Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 197: The Madness That Was Qatar 2 - Desert Nights

The latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast was a bumper edition, with so much to discuss after three remarkable races. Steve English, Adam Wheeler, Neil Morrison, and David Emmett take an hour and a half to cover all of the races and much more.

Of course we talk about Jorge Martin's astonishing pole and incredible race, finishing on the podium in just his second MotoGP outing. We talk about Johann Zarco, and whether being in a satellite team can have benefits in terms of pressure. We talk about Fabio Quartararo's incredible victory, and how the Yamaha matched up against the Ducati. And we ask whether we can really draw any conclusions from spending 11 days riding in such unique and unusual conditions.

We discuss the clash between Jack Miller and Joan Mir, and get the expert opinion of BT Sport commentator and ex-MotoGP racer Michael Laverty about who was to blame, and whether a penalty should have been issued. We discuss the state of the championship, and what Marc Marquez must be thinking when he looks at the standings. And we discuss what happened to Valentino Rossi and Franco Morbidelli, as well as the remarkable turnaround for the KTM riders.

We spend some time on Moto2 and Moto3 as well, and have words of praise for the rookies in both classes. We debate the meaning of Pedro Acosta's win as a rookie, and after starting from pit lane. And we have a long and interesting debate on the step from Red Bull Rookies and the FIM CEV Moto3 Junior World Championship and the Moto3 class at the Grand Prix level. And we finish off with our winners and losers.

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Great fireside chat. Always enjoy the discussion. Thanks, everyone.

Rossi's 16th place at Doha was the lowest finishing result that did not involve an accident of his entire GP career. Track conditions were good, he was not injured or ill and the only technical problem was apparently setup. His last ten races have resulted in four DNFs split by two DNSs due to covid, three 12th places and a 16th. At Lemans in 2009, Rossi crashed after swapping bikes in a wet race and finished 16th. We all know the story of Argentina in 2018 where he finished 19th. And Rossi crashed out of the lead at Malaysia the same year and finished 18th. 

Valentino Rossi has dedicated more than half his life to Grand Prix and Motogp. He will go down in Motogp history as more than a legend. Whether he continues after this season will depend on what his definition of "competitive" is and, more importantly, if a sponser will sign him. 

I'm not of the opinion that the pace of the race was all that slow. Overall winning time was 12-14 seconds quicker than 2018-2019 races when Dovizioso controlled the pace for the win. That's a .6 second/lap quicker pace. Zarco said Martin was doing "pretty good". He was comfortable allowing Martin to lead because he could control his race from the pace Martin was setting. Martin layed down a string of low 55s for half the race before running in the mid 55s with a couple of 55.8s. He then lowered his pace back to the low 55s for the last few laps defending his position from Zarco. Their last lap battle resulted in high 55s. Quartararo put in only one 54.9 the whole race and ran in the low 55s once taking the lead. By his own admission, Quartararo rode like a rookie at Barwa, and used his intelligence to win at Doha. In my opinion, Viñales used up too much tire getting past the factory Ducatis and his riding got a little scrappy with Rins. Let the factory Yamaha battle continue. Would be great to see those two go head to head ala the Rossi/Lorenzo years.

I see the the closest top 10 and 15 in history partly due to all the laps the teams have done at Qatar over the last three weeks and the good conditions during the race. Everyone had loads of time to perfect the setup. And if the pace of the race was considered slow by the riders, what does Rossi's result of finishing over 14 seconds adrift of the winner say?

Just an insight based on observations from the sofa cushion and assumptions without evidence to back it up, but what if Rossi's natural riding style has been surpassed by the evolution of the bikes, the style required to ride them and the switch back to Michelin tires? Rossi has been known as a rider who leans towards a harder front tire. When his team switched to Bridgestones in 2008, Burgess and the team adjusted his M1 from a Michelin Yamaha to a Bridgestone Yamaha in a couple of races much to everyone's astonishment. Maybe the Rossi/Bridgestone was a perfect match of riding style and tire that allowed Rossi to be super competitive. The hype of the Bridgestones was the incredible front tire that, once up to temperature, allowed extreme trail braking into the corner. The Bridgestones may have allowed Rossi to fully exploit his potential on a Motogp bike. 2015 was both Rossi's last title push and Bridgestone's last season in Motogp. Remember Rossi talking about needing to improve the braking during practice sessions at Assen that year? Hard to wrap the mind around that statement considering the flowing nature of the track. But it all became clear during the race as he picked off rider after rider on the brakes going into the final chicane. Which was the location of the last lap coming together with Marquez before Rossi took the win. Since Michelin has taken over as spec tire supplier in Motogp, the rear biased nature may not suit Rossi's natural style to push the front hard, which may be where he makes up his time. And we are talking about minute fractions of a second due to the ultra competitive grid in Motogp. Maybe Rossi has been micro-overcompensating by using up the rear. It would be interesting to know how much rear tire wear played a role in Rossi's retirements (accidents) in the recent Michelin era. 

