'll see that none of what you are saying about my above posts is correct

Total votes: 17

Hard to read too much into body language in Parc Ferme, but the hug between Lorenzo and Dovi looked strained. Is it possible that Dovi felt he had to work too hard to get that win? That Lorenzo made it harder than it had to be? I'll have to go back and watch it again, didn't notice the "thank you" from Gigi.

Total votes: 24

It was a replay on the live feed that's why I noticed almost in slow motion. And because they show it as a replay it stands out... Gigi takes him in his arms gives him a big warm hug then kisses the back of his neck between the helmet and the leathers and then says "Grazie" with teary loving eyes.... for me it was a bit too much. But, but the camera did not show what Gigi did to Dovi... maybe he kissed his feet and both wrists... I did not see so I cannot say :)

Total votes: 19

The only thing that makes me wonder is that Lorenzo was maintaining or even opening up a significant gap to Dovi, until the "mapping 8 message", then Dovi started closing the gap. Timing seemed coincidental.

Total votes: 29

Let's take a look at the laptimes for Lorenzo and Dovi around those laps:

Lap 11
99 2'13.226
  4 2'13.349   Gap 0.734

Lap 12
99 2'13.273
  4 2'13.222   Gap 0.683

Lap 13
99 2'13.174
  4 2'13.084   Gap 0.593

Lap 14
99 2'13.148
  4 2'13.584   Gap 1.029

Lap 15 (when the dashboard message appeared)
99 2'13.432
  4 2'13.111   Gap 0.708

Lap 16
  4 2'13.722
99 2'14.522   Gap 0.092

Lap 17
  4 2'13.455
99 2'14.267   Gap 0.904

(Source: MotoGP web site - Analysis By Lap)

My own thoughts about this was: what caused Lorenzo to nearly crash on Lap 16 was possibly a front tyre that was cooling down due to an intentional pace slowing, likely due to that dashboard message. One don't lose a lead of 1s in just two laps and then maintain a gap of about 1s with a worn tyre.
But I'm just sitting behind my keyboard, so what do I know :)
In any case, the result is better like this than what happened in F1...

Total votes: 32

The data does look suspicious at first glance but I think there might be a few other factors that need to be considered.

1) Lap 15 (the dashboard message lap), Lorenzo was slower than his own previous lap by .3s

2) Lap 15, Dovi was faster than his own previous lap by .4s

[Lap 15 difference = +.7s for Dovi]

3) Lap 16 (when Lorenzo almost crashed), he was slower than his own previous lap by .9s

4) Lap 16 (when Dovi passed Lorenzo) he was slower than his own previous lap by .6s

[Lap 16 difference = +.3s for Dovi]

On what lap did the rain start to come down harder? Was it lap 16?
Do you think Dovi can be .3s better over a single lap in wet conditions than Lorenzo is?

Yes, Dovi gained 1s over those 2 laps ... but not because Lorenzo gave it to him. Dovi took .4s by doing a better lap time than his own previous lap time on lap 15 losing .3 less than Lorenzo did on lap 16.

Some of what Lorenzo lost on his lap 16 time had to be because of the near crash and wheelspin trying to recover and prevent Dovi from getting by him. That alone must have cost Lorenzo at least a few tenths so how much was left to "give away" to team orders after those two facts? Maybe .3s ... but that is not a crazy amount of fluctuation from lap to lap in a wet and getting wetter race so did he really give Dovi anything? Maybe he just didn't push to get back at him like he said.

That is a theory anyway based on those lap times you posted. :-)

Total votes: 16

Lorenzo's slowest lap of those you posted is still faster than everyone elses fastest lap, bar AD, MM and JZ.  So that "slow" 2'14.522 by JL was still better than Petrucci's best lap of the race, a 2'14.549, in his climb up to 5th.  So I'm afraid I don't buy your tyre cooling off theory, in relation to almost everyone else on track there was no "slow" lap.  Not to mention Lorenzo easily lost a second running in hot/wide, losing the front, and losing drive onto the straight, so no way was the rest of the lap slow.

It mightn't suit the narrative for some but the times speak for themselves:

- Dovi posted his fastest lap (and the fastest lap of the race) on lap 13, Lorenzo upped his pace and responded with his fastest lap on lap 14, Dovi then poured on the pressure with the second fastest lap of the race on lap 15....and an error was forced.

Whichever way you want your conspiracy cake cut, there is no doubting that Dovi was the quicker rider, with the two fastest laps of the race right when they were most needed.

Total votes: 18

... look at the top speeds which suddenly plummet at the same time. Cooling tyre or misjudged braking point caused by lower top speed down the back straight? In my mind there's more evidence that he slowed than that he was caught.

