The third part of our MotoGP video bonanza is something different. The Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team headed back to their base in the South of France, and spent a couple of days filming a brief but entertaining video short, featuring Bradley Smith, Pol Espargaro, and a Yamaha M1:
Our video bonanza continues, with the second interview provided by a team. This time, it's the turn of Ecstar Suzuki's Aleix Espargaro, talking about how 2016 has turned out for him so far:
Over the course of the summer, we received a number of videos from the teams with interviews and such to help fill the summer break. We have chosen to lump them all together, to help get you in the mood for the return of MotoGP in Austria.
First up is a video interview with Tito Rabat, discussing his first nine races in MotoGP, and the progress he has made so far:
In the final part of our mid-season review of MotoGP, we come to the ragtag bunch bringing up the rear. From Bradley Smith to Yonny Hernandez, nearly all have a valid excuse for their poor results. But excuses count for nothing in motorcycle racing.
16th: Bradley Smith, Yamaha , 35 points
A remarkable reversal of fortunes for Bradley Smith and his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha teammate Pol Espargaro in 2016. Last year, Smith's consistency was in stark contrast to Espargaro's continuous attempts to try to make the Yamaha do something it didn't want to. In 2016, it is Smith who is banging his head against a wall trying to make the rear Michelin do something it won't, while Espargaro is the picture of consistency.
It is a time for mid-season reviews. In addition to our own series of reviews looking at how the various riders have fared in the first half of the year, Steve English, Neil Morrison and Asphalt & Rubber's Jensen Beeler got together to discuss the first half of 2016 for the latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast.
After a stroll through the top ten, our mid-season review of MotoGP continues, and gains in both brevity and the number of riders under discussion. Here, we go through the numbers eleven to fifteen, from Aleix Espargaro to Stefan Bradl:
11th: Aleix Espargaro, Suzuki, 51 points
Where his teammate is being heralded as The Next Big Thing, Aleix Espargaro has struggled. At some circuits, his results have been impressive: two fifths at Austin and Jerez, followed by a sixth at Le Mans are right where Espargaro believes he belongs, running close to the front and looking for improvement. But the rest of the season has been mediocre. Two DNFs and three finishes outside the top ten are just not good enough for a factory Suzuki rider.
The latest eleventh part of our mid-season review sees us come to the end of the top ten in the championship standings, and another brace of Ducatis. We take a look at Andrea Dovizioso's rough year, and the consistency of Eugene Laverty:
9th: Andrea Dovizioso, Ducati, 59 points
If it wasn't for bad luck, Andrea Dovizioso wouldn't have any luck at all. Of the nine races so far this year, Dovizioso has finished just five, and one of them, only by pushing his bike across the line.
In the tenth part of our mid-season review, we come to the Ducatis. Hector Barbera is the surprise leader of the Bologna pack, just ahead of Andrea Iannone. We compare Barbera's consistency with Iannone's impetuosity.
7th: Hector Barbera, Ducati, 65 points
First Ducati at the halfway point. That must be particularly sweet for Hector Barbera, given his reputation inside and outside the MotoGP paddock. With so many Spanish riders packing the grid, Barbera is one of the riders Dorna are believed to be keen to ditch. Yet the Avintia Ducati rider keeps finding sponsorship to ride, and keeps proving that he is still fast enough to compete. Both and without a tow.
The next part of our MotoGP mid-season review focuses on the first of the non Aliens in the standings: Maverick Viñales and Pol Espargaro:
5th: Maverick Viñales, Suzuki, 83 points
Is Maverick Viñales the next Alien? There are many who claim that he will be. Yamaha clearly believe he has the potential to become one, as they signed him as Jorge Lorenzo's replacement for 2017 and beyond. In 2016, Viñales has show real potential with some impressive performances. Yet at other times, he has been positively middling. The jury is still out at the moment.
Our MotoGP mid-season review continues with the man everyone tipped for the title on Michelin tires, Dani Pedrosa.
