Drama follows Marc Márquez like (to misquote Cantona) seagulls follow a trawler


Pecco Bagnaia won his fourth consecutive MotoGP race, Jorge Martin lost the championship lead when he crashed out, but, as always, Marc Márquez provided the biggest drama of the weekend

Martin Austrian Grand Prix 2024

Martin has the hammer down, Morbidelli is about to pass Bagnaia (who’s already thinking about saving his tyres), while Marc Márquez looms

Red Bull

It hardly seems right to call the reigning MotoGP champion a tortoise, but Sunday’s German Grand Prix definitely had something of the tortoise-and-hare fable about it.

Jorge Martin went haring into the lead, burning his tyres, while Pecco Bagnaia made haste slowly.

The race also perfectly summed up their racing psyches: Martin, always hammer down, Bagnaia, always (well, nearly always) taking a touchy, feely approach and thinking, always thinking.

Sachsenring is a tyre-management race: thirty laps, which has riders turning left three hundred times (!) and turning right ninety times. Tyres are harder on the left and softer on the right, so both sides are fully cooked by the end.

Bagnaia had this in mind from the early stages, when he lost the lead to Martin and then had Franco Morbidelli take second place off him at one-third distance.

“I was just trying to be very, very precise with the rear tyre because I knew the more tyre I had for the last part of the race the better it would be,” he said. “When I saw both Pramac guys overtake me, they were pushing a bit too much, so I decided to slow down a bit, wait a bit and then push back.”

During four of the five laps before Martin crashed, Bagnaia was the faster of the pair and he smelt blood as he piled pressure on the leader.

“I saw Jorge went wide at Turn 1 and twice at Turn 12 – as soon as I saw that I understood I had the possibility to win.”

Meanwhile Martin was desperate to keep a half-second advantage going into the last lap so Bagnaia wouldn’t be close enough to launch an attack. In the end he was too desperate, losing the front at Turn 1 on the penultimate lap.

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The factory Ducati team celebrates Bagnaia’s first four in a row since 2022. He certainly seems on his way to a title hat-trick

“For sure I was surprised by the crash,” said Martin, whose exit lost him the championship lead to Bagnaia, just like Lombok last year, where he also crashed out of the lead. “I think I rode perfectly – I was managing the front and rear tyres really well, I felt fantastic. I felt great, then I crashed.”

The big worry for Martin and his crew is that the crash was a carbon copy of Jerez, where he also tumbled out of the lead, and Mugello, where he fell in the sprint, always braking into tight turns.

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“There’s something, maybe in my style, maybe in my head, I don’t know what, but there’s something there that’s making me crash, so I need to take my time, analyse and learn.”

Martin has four weeks before the next GP – Silverstone on August 4 – to work out what he’s doing wrong and he’ll need all his mental strength to not let this rash of crashes gnaw at his confidence.

In fact it’s not only Martin who’s crashed out of three races this year, so has Bagnaia: Portimao, Jerez and Barcelona. The difference is that Martin has gone down in two GPs and one sprint, while Bagnaia has fallen in one GP and two sprints.

Last weekend at Assen, Bagnaia remarked of the sprints, “It’s not why we are here,” and his record proves that. Sunday’s double points make bigger prizes.

Jack Miller – having a horrible season on the KTM – explained that MotoGP is tougher now than it’s ever been: the speed, the closeness of competition and therefore the pressure…

“The level is ridiculous,” said the Aussie. “We see the mistakes happening at front – the guys winning races are crashing out of races. The level is extremely high, it’s extremely cutthroat. The business is completely different to when I came in [2015].”

2024 MotoGP

End of FP1 this year (left) and last year, braking into Turn 1. The dash-dash-dash lines in the 2024 photo clearly show the rear tyre vibrating and hopping across the asphalt, caused by the grippier 2024 rear


This brings Ducati’s eight-bike advantage into focus. Next year the Bologna brand will have two fewer bikes on the grid – with Pramac switching to Yamaha – but it will still have two more than Aprilia, Honda, KTM and Yamaha. This gives it vital advantages; not only allowing each rider to compare his braking technique, cornering lines and exit style with seven other riders, but also big data allows Ducati to make better use of new technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence, which have been huge in Formula 1 for some years.

Whoever owns MotoGP in 2027 needs to make sure that there’s numbers equality between the manufacturers: if BMW come in there should be four bikes from all six brands on the grid.