Total votes: 15

David - thanks for doing what you do.  I can't think of many other forms of entertainment, if any at all, at this level, that have resources like you offering your craft to the masses in such a way.  Us mere fans are lucky to have your work and in some ways, yourself, so accessible, and throughout such an epic season.  Cheers to you.

As for Valencia...my mind spins at the consideration of what may come.  My girlfriend and I bought tickets to attend several months ago, and I've wished all along the title fight would still be alive when we arrive.  Though a formidable long shot to wind up any other scenario than MM taking it home, I'm unbelievably excited to see that it is still undecided.  

Could Dovi get help from Rossi in Valencia?  The factory Ducati's seem to run well there and Jorge runs well there, no matter the bike.  If it's dry, Vinales should go well also.  MM will have his hands full, that's for sure.  Of course, this poses a problem for Dovi, also, but I'm picturing a total dog fight where the potential for catastrophic mistakes by those that can't afford them are high.

As for Sepang, I believe I'm most impressed with Zarco's performance.  And Petrucci seems to have made the best out of a bad situation.

Total votes: 25

The only way you will convince me that the message was a straight up engine map message is to show me logs of all the messages sent by ducati to date. If they have ever sent a similarly worded message, I'll buy it. Otherwise, the wording is too obvious (these things are usually a bit opaque as david says, there's no ambiguity which in itself is suspicious). It's strangely long and repetitve and the word suggested, is too much of a request. Usually, instructions are direct and simple. This is not.  

Ultimately though, who cares?

Total votes: 26

Coming off the heart pounding races in Motegi and Phillip Island, this was a much more strategic race, with mental calculators getting a heavy workout.  I'm so thankful both MM93 and AD04 stayed upright and bring the fight to Valencia.  Kudos to Zarco again, he must be solidifying his spot as the heir apparent to a factory Yamaha ride when Rossi retires (2019?).  One has to wonder how Petrucci could have factored in if he didn't start from the last row, perhaps he could have pushed Marquez back to 5th, further narrowing the points gap for the final round.  As always David, thanks for the thoughtful analysis.  Just got my notification to renew my subscription and will happily do so to keep you writing.

Total votes: 24

Rossi will only be a year older than Jeremy McWilliams was when he started his MotoGP career for Team KR/Proton.  FIM mandatory retirement (age 50) is a long ways off.

Total votes: 29

Hence the question mark.   I don't profess to know when VR will decide to hang up his leathers and move to team management but he is certainly setting himself up to make the transition when ready.  I'd love to see him race competitively for many more years, but one has to consider that possibility when his contract is up.

Total votes: 15

And I mean the writeup. It's the reason I continue as a subscriber and this site is my sole source for commentary on the sport that I love.

For me, I thought Lorenzo made Dovi work, maybe a little too hard, for that pass. Which was made easier by JL's slide.

I also feel that Dovi's comments on JL during the post-race presser, re "...he didn’t think to try to make something bad to me or try to create a strange situation inside of the box..." were a nice testament to JL's personae and work ethic.

And to think we've arrived at this situation, after so many rounds of racing, for the final event of the season. Could hardly be better.

Total votes: 26

<quote>..I also feel that Dovi's comments on JL during the post-race presser, re "...he didn’t think to try to make something bad to me or try to create a strange situation inside of the box..."...<quote>

I agree... and it speaks volumes about the the kind of relationships that seem to go on with Lorenzo's previous teammate.  

Total votes: 33

I can think of one way to possibly crack the Ducati code - find out how many rider selectable mappings the spec ECU will allow. If the maximum number of mappings is say 4 then mapping no 8 does not exist. Ipso facto it was team orders. You wouldn't even need to ask a member of Ducati since everyone uses the same ECU.

Total votes: 15

Do you happen to have the latest engine usage tables handy, David? If I were Marc or Dovi I’d want the freshest engine I could possibly have for the last race of the season. 

Total votes: 16

David told us several times the team all know how to manage engines. It's a non issue nowadays.

And marquez blew a brand new engine at Silverstone.

Total votes: 17

Indeed, engines are barely an issue any longer. The Sepang engine is now Marquez' freshest engine, with the least amount of miles on it. But he still has 3 engines left, the last one being the freshest, the other two perfectly serviceable. The factories have learned how to manage this very well.

Here's a screenshot of the latest list for Marquez. Click on the link for a bigger version:

Marc Marquez engine usage list

Total votes: 14

I was wrong then. Silverstone Engine wasn't new but actually lightly used. Sorry for that. 

