Crunching The Numbers: What If COVID-19 Had Affected Previous Seasons?

What if “COVID-19” happens in the past

The 2020 MotoGP season has gotten off to a rocky start. Since the opening round at Qatar, where only the Moto2 and Moto3 classes raced, we have had two updated calendars for the season. We have had news of races postponed, then later on canceled. Speculation about the possible scenarios is changing week by week, or even day by day.

In the beginning of April, it looked like it would not be possible to start the MotoGP championship earlier than August, and multiple sources were talking about 10 races, leaving the final third of the calendar intact. The possibility of returning to Qatar round for the season finale was also being suggested.

More recently, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta offered two possible scenarios for 2020: 10 to 12 races only in Europe, or up to 16 races, if intercontinental travel becomes possible again later this year.

The more versions we heard about, the more interested I became in seeing how the championships in the last 10 years might have ended differently with the given scenarios.

So until we know what the final and definitive calendar for this year looks like, let’s play with the numbers a bit.

Warning! During this experiment we haven’t taken into consideration the human factors. The only thing we took into account: that the numbers never lie, and in statistics everything is possible.

To make comparison possible, I drew up a number of possible scenarios, based on the possible impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the 2020 season. The scenarios range from the latest calendar as published by the FIM, through to some speculative versions containing just races in Europe, doubling up races at some circuits in Europe, and removing the most favorable races from riders to even things up.

These are the main scenarios, all of which we are comparing with the official results of the season as it ended up:

  • All European Rounds – this is a scenario where one round is head at all of the European tracks on the calendar that year
  • 10 European Rounds – this is a scenario where ten races are held at European tracks, with the most resemblance to the 2020 calendar
  • Most Likely Calendar – this is the current most likely scenario, which includes two races each at Jerez, Aragon, Valencia, and Misano, with races at Austria, Barcelona, and Brno, depending on the season.
  • Least Favorable Calendar – this is the scenario where the eventual champion's best races, that is, the races where they gained the most points over their direct rivals, are taken out of the equation. The objective is to take especially favorable points advantages out of the equation.

2019

In 2019, after winning the title by 151 points, Marc Márquez said that it was almost impossible to repeat this phenomenal year. Indeed, exceptional performances and seasons exist, when whatever you do with the statistics and the numbers, you always get the same result. But these are the exception, rather than the rule.

Which means that if we apply the “COVID-19 calendar” to last year’s result, whichever version we use, Márquez would still remain champion.

With the currently most likely scenario (e.g. 2 races in Jerez, Spielberg, Misano, Aragon, Valencia and 1 round at Catalunya) the biggest change would have been Fabio Quartararo finishing third in overall (instead of fifth), pushing Maverick Viñales off the podium.

To understand how exceptional the last season was for Márquez: even if we use the worst-case scenario for him and we remove the 8 races where he gained the most points over Andrea Dovizioso, the final result would be the same…

2011

To find a similarly dominant season, we must go back to 2011, when Casey Stoner won with Repsol Honda. To deprive him of the MotoGP crown, we need to be even more harsh on him. With 7 different scenarios, the result would be the same. The only way is to remove his 8 best races (leaving just 10 races) with respect to Jorge Lorenzo. In that scenario, Lorenzo would be champion.

2010

2010 was almost the same with Lorenzo winning, but the most unrealistic scenario takes us to an interesting result.

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Comments

Interesting reading and spreadsheet math, but in the end I think it just confirms that M. Marquez has the best chance of winning. But first we gotta start racing!