Bagnaia may have won on Sunday but the show was stolen by the Márquez brothers, the first siblings to share a podium since Japan’s famous Fireball Brothers – Nobu and Takuma Aoki – finished second to Mick Doohan at Imola in 1997. That was the year Honda won every race, but only managed three successive podium lockouts.

Drama follows Marc Márquez like (to misquote Eric Cantona) seagulls follow a trawler. His weekend could hardly have been more dramatic, mostly in a nasty way, finally in a delightful way: bike problems, several excursions into the gravel, a Turn 1 FP1 fall, a horrific 120mph Turn 11 highside in the second session, baulked by a slower rider in qualifying, a start from the fifth row and a mid-race huge collision which inflated his airbag.

How is it possible to finish second at the end of a weekend from hell? This is how: thirteenth on the grid, ninth after the first lap, into third place on the penultimate lap when Martin fell and into second when he passed brother Alex later that lap. It was a comeback of which Lazarus would’ve been proud.


Martin and crew chief Daniele Romagnoli look worried. They had good reason to be

The elder Márquez took ages to get into the podium positions because overtaking at Sachsenring isn’t easy, especially when most of your rivals are (basically) on the same bike and everyone has the same tyre compounds. But he made it work with some adventurous overtakes, which somehow didn’t destroy his tyres.

It was a magical ride and a magical result, full of brotherly love on the podium.

Alex hadn’t expected anything better than seventh, but some final pre-race tweaks gave him the pace he hadn’t had all weekend.

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“When Jorge crashed [putting him on the podium] all my body was shaking – I didn’t know what to do,” he said. “In the end I was so happy to share the podium with Marc.”

And then a rush to a nearby airport and a private jet ride back to Spain, where they may still be partying as you read this.

“Try not to follow me tonight,” grinned Alex.

“You can push in the beginning, I will overtake you at six in the morning,” laughed Marc.

It was a genuinely charming moment – not the kind of thing you often see in a vicious sport like this.

This year’s Assen and Sachsenring weekends were particularly vicious. Assen put two riders out of action and hurt several more at its super-fast Turn 7. Sachsenring is often a dark weekend because it’s so asymmetrical that it’s difficult to manage the imbalance, even with asymmetric front and rear tyres. Friday’s weather was cool, so the afternoon session – pre-qualifying, so everyone has to be 100% on the limit – was horrible.

Ten crashes, eight of them at the track’s three right-handers, three of those at Turn 11, where riders must lay the bike on its right side after thirty seconds going left and pray that the tyres are warm enough to grip. Praying wasn’t enough for Marc Márquez, Marco Bezzecchi and Enea Bastianini. There is no such thing as a small Turn 11 crash, although the two Italians were lucky not to get flicked over the top.

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Bagnaia defies gravity as he leads Morbidelli, Alex Márquez and Miguel Oliveira. Morbidelli and Oliveira shone for the first time this year

Some people were critical of Michelin for this spate of incidents. But Sachsenring was just as punishing in MotoGP’s Bridgestone era. In 2013, Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and Cal Crutchlow all had huge crashes during practice. Only Crutchlow was cleared for the race.

Pedrosa effectively ended his title hopes when he had a Turn 1 highside on cold tyres.

“The track was a bit cold and to avoid this accident is very difficult,” said Bridgestone’s Hiroshi Yamada at the time. “The rider needs to take care on the first two laps. I don’t want to say it’s Dani’s fault but…”

Crutchlow went one worse: crashes at Turns 1 and 11 (named Waldmann Corner, which is so wrong because Ralf Waldmann was a sweet man and 11 is an evil corner).

The Briton, who (for some weird reason) always seemed to ride better when he was bashed about, came back from those shunts to have one of his greatest rides.

“I laugh about it now but it was scary,” he told me a few years later. “I really hurt myself and I’ve never took so many drugs. I told the team, I want to ride, I want to ride, so the Clinica Mobile gave me painkillers and bandaged me up. Then I passed out in my motorhome [on Sunday morning], pissed all over myself and Lucy [his wife] and smashed the place to bits. Lucy was screaming her head off, she thought I was fitting.”

In the race Crutchlow chased Márquez for the win on his Tech 3 Yamaha, finishing the race just 1.5 seconds behind.

Full respect to these very unusual human beings.