Total votes: 12

Nothing against team orders in a situation like this - why have a team without teamwork? Thank you Dovi and Lorenzo for doing a superb job in making "squeaky bum time" last right until the end of the season!

Total votes: 25

Team orders or not, I don't really care that much. Lorenzo says it all pretty bluntly, he was not going to fight with Dovi. And why should he? He's still working on his upward trend on the bike. Yes a win would be nice but he doesn't need to shut up his detractors. Notice how nobody has pointed out the egg on the faces of the people who proclaimed he could not ride in the wet (anymore).

I also think at this point in time Dovi is still the faster man on the Ducati in most circumstances, and Lorenzo will be the first to admit that. Dovi is riding exceptionally this year and has several years of experience with the bike. The bike itself has improved as well, not so much in performance but rather in tire wear. Remember when the Ducatis used to feature at the front but then fade away during the race because they had more wear on the Bridgestones? I am thinking that's one of the things they have focused on and it's paid them back well since the switch to Michelin. And perhaps more importantly Dovi is taking full advantage of it. Lorenzo is learning and getting closer to Dovi every time, sometimes even beating him now (Aragon). 2018 could be an even better year for Ducati...

I hope part 2 is all about Zarco because that guy deserves a factory seat asap.

Total votes: 14

The mapping 8 theory and MotoGP sector times and lap times posted mean zero. Dovi set fastest lap and one the race. He and Jorge were quicker than each other in various sectors. Dovi always looked more planted into turn 15. In spite of the near loss, it looked like Jorge tried to come back at him and Dovi just beat him into turn 1, then gapped him. Hell! The conspiracy theory is as bad as the 2015 conspiracy theory a' la Marc/Jorge....no substance, no facts, no evidence. I guess Putin and Russia hacked Jorge's mapping!!! to ensure a Dovi win at the expense of Rossi/Vinales and...pick a name chances at the title 2017. Facts people! Both Ducati works riders stayed upright to the flag for a famous one, two victory...and that was a tough ask for Jorge given his weekend's overall position. Dovi was on top from the first session and throughout the race. Zarco and Tech 3.. What another great performance by him on the 2016 sattelite bike. Let me chuck another conspiracy mapping8 dump at you all. Clearly the 2016 M1 has proved the better bike than the 2017 developement bike over the season. Does Tech3 have the option within Ymaha heirarchy to say that they are happy to retain the 2016 platform bike and ignore the 2017 platform bike and develop the M1-2016 in house. If Yamaha freeze the option out, thats a conspiracy of note. Great summary David, and I do agree, both Marc and Dovi deserve the 2017 title. Only one will wear the T-shirt post Valencia. I expect Marc's team had a bunch of shirts tucked into the baggage prior Sepang. Now they are luggage on the way to Ricardo Tormo cirfcuit. What a season 2017 has been.

Total votes: 16

For a decade or more it was about the so called aliens. At the start of the season Maverick was touted as the 6th column post Rossi, Stoner, Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Marquez My, how things change as the playing field gets levelled. No tire war, no overnight specials, spec electronics and the cream rises to the top in a sense. You have a bit of a parralel universe in terms of Ducati factory and KTM factory riders right now. Pol and Bradley are very similar to Dovi and Jorge. Their data propels the bike development antagonistically. Vastly different riding styles and approaches forcing the engineers to the ultimate convergence and happy medium. The aero package at Ducati is stark in terms of its riders. Jorge can do nothing without it. Dovi utilises it as an option on occasion as he feels it, swapped out in one practise session then another. Dovi has always ridden around the weaknesses of any bike from RCV to M1 to D16. Said aliens bar Stoner needed a set of predictable rail lines to accomplish their massive accomplishments. Marc in terms of adaptability to alternative bike DNA in MotoGP is currently an unknown quantity. Look, Marc is by a country mile odds on favourite for 2017, but surely he must be thinking about doing it on two or even three different marq's of motorcycle before he hangs up his leathers. 2018 silly season will be one of note. 

Total votes: 17

Is there going to be a part 2 prior to the season finale?

(Yes, I need to resubscribe...)

Total votes: 0

Have l missed part 2 of this round up ?
Is it a subscriber only article ?
 

Total votes: 0

I'm eagerly expecting the continuation of this article Mr. Emmett, specially the part about the dominance of Joan Mir in Moto3 and the masterclass given by Miguel Oliveira in Moto2.

Total votes: 0

My apologies for not getting part 2 out on time. Unfortunately, some (reasonably serious) family issues came up during the flyaways, which meant that I ran out of time, and concentration. Most of the problems have been resolved now. I will try to post up a general review, focusing on the bits I missed, after the season is over. 

Sorry about that. 

Total votes: 2