MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez gave an impervious performance in round two of the 2019 campaign, leading from start to finish, as racing legend Valentino Rossi won a thrilling battle with fellow Italian Andrea Dovizioso to take second, 23 years to the day after his Grand Prix debut.
Marquez pulled away in the opening laps, holding a lead of over eight seconds halfway through the 25 lap race, and stretching that to almost 13 seconds, before rolling off on the final lap.
Behind them there was plenty of action and controversy, most notably a ride through penalty for Cal Crutchlow, which denied him a shot at taking back-to-back Argentinean wins. The Brit was deemed to have crept forward on the line, even though his clutch was fully engaged, and despite not gaining any advantage he was forced to ride through the pitlane. Rejoining at the back of the field, he charged through to 13that the flag but, frustratingly, had shown pace to match Marquez. Had it not been for the 25 seconds lost through the penalty, the Coventry rider would most likely have finished second based upon his lap times, following up his third place in the opening round, and Crutchlow was not impressed by the decision.
“First of all I want to thank my team for a great weekend and a positive race pace,” he said. “I think we showed today that we would have been able to fight for the podium and probably would have had a good, safe second place. But we didn’t, the stewards said that I jumped the start, which I completely disagree with, as do my team, and we’re disappointed with this ride through penalty.
“But we accept the situation, we had to do a ride through and then I rode the best job that I could for the rest of the race with a good pace. Now I have to continue to look forward to Texas where we’ll plan to do another good race.”
Rossi’s dual with Dovizioso was vintage stuff and was a battle between the sweet handling Yamaha and the fast Ducati. In the end, Rossi was able to take advantage of his Yamaha’s extra agility to cut under the world number two on the final lap, to take his first podium since the German Grand Prix in July 2018.
“It’s been a long time – since Sachsenring last year – that I’ve been on the podium,” said Rossi. “This second place is especially satisfying, because at the last two races last year, Malaysia and Valencia, I was lying in first and second place, but I made some mistakes. Finishing the championship like that was very difficult to accept, so also for this reason this result is so important for me, my team, and Yamaha, after a difficult period. I tried to stay in front, because I expected to be faster, but today with the increased temperatures I struggled a bit more. Dovi stayed in front of me and rode a very good race with a good pace. We were able to break away from the guys behind us and be on our own. In that moment I knew I had to be very precise on braking to take second place, without making any mistake of even a centimetre, or else Dovi would pass me again. At that moment I was riding good, I entered very fast. I’m happy because, first of all, overtaking on the last lap is always special, and also because I did very good on braking.”
Marquez added: “Today was a perfect day. I have been so concentrated since FP1 and everything worked well, just a tiny hiccup in FP4. But we kept pushing, pushing and in the race I knew that my strongest point was the first five laps. I put everything in and then I saw the difference, one second, two seconds, three seconds and then I settled into my rhythm and pushed a little less. I managed the tyres and the bike, it was a really sweet feeling with the bike.”
The results see Marquez take the championship lead, on 45 points, from Dovizioso on 41 and Rossi on 31. The next round of MotoGP 2019 takes place at Texas’ Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in two weeks’ time.