Two men have emerged from the 2017 preseason as favorites. In many ways, Marc Márquez and Maverick Viñales are alike. Both are young, handsome Spaniards with an aura about them. Both grew up racing, and were immediately fast on every new bike they swung a leg over. Both have a keen intelligence, especially about racing, and what matters.
But above all, both Márquez and Viñales are driven by their ambition. They enter each championship with the fixed intention of winning. They have talent to spare, but more than that, they both have a deep understanding of what it takes to win a world championship, and are prepared to put in the work, to make the sacrifices needed to achieve their goal. They are single minded, obsessed with winning.
They are two very different characters. Márquez is cheerful, gregarious, outgoing. Whenever you see him, he is always laughing or smiling, joking with the people around him. He loves company, and spends almost every waking minute of each race weekend in the garage with his crew. When he joined the Repsol Honda team, he was allowed to take most of his Moto2 team, and crew chief Santi Hernandez worked under the tutelage of Cristian Gabarrini. At the end of his first year, Márquez demanded that HRC brought the last two members of his former Moto2 team into the Repsol Honda garage, and Gabarrini was moved on to other duties, despite being regarded as perhaps the best crew chief in the business.
Viñales is more reserved, quieter. Though he can be just as friendly as Márquez, he is more withdrawn, relying more on his own judgment. He has a cold, calculating intelligence, unafraid to make hard decisions, no matter the personal cost. Even at the age of seventeen, when he walked away from the Blusens Avintia Moto3 team over charges of general incompetence, he was able to turn around immediately and fly back to Australia for the next race after a meeting with his lawyers. It took humility and cool reasoning to do that. Not qualities seventeen-year-olds are particularly renowned for.
There can be only one
Now Márquez and Viñales face each other, but only one of them can win. They both sense that they are each other's main rival, the main obstacle to winning. And they have both spent the winter preparing for this battle, doing what it takes to give themselves the edge, poring over every detail. Looking for hundredths of a second here and there, knowing that hundredths mount up to tenths, and then whole seconds over the course of a race.
Marc and Maverick have been preparing in very different ways. That is self evident; they both have very different tasks ahead of them. Márquez is the reigning champion, having won three of the four MotoGP championships he has competed in. His focus is on avoiding a repeat of 2015, when the bike wasn't up to competing. Viñales is the newcomer, switching from the Suzuki, a bike that was nearly there, to the Yamaha M1 which is a proven winner. He has been focused on himself, on learning to use the extra advantages now at his disposal.
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