Surely, this is the weirdest MotoGP season ever.
I’ve been in the paddock for roughly half the 72 seasons since the world championships were born and I can’t remember a season like it.
It’s abnormal for several reasons.
First, this is only the fourth time the MotoGP world champion hasn’t been around to defend his title. The last time that happened was way back in 1961, after 500cc king John Surtees climbed off his MV Agusta and into a Lotus Formula 1 car.
Second, this is the only season affected by a global pandemic.
Third, which is linked to my second point, this is the lowest-scoring MotoGP season since the dawn of the championship back in the 1950s. This is an astonishing achievement if that’s the word.
After 2020’s first ten races Joan Mir leads the championship on 121 points, which is less than half of the points up for grabs. The only time the championship has been won with less than 50 per cent was in 1952, when Gilera’s Umberto Masetti took the title, with 43.7 per cent of the available points.
Mir is currently on 48.4 per cent. Compare that to Márquez’s 88.4 per cent from last year, which makes you wonder if the reigning champ really could win the title with one arm tied behind his back
How is this even possible – that we are comparing 1950s MotoGP to 2020 MotoGP?
Grand prix bikes of the 1950s were very fragile pieces of machinery – metallurgy was basic, lubrication was basic, everything was basic – so they suffered frequent mechanical DNFs. In 2020 MotoGP bikes are mostly indestructible.
The difference, of course, is that Mir doesn’t lose points because his machinery breaks, he loses points because rivals steal them from him and because sometimes he dumps them in the gravel.
But if Mir is so bad, what about everyone else?
The entire grid is losing points thanks to Covid – the pandemic has forced MotoGP to stage many races at unusual times of year, so riders and engineers aren’t used to operating at these track temperatures, so they miss the Michelin window more often than not. That’s why one weekend one rider gets it right and another weekend a different rider gets it right, hence eight different winners from ten races.
Let’s examine the top title contenders who are separated by just 15 points with a maximum of 125 points still to be won…
Joan Mir (Ecstar Suzuki): 1st, 121 points
The most consistent rider, which is why he’s on top. He has scored five podiums – three seconds and two thirds – while no one else has had more than three podiums. But he has yet to take his first win.
Spain, DNF, crashed trying to fight through the pack
Andalusia, 5th, in conservative mode after his crash at Jerez 1
Czech, DNF, taken out by a crashing Iker Lecuona
Styria, 4th, 0.6sec off winning restarted race, after leading the first
San Marino, 3rd, snatches third from Valentino Rossi
Emilia Romagna, 2nd, snatches second from Pol Espargaró
Catalunya, 2nd, third podium in a row, almost catches Fabio Quartararo
France, 11th, first wet MotoGP race, struggles to heat his tyres
Aragon, 3rd, just holds onto the podium, takes points lead
Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha): 2nd, 115 points
The most up and down rider, his three victories are balanced out by three disasters. Has had nine front-row starts and he’s only climbed the podium at three races, always on the top step.
Spain, 1st, dominant victory number one
Andalusia, 1st, dominant victory number two
Czech, 7th, struggles with grip and goes backwards
Austria, 8th, brake problems leave him out of the fight
Styria, 13th, unable to break clear of the pack in restarted race
San Marino, DNF, overheats front tyre in the pack and crashes
Emilia Romagna, 4th, loses one position due to track-limits offence
Catalunya, 1st, dominant victory number three
France, 9th, struggles to get heat into his rain tyres
Aragon, 18th, Poor gamble with front tyre compound and pressure
Maverick Viñales (Monster Yamaha): 3rd, 109 points
Three pole positions but only one victory, with a mishmash of results that has the king of inconsistency and his baffled crew wondering what might have been. Seems to struggle with Sunday pressure.
Spain, 2nd, soundly beaten into second by his future team-mate
Andalusia, 2nd, finally beats Rossi after a long battle
Czech, 14th, loses rear grip, said this was his worst race on an M1
Austria, 10th, clutch slip put him 20th at the end of lap one
Styria, DNF, uses wrong brakes, crashes when they fail
San Marino, 6th, struggles with poor feedback from his rear tyre
Emilia Romagna, 1st, takes the lead when Pecco Bagnaia crashes
Catalunya, 9th, swallowed by the pack and can’t find a way out
France, 10th, fights back from 20th after avoiding Rossi’s crash
Aragon, 4th, struggles with grip, comes on strong in final laps
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati): 4th, 106 points
The three-times runner-up should’ve been in charge with Márquez out. But he can’t ride the way he used to ride with Michelin’s 2020 rear slick. Led the points after Misano 1. Hasn’t had a top-five in five races.
Spain, 3rd, surprised to get third after starting from the third row
Andalusia, 6th, doesn’t have the front feel he needs to attack
Czech, 11th, low-grip problems get worse as the race goes on
Austria, 1st, scores Ducati’s fifth win in a row at Red Bull Ring
Styria, 5th, struggles on corner exits, well out of the victory hunt
San Marino, 7th, still can’t use his riding style but takes points lead
Emilia Romagna, 8th, poor grid position compromised his race
Catalunya, DNF, taken out by Johann Zarco on lap one
France, 4th, soft rain tyres don’t allow him to fight to the end
Aragon, 7th, Ducati in more trouble than most with the cold track
Who will be strongest? You’ve got to be having a laugh! No one knows, not even the riders, teams or factories.