4th: Dani Pedrosa, Honda, 96 points
Before the start of the 2016 season, many insiders, including several MotoGP riders, were telling anyone who would listen to look out for Dani Pedrosa. The new Michelin tires played perfectly into his hands. The extra grip of the powerful Michelin rear gave him the grip he had been missing with the Bridgestones, and his smoothness with the throttle was helping to overcome the limitations of the spec electronics. Pedrosa was the unanimous outside tip for the championship.
As our mid-season review of MotoGP continues, we come to the man who was so bitterly disappointed in 2015, and started the current season out for revenge.
3rd: Valentino Rossi, Yamaha, 111 points
Yet another impostor. Valentino Rossi is arguably the most complete racer on the MotoGP grid, and probably the most complete racer of all time. His experience is unrivaled, as is his ability to adapt to circumstances. Yet he has thrown away one win and the chance of a very strong result through something resembling youthful impatience. The most experienced rider on the grid has made life impossible for himself as a result of two rookie mistakes.
We continue our mid-season look at the performance of the MotoGP riders with the reigning world champion, Jorge Lorenzo.
2nd: Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha, 122 points
Who is the real Jorge Lorenzo? Like Marc Márquez, it sometimes looks like Jorge Lorenzo's place has been taken by an impostor in Movistar Yamaha leathers. The swap would have taken place at Barcelona: in the first six races of the season, Lorenzo's results included three wins, two second places and a crash in tricky conditions in Argentina. From Barcelona onwards, Lorenzo was taken out by Andrea Iannone as he dropped down through the field, a tenth and a fifteenth place finish. Tenth at Assen was Lorenzo's worst finish in MotoGP since his rookie season. Three weeks later, he had his worst finish in Grand Prix racing since 2004.
Politics may have featured heavily so far this year – witness the first four pieces of this mid-season review – but there has also been plenty of racing. So now, lets take a look at how the MotoGP riders have fared so far in 2016, counting down the riders based on their current position in the championship.
1st: Marc Márquez, Honda, 170 points
2016 is the year of the impostor. Everything we thought we knew about the current riders in MotoGP has been turned on its head. Marc Márquez is a shining example of this. He has gone from a rider who wants to win every race, even if he risks crashing out, to one who is willing to settle for less when there are no better options.
Why do they call it Silly Season? Its origins lie in the 19th Century, when a London publication found itself concocting trivial stories to try to pad out its pages. Its meaning has mutated to cover any story consisting mainly of speculation and rumor meant to fill empty column inches. And in motorcycle racing, it has come to mean the period of time during which riders and teams are negotiating over new contracts, and working on who will be riding where the following season.
This year, Silly Season has needed a new name. It has gone from beyond silly to being outright insane. In a normal year, riders touch base with teams at Jerez, start talks in earnest at Mugello, and sign contracts during the summer break, announcing deals at the first race after the break. But this is no normal year. As we approach the first race after the summer break of 2016, all but two of the twenty-three seats in MotoGP have already been filled, officially or unofficially, and Silly Season is basically over.
The madness started before the season had even begun. At the Movistar Yamaha launch in January, Jorge Lorenzo stated publicly that he wanted to sign a new deal with the team before the start of the season. Yamaha did their part, sending offers to both Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi in the period before the first race at Qatar. Lorenzo did not sign his deal, however. Valentino Rossi did. The seven time MotoGP champion has tied his long term future to Yamaha, and never seriously looked elsewhere. Yamaha and Rossi will be making money for each other for many years to come.
Some people want pit-to-rider radios introduced to MotoGP. Please, no… please, no…
So, Valentino Rossi wants to discuss the introduction of pit-to-rider radios in MotoGP’s Safety Commission.
This is weird, because radios are currently banned from MotoGP, partly for safety reasons, after various riders and teams tested the technology some years ago. Radios certainly won’t improve safety in any great way; they will merely be a tool that might have saved Rossi the woeful embarrassment of disregarding his pit-board in Germany a few weeks ago.