If the results don't come this year and Rossi still wants to race, Yamaha could propose a Rossi/Razgatlioglu swap. Rossi's natural style might gel very well with superbikes. Then he would have the chance to do the double by winning championships in both series. And Yamaha would keep Rossi in the fold until he truly is ready to retire the leathers and focus soley on running a team in Motogp.

Enjoyed Laverty's perspective on the Miller/Mir tangle. Hard to truly understand one's intentions unless you are them. The best we can do is form our own opinions based on observations and assumptions.

Would do wonders for sport and a Turkish rider in Motogp would do wonders for ratings in that area of the world. Would Rossi go to WSBK - not sure ?

The opportunity was there in the past and it was given consideration for him but then 2015 showed him he can still be competitive. Since then...he's had enough sparks to show staying in GP was a good decision for him. Personally, Id love to see Rossi on a Superbike grid because he's put in so many miles on an R1 that you'd imagine he'd be able to transition quite well to a production bike and Pirelli tyres. It'd be exciting but it'd also be very hard for him because SBK is very competitive now. A few years was the ideal time to jump 

Yes, the competitiveness of the WSBK riders cannot be discounted. And I agree with the idea that Rossi's R1M training would only benefit him if he were to make the switch..

Going back through the records, I was amazed at Rossi's qualifying performance in 2016 - the first year of Michelin spec tires. Known more for his Sunday heroics than his Saturday placements, Rossi qualified on the front row 12 times with three poles. That equated to two wins, ten podiums and second in the championship to Marquez by 49 points. Compared to 2015 (the last year of the Bridgestones) Rossi qualified on the front row 5 times with a single pole. Yet that resulted in four wins, 16 podiums (thirteen in a row!) and a championship battle all the way to the final race. In fact, Rossi's front row qualifying performance in 2016 pretty much equals the next four years combined. From 2017-2020, Rossi had 14 front row starts - two of which were pole positions. And that resulted in a single win at Assen almost four years ago and 14 podiums in total.

Clearly, Rossi was able to exploit the one lap potential of the rear tire at the beginning of the Michelin era. For some reason, his race pace and one lap speed has been medoicre at best over the last year (which was a really weird year). And that is still super fast given the ultra-competitiveness of the Motogp grid. The results since 2015 indicate that the Bridgestones were a better race tire than qualifying tire for Rossi. Of course there were countless variables that could have had an effect on the race results. One being the 800 lb. gorilla on the grid riding a machine with an engine characteristic that he found difficult to master in 2015. 

I'd love to see Rossi battle for the championship in WSBK, but it may be a bridge already passed. The opportunity to go to there is similar to the fork in the road back when he had a chance to drive for Ferrari in F1. It's going to be interesting to see how well Rossi fares in the upcoming European races.

What i notice about the young guns is how easily they take to the style of riding the modern bikes. I guess they know no different. The numbers of Rossi's career are ever reproduced and amazing but think of this...

His first 500 race was won by none other than Mr McCoy just ahead of Carlos Checa. A race including such names as Roberts Jr, Goorbergh, Okada, Barros, Criville, McWilliams, Abe, Laconi. I wont mention the name but one of those riders was born the same year the Beatles released 'A Hard Day's Night' and Ali (Clay) took the heavyweight crown for the first time. Lecuona was born the same year as Rossi stepped up to the 500's and Simon Crafar was racing 500's the year before that.

I see the likes of Martin and it looks like they were born to ride these bikes. Hanging off the bike like a photo of an accident. It boggles the mind how Rossi is doing what he is doing now, even 19th on this grid is bloody fast and tow or not...4th! Crazy guy. Numbers of Swallows, seasons of the year etc etc...snowed here on Tuesday. The least suprising thing in Portimao will be if the three 2021 Yamahas finish near the tail end of the points.

Great podcast, but not a mention of Alex M. Is he already forgotten? That is the one bad thing about the young guns coming up so fast. Some will be damaged- mentally not ready. As you all said, more and more will make it. But last year all we could speculate was Alex, and now after 2 races, would like to hear what you experts think? He is not far off, but crashes on the difficult Honda. If MM is less able (physically) to perform heroics this season- still fast but not as many saves... is it Alex that will suffer Honda? 

Crashed out wave early.


Zero tv coverage too. Just a no show last rounds. I can only find video of his crash in FP. I think he is a surprisingly good rider that came in a bit under the radar relative to a few peers. 

This 2021 Honda has more scrutiny and awareness from me, it has gotten from nightmare to rather rideable, but not further. Still plagued by the SAME defect, at least at Qatar. Crash count log book in hand next rounds. Hoping Alex returns to form. The Honda? Less! I like it eating it's own arse. 

The Marc is about to return to the front of proceedings. The bike problems will get less notice. Alex is likely to be hot and cold?

Hi David,

I've set up a go-fundme to get Pedro Acosta a MotoGP bike for the Portimao round per your suggestion in the podcast.

Currently, we're a litte short of the goal of €1,000,000, at just €0.99 so far.

I hope I can count on you to get us the last €999,999.01 by the end of the week.

And please don't let those doubting-Thomases you have to suffer on the podcast get you down.

Pedro for MotoGP world champ 2022!