Well, it’s that time of year again, time to grade the MotoGp riders on their performances in season 2019. As usual, I’ll do the top teams today and the independent teams tomorrow.
Marc Marquez. A++ World Champion again. Helped Honda win the Constructors title and won the Teams title almost singlehandedly. The records are too many to enumerate. His only glitch was Austin where he fell due to a technical problem while holding a commanding lead. By his own admission and those of the pundits, it will be almost impossible to put together a better season than 2019 for the 8-times world champion. Top of the class in every department.
Jorge Lorenzo. F. The two Honda riders couldn’t have been further apart if they’d have been racing on a different planet. Lorenzo started the season injured, injured himself again and then had his big one half way through the season and was a passenger from then on. Even before then he was not showing any signs that he would ever master the difficult RCV and it was a relief to him and to his many fans when he announced his retirement. You rarely get the chance to retire on YOUR terms, that privilege was certainly denied to the #99 rider. A sad way to end a great career.
Maverick Vinales. A. A rider that can win more than one GP in a season