What did we learn from the Grand Prix of Argentina from Termas de Rio Hondo? First and foremost, we learned not to trust weather forecasts. It was supposed to rain on Friday, and it turned out fine. It was supposed to be fine on Saturday and Sunday, and there were patches of rain on Saturday and a downpour on Sunday.
We also learned that grip levels change everything. In the dry and in the wet, as grip changes, so do the relative strengths and weaknesses of the bikes and riders. We saw that most clearly in the Yamaha garage, where Franco Morbidelli was suddenly outperforming Fabio Quartararo through practice, qualifying, and the sprint race, mainly because Morbidelli gets faster as grip drops off, and there was very little grip available at Termas.
And we saw Marco Bezzecchi fulfill the potential we all believed he had, dominating the feature race on Sunday after getting tangled up on Saturday, and having to settle for a podium.
There was much more to talk about too. Where things went wrong for Aprilia after Aleix Espargaro's victory here last year. Alex Marquez getting his third MotoGP podium in just his second race on the Gresini Ducati. Pecco Bagnaia making an uncharacteristic mistake (or a characteristic one, depending on which version of Bagnaia you think we are dealing with).
We saw the importance of being at the front in wet races. That there is hope yet for Yamaha, despite a rough start to the season. And the fact that once again, in the opening rounds of MotoGP, it is the teams with the least amount of testing to do which are at the front of the pack. Of the six podium spots to be had in Argentina, four went to riders on last year's bikes. And only one went to a rider on a factory machine.
Here's a quick look back at some of the most important or intriguing things that happened at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit.
Where to start? With the winner. Marco Bezzecchi rode as close to a perfect race as you can get. The Mooney VR46 rider got a strong start, saw Franco Morbidelli come past him on the way into the first corner, then tucked inside to take the lead. From that point, he was gone. He had three quarters of a second on the field by the end of the first lap, and it took him five laps to extend that to a second.
Bezzecchi settled in to grind out a long string of laps in the high 1'45s to low 1'46s, a pace which the chasing pack couldn't follow. By half distance, he had a gap of 3.6 seconds, which he doubled in the next four laps (helped in part by Pecco Bagnaia's crash, more of which later). The Italian's supremacy was never threatened.
Though there was much delight at a truly deserved victory, there was absolutely no surprise. "Bezzecchi has a lot more speed than anybody else," Aleix Espargaro had said after the sprint race on Saturday. "If he starts first, he would win by 3-4 seconds to second for sure. He was the man." In the wet, Bezzecchi won by 4 seconds, though he slowed up and lost a couple of seconds on the final lap.
Reigning champion and friend Pecco Bagnaia confirmed on Sunday what Espargaro had said on Saturday. "I'm happy for Marco, I think he really deserved the victory," the factory Ducati rider said. "He was unbeatable this weekend. He was very competitive yesterday, very competitive today in the wet. So his first win in Moto3 was here, his first win in MotoGP is here, so he can be very proud of himself, and I'm confident that he will be very competitive all of the season."
Why did Bezzecchi dominate? A lot of reasons, not least because this is a very strong track for the Italian. He was fast almost as soon as he entered the track in Practice 1, and he only got faster as the weekend went on.
"It was an unbelievable weekend for me," the Italian told the press conference. "Honestly, I didn’t expect this when I left home. As soon as I started riding here, I felt very good. Really I was, I don't know how to describe, but I was completely one with my bike. I felt incredibly good since the first moment."
He had been deterred by the sight of rain in the morning. "This morning when I saw the rain, I was really, really sad because I said, No! I was so good in the dry, for sure it will be difficult now in the wet. But then in the warm up, as soon as I jumped on the bike it was amazing. So I started believing again and I said, well, I can do this. As soon as I started, I enjoyed a lot riding. I was really, really focused. Everything went well."
The hardest thing was staying focused once he had built up a lead. "Honestly, the first half was a little bit easier because I was really pushing to escape," Bezzecchi explained. "When you push, you are more focused. The first time I looked at the laps remaining, was 13. So, the first 11 were really quick. I said, wow, it’s good. But then from that moment to the end, I was really desperate to finish the race. It was really tough, but at the end it was okay."
In his second year, Bezzecchi is growing into the potential he showed in his rookie season in MotoGP. The podium at Assen was no fluke, and this first victory was the reward for the hard work last year and in the off season. The Mooney VR46 rider was clear where the progress from last year had come from.