Ducati GP19 swingarm attachment
Peter Bom: The now (in)famous aerodynamic modification on the Ducati, which they claim channels extra air onto the rear tire, which keeps it cooler and improves performance. Since its introduction, we have also seen a similar device on the Honda RC213V, and we expect to see more at Jerez.
In part one of my interview with Santi Hernandez, crew chief to Marc Márquez, Hernandez talked about how the team come up with the strategies which have given them a competitive advantage in MotoGP. In this second part, Hernandez moves on to talk about what makes Marc Márquez so special.
Hernandez discusses how Márquez pairs exceptional talent with absolute effort, and about Márquez attitude to risk, and how he balances the risk with the need to find the limit. This is a crew chief's view of what exactly makes a rider special.
Q: What about Marc is special? Is there something special in his riding – throttle, braking, balance? Anything like that?
Santi Hernandez: Yeah, he changed a lot from 2013 and now. He has more experience. He knows the bike much more, but also he learned about the championship. He learned how if you want to win the title you have to… At the beginning, he was all or nothing. Now he understands.
Q: Last year he won the championship on all the days when he didn't win the race.
SH: This is what I am saying. Of course, he learned, but for me the most key point for him is he always gives 100%, 120%, from FP1 until the race. It is good to work with a rider like this, because all the data you have is very good. It's not like one lap slower, one faster, two slower. Then it's so difficult, even for the rider, to choose the tire, the setup. So it's better that the rider always goes out, and even if the bike is not the best, he does 120%.
Motorcycle racing is a team sport. Even when exceptional talents come along, they need help to succeed, from mechanics, from crew chiefs, from the people around them. Freddie Spencer had Erv Kanemoto, Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi had Jeremy Burgess, Casey Stoner had Cristian Gabarrini. And now, Marc Márquez has Santi Hernandez.
The Spaniard has been with Márquez since he moved up to the Moto2 class in 2011. Since then, he has been Márquez' crew chief for the Monlau Repsol team, and the Repsol Honda team in MotoGP. In their eight years together, the pair have won six of Márquez' seven Grand Prix titles, proving the success of the partnership.
But Hernandez is not just a vital part of the engineering side of Márquez' success, he has also been instrumental in the other ways in which the reigning world champion has changed the face of racing. Márquez and his crew are renowned for understanding strategy better than anyone else in the paddock. It was Márquez who first went for a two-stop strategy during qualifying. It was Márquez who gambled on coming in early when the track was drying at Brno in 2017, going on to win by 12 seconds. It is Márquez who finds advantages in places other riders and their teams fear to look.
Santi Hernandez is a key part of that decision making. I sat down with Marc Márquez' crew chief in Austin, to talk about how they identify and choose new strategies, why they can afford to gamble, and what happens when it goes wrong. In the second part of this interview, published on Saturday, we go on to discuss what makes Marc Márquez such a special rider, and how he manages himself under such extreme pressure.
Three days before he rode to his first MotoGP victory at COTA we sat down with Álex Rins to find out how he extracts the maximum from Suzuki’s GSX-RR
Would you say you are a very smooth rider?
Does this come from you working out that this is now the best way to ride a MotoGP bike or does it come naturally?
There are only three certainties in life: Death, taxes, and Marc Márquez winning any MotoGP race organized in the United States of America. That has been true since the Spaniard moved up to MotoGP, and for both years he spent in Moto2 as well. There is something about America which makes Márquez nigh on invincible. Is it the anticlockwise tracks? Is it the low grip and tricky surfaces found at the circuits? Or is high fructose corn syrup Márquez' equivalent of Popeye's spinach?
MotoGP went to Austin hoping this might be the year when things changed. With good reason: the racing in the series has been getting closer and closer almost on a race-by-race basis. Valentino Rossi finished just 0.6 seconds behind race winner Andrea Dovizioso at Qatar, but he crossed the line in fifth place. In Argentina, the seven riders fighting for second place were separated by 3 seconds on the penultimate lap. The Ducati Desmosedici GP19 is faster and better than ever, the Yamaha M1 has made a huge step forward since 2018, and the Suzuki has consistently been in the hunt for podiums since the middle of last year.
That is all very well and good, but the margin of Marc Márquez' victory in Termas de Rio Hondo suggested that ending Márquez' reign in the US would require something extraordinary to happen. The Repsol Honda rider had a 12 second lead going into the last lap in Argentina. The Honda RC213V had the highest top speed in both Qatar and Argentina, the bike having both more horsepower and better acceleration. Then, during qualifying, Márquez took pole – his seventh in a row at the Circuit of the Americas – with an advantage of more than a quarter of a second over Valentino Rossi. Normal service had been resumed.
MotoGP’s aero war is raging, with Aprilia the latest to fit a swingarm device, so what’s next for the rules? Should aero stay or should it go?
These words you are reading are not part of a MotoGP article, they are the opening sentences of the first chapter of War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Michelin after Sunday's race at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas:
BRILLIANT RINS WINS HIS FIRST MOTOGP RACE IN TEXAS
Press releases from some of the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Sunday's race at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas:
Have Race Direction suddenly decided to have a crackdown on jump starts? After a long period without a single jump start, we suddenly have three in two races. Look at the video, and it's clear the reason Race Direction issued two more penalties for jump starts is because two riders moved on the grid in Austin. A random statistical distribution tends to be lumpy, not smooth, and so random events look like they are clustered together. And at the point of the race where the riders are most intensely focused, occasionally mistakes will occur. Sometimes even simultaneously.
The two culprits in Austin were Joan Mir and Maverick Viñales. Mir's infraction was the smallest, barely moving and then almost coming to a stop. He was quietly seething after the race, angry at a penalty he felt he didn't deserve, and at the disproportionate nature of the penalty for the tiniest infraction in which he didn't gain an advantage, like Cal Crutchlow in Argentina. "It ruined my race," the Suzuki Ecstar rider said. "All the weekend for this. It ruined my whole weekend. When I see my lap times every lap and the pace that I had, it makes me even more angry because sincerely we had today a great pace to fight for the podium or top five, sure."