Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - How do you solve a problem like Andrea?

MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.


How do you solve a problem like Andrea?

Suzuki is having a nightmare MotoGP season; who to blame: the riders, the factory or the team?

I’ve already said it, but I’ll say it again, I like Andrea Iannone, mostly because he’s funny. MotoGP is lucky at the moment, not least because the grid includes a full rainbow of characters, from angelic assassins and gritty little boxers to scary old men and (pantomime) gangsters.

It’s not me suggesting Iannone is a wannabe gangster. A journalist recently asked the Italian what he would do for a living if he didn’t race bikes and he immediately replied he would be a gangster.

Meanwhile Iannone still races bikes and right now he’s got a problem. His performances with Suzuki have plotted a steadily downward path since he first got on the GSX-RR last November: from quietly promising to loudly disappointing.

This isn’t for want of trying on Suzuki’s part. When it signed Iannone they allowed him to bring his crew chief from Ducati, but it rightly baulked at his request to import his entire crew.

It has worked hard to make him feel at home because as everyone knows, a happy rider is a fast rider. “In this game it’s 80 per cent in the rider’s head and 20 per cent in the machine,” superstar crew-chief Jeremy Burgess once told me. “So if your rider wants gold handlebars, you give him gold handlebars.”

Which, come to think of it, might be the way to go with Iannone, because he likes a bit of bling.

Iannone is taking a lot of criticism at the moment. He can’t make the Suzuki work for him and he’s fed up with crashing, so he’s hit the cruise control. On the one hand, this is understandable because why risk your neck when the bike isn’t right? On the other hand, the bike will never be right unless you do risk your neck. And he is well paid to do just that.

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

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Total votes: 22
Total votes: 17

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Comments

I think that the only problem here are your own expectations and the stiff competition. In my opinion it is not fair to write off a rider of team that is only 0,76 sec off the pace (resulting ending up around 10-14th place). Nature of the sport is that some team might end up a that place if something is not perfect or a combination is less than ideal. And I think nobody but you expected that much of Iannone on Suzuki this year. It was perfectly clear when signing the contract: Suzuki was not the first, not the second but maybe the 3rd choice and the only option for Iannone. If the Suzuki was really on the level to get in the top 5, then Vinalis would not have made such a big jump after switching to Yamaha.  

I think Ducati off the pace with all the superstars and Marlboro back-up money involved could be also seen as a disaster. But again: competition is tough and the whole field is more competative then ever. The time of obvious aliens belongs to the past. Aliens from the past could very well end up at place 10th.

I think all parties involved in Motogp are in for promotion purposes. This kind of negative journalism doesnt serve anybody in the sport and certainly does harm the sport. If everybody would take a point of view like yours to Suzuki why would they continu to join motogp? Instead lets praise them for being there, even if they are not in the position to win for a moment. Why participating in Motogp if there is a bigger change to lose than win (and get negative critics of journalist that " love" the sport). I won't thank you if we get back to the time that there are only 2 of 3 manufacturers around, securing themselves for places in the top 5.

What worries me however is that because of the level of competition, and the difficulty to get a winning bike, how fast talents are spilled in Motogp now. There are only one, maybe two years to prove yourself and then you are out. Wrong bike or a good bike at the wrong moment is the end of your career. Seems that for newcomers there is no room anymore for Rossi. Pedrosa or Hayden-like enduring careers. I think from that point of view there is nothing wrong with some decisions from riders to stay some longer in Moto2. Kicked out of Motogp might be the end of the story.

Cheers (I prefer to drink something that is more sweet than sour)

Total votes: 32

We need to hear the bad with the good. Just as long as it is the truth....or even just a legitimate opinion. We are old enough to handle it. Otherwise, it would be like watching remarks after a golf tournament, very boring, unbelievable when everything is just peachy.

Total votes: 23

I fully agree with that....

Total votes: 24

I have been a supporter of #29 generally, and Astronauts are my main focus. When he showed flashes of brilliance on the Duc in 2015 I was piqued.

He and Dovi have diverged. We know that bike can do better. A good measuring stick might be midway between A.Espargaro and Vinales last year. And a path to that incrementally.

Iannone is our first good rider to get sculpted into the Ducati MotoGP bike riding style. He needs to adapt to the bike he is on, for SURE not the other way around. His attitude is of concern. It is surprising relative to what we could expect of him to have learned via his previous employer's boot in the arse. However, it is NOT surprising given what we know of the brash swaggering big balled ego of this very Italian man. He is his own worst enemy right now. Wildly externalizing with pride. Entitled. He can't be as great as he can be until there is a hard earned humility and focus closer to home and the essentials.

I would love to be of help, but again, the phone doesn't ring for these guys until they are crying for a Superbike ride and they have to go back to their old girlfriend that loved them well as an aspiring national level racer.

To be fair, the Suzuki is the OPPOSITE of a Ducati. Little grunt, lots of feel. But Iannone, where to if not here buddy? When if not now? Adapt your style, less struggling with anything else, more hard work ethic. Extra laps. And commit to it WITH this Suzuki team. A touch better results with much more consistency. Look to notice prideful egoic defenses and just plain old minimize them. Channel that into fitness and understanding what is working with this bike. Go study everything you can from last yr. No, not YOU and how wrong everyone is. Vinales and how right it can be.

Total votes: 13

I would describe it as critical journalism, as opposed to negative. Providing a critique of the situation from Mat Oxley's perspective.

I note on Twitter, a difference of opinion between David Emmett and Mat Oxley on the subject of Andrea Iannone. 

Cheers.

Total votes: 18

I agree there is a difference between cricital journalism and negative journalism. I think when the factor respect has left the building, it tends to get negative instead of critical

Total votes: 11

Speed aside, his problem right now is that he is exhibiting no character as a racer or marketer. He is disrespectful to fans and his team. If you choose to be that arrogant, flashy, self-absorbed and rude, you perhaps should be backing that up with results, or at least good committment and attitude. Schwantz wouldn't have bagged him out if he was at least putting in the effort and Schwantz likely knows what's going on in that team.   

Total votes: 13

... given what they're doing seems to be making results go backwards, try doing the exact opposite of what they've done in the first half of the season? :D

Total votes: 9