Marquez: Genius, Lucky, or Both.
The reigning Champion’s Brno win was a thing of beauty – so how did he do it?
It’s always a time of tense indecision on the grid before a race in which the weather is threatening, and the Czech GP was certainly no different. Declared wet but with the weather clearing, it spelled out a good case for a flag to flag. That’s MotoGP speak for “a terribly tempting chance to play with risk and reward”.
Marquez says he woke up intending to take risks at Brno, and that’s what he did – twice. First, he switched to the softer tyre on the grid, but that turned out to be a bad decision as he started struggling. So then, hand a little forced, he gambled on pitting early – and this is where there’s a very interesting question.
- MotoGP - Czech Republic - Automotodrom Brno -
Marquez was struggling, decided he would have to switch, and then…plummeted. As in, went from third to tenth in a very short space of track. Reportedly – by Movistar and confirmed by, of all people, his mum - he did this for a simple, genius and calculated reason: so none of his title rivals would see that he was diving into pitlane. Dropping behind them all meant the gamble would be taken alone, win or lose.
So he pitted - either in dire straights on the soft tyre or simply struggling enough to try it – and the rest is history. About twenty seconds clear once the dice were all rolled, that was it. It had worked. Genius, or luck?
On balance, maybe the latter allowing the former to stretch its legs. Marquez seems to be able to see the decisions in a flag-to-flag with perfect clarity, perhaps because he seems to have cast iron faith in his ability to turn the possibilities into probabilities. If he sees a possible way to win, it becomes a concrete option because he believes absolutely he can make that happen. And crucially, he never, ever looks at what anyone else is doing - but he knows they could be looking at him.
- Jack Miller #43 - E.G 0,0 MarcVDS - MotoGP - Brno 2017 -
So, what happened behind him? Pedrosa did a good job in second, taking his 150th podium in Grand Prix racing to attest to his talent, speed and staying power. The moment of indecision that Marquez avoided saw Pedrosa wait a lap too long. As for Rossi, he says himself he’s not the best in flag-to-flag situations – even joking it’s the one last thing to master before he hangs up his leathers. All in all, Brno wasn’t too bad and the number 46 certainly had a great ride back through to fourth. But why does Rossi always wait? Incredibly intelligent and skilled, he should be a sure bet every time, but isn’t. Waiting for the team knowing they have more information sounds good in theory, but sometimes the guinea pig who moves first has already gained the upper hand. And the one thing the team can’t know is how the conditions feel to the rider. That seems to be what Marquez puts his trust in every time – his own decision about the conditions - and what has given him some spectacular wins.
The remaining question is; where were the bigger gamblers this time? The Loris Bazs and Sam Lowes of the grid, who could have won big? It was interesting in Brno quite how few people really went out on a wire when the situation was made for it. In the end, the gambling was left to the man with the most to lose. And like he so often does, he played his hand to perfection.
It sounds ominous to be reminded of quite how good Marquez is sometimes, but it’s still tight at the top. And next is the Red Bull Ring - and that’s Ducati turf.
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