With Taka Nakagami and Karel Abraham signing contracts for 2018 over the weekend, and another announcement due at Silverstone, we can update the 2018 MotoGP rider line up. Just three seats remain open: the second seat at Marc VDS Honda, and both seats at Avintia Ducati. A single question mark behind the name of a rider indicates a very strong rumor. An asterisk indicates an alternative rumor for a signed contract.
Press releases from the teams and Michelin after the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring:
Andrea Dovizioso scores a fantastic win in the Austrian Grand Prix to move into second place in the championship. Jorge Lorenzo had a good race to finish fourth
The weather is looking up at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, and that is a good thing. First of all, it provided a fascinating day of practice and qualifying, with more than a few surprises and plenty of data to chew over. But secondly, and far more importantly, it meant that riders were out on track riding, and returning to the pits safely after doing so. If the weather had turned, and rain had fallen, that might not have been the case.
The reason for that is simple. The Red Bull Ring is not safe in the wet. That was the consensus of the riders at Friday night's Safety Commission. It is not particularly safe in the dry either, but in the wet, it is so bad that everyone said they would not ride if it rained. "Everybody yesterday in the Safety Commission said they would not ride in the wet," Aleix Espargaro said.
It was a point which Cal Crutchlow had made on Thursday, even before practice began. He reiterated it on Saturday. "If it rains I ain’t riding," he told the media. I have no interest, because there are barriers everywhere. As you saw, everyone was crashing in a complete straight line and they were going to the left at a right hand corner. It was just ridiculous. Until they move the barriers back, I have no interest to ride here in the wet."
Press release previews from the teams and Michelin:
The Repsol Honda Team head to the Red Bull Ring leading the standings
With no time to rest following their perfect 1-2 at the Brno Grand Prix (the fifth double-podium finish for the Repsol Honda Team out of 10 races this season), Championship leader Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa are focused on this Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix.
Press releases from the teams who participated in the MotoGP test at Brno on Monday:
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Boost Confidence in Brno Test
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Michelin after the tenth round of the championship:
Master-class win for Marquez at Brno with Pedrosa second to complete a Repsol Honda Team 1-2
Marc Marquez took a back-to-back victory at Brno today in challenging conditions, his third this year and the 58th in his career, extending his championship lead to 14 points over his closest follower.
Flag-to-flag races. You either love them or hate them. For some, flag-to-flag racing adds an extra dimension to MotoGP, rewarding teams and riders who are smart with their strategy selection, bringing much greater rewards for those who are prepared to take calculated risks, while also carrying a much greater punishment if you risk too much. It is not enough to get the setup right for the conditions, teams also have to assess how conditions might change, and riders have to judge the optimum time to come in and swap bikes. It places a greater emphasis on teamwork, rather than just the rider.
For others, however, flag-to-flag races are just a lottery, the outcome decided largely by chance. Victory goes not necessarily to the fastest rider on the track, but to the one who gambles correctly on the right tire, the right time to pit, on how the weather develops. The team has too much influence on the outcome, relegating the rider to a secondary role. It isn't the fastest rider who wins the race, it is the luckiest rider.
Unsurprisingly, there is often a correlation between how you feel about flag-to-flag racing and how your favorite rider performs in those conditions. My favorite rider is a master strategist, backed by a canny team. Your favorite rider is a lucky devil who fell face first into a bucket full of horseshoes, and wouldn't have won if it hadn't been for the team doing all the hard work and telling them exactly what to do and when to do it.
After four weeks, MotoGP is back. That four-week break is a big deal. A much bigger deal than you might expect. Having a big break in the middle of the summer made the season much more manageable. "The problem is the pressure we have," Aleix Espargaro explained. "MotoGP looks like it's a lot of fun on the TV, and it is very fun, but we have a lot of responsibility, a lot of pressure, so to be able to disconnect and do nothing, it's always good."
That comment came in response to a question about the addition of the KymiRing in Finland to the calendar in 2019, which will expand the schedule to 20 races, after the inclusion of the Chang circuit in Thailand next year. The general feeling among riders was that 20 races was manageable, though with the caveat that Dorna ensure there is a large summer break.
Aleix Espargaro again: "For me the most important thing is to have a good break in the summer, like one month, because then you can disconnect. Really, I don't care if we do four races in a row, I don't care. I would like to do it if possible, four races in a row or three times three races in a row, but it's important in the middle to have a break, to just reset your mind, charge batteries. Because when you race a lot of consecutive races, it's very very hard for the body, for the head, for everything. But if we still have the summer break, one race more is no big problem."
Preview press releases from the MotoGP teams and Michelin:
Repsol Honda Team resumes action following summer break
The Repsol Honda Team heads to Brno in the Czech Republic with Marc Marquez leading the Championship on 129 points and Dani Pedrosa in fifth place on 103 points, just 26 off the top after nine races in one of the closest seasons ever.
Marc and Dani are ready for the second half of the season following a four-week break that was interrupted only by a two-day private test at the same track on July 17 and 18.
Can part two of the (melo)drama which is the 2017 MotoGP season live up to part one? It has been a wild ride so far, but like any great fairground ride, we have ended up more or less back where we started. Just five points separate Marc Márquez and Maverick Viñales at the top of the championship, and Valentino Rossi in fourth is only ten points behind Márquez, with Andrea Dovizioso in between a point behind Viñales. If Márquez does not win the Czech Grand Prix at Brno on Sunday, there is every chance the championship will have a new leader. If there is, it would be the fifth time the title lead had changed hands so far this year. It has been a wild ride indeed.
So how did we get here? Through a mixture of rider swaps, tire changes, weird weather, and changing track conditions. Add in a healthy dose of spec electronics, the loss of winglets for this season, and a brace of astonishing rookies, and you have an explosive mixture. At Mugello, perhaps the nearest thing we have had to a normal MotoGP weekend this year, the gap from the winner, Andrea Dovizioso, to Jack Miller in fifteenth was 30.7 seconds, with 50 seconds covering all 20 finishers. In 2015, 30 seconds covered just the first eight riders. In 2013, only five other bikes finished within half a minute of the winner. Those kinds of gaps have been the rule for most of the modern era. But the old rules no longer apply.
Michelin can take much of the credit, or shoulder much of the blame, depending on your perspective. In their second year back in MotoGP, the French tire manufacturer have been a much more stable force in the series, the tires changing less this year than in 2016. But that has not stemmed the complaints: there have been a string of riders muttering that the Michelins are not up to scratch, that they change too much from one race to the next, and even from one day to the next. Are their concerns valid? Michelin deny it, of course, and give a long list of entirely plausible reasons for the tires to react differently from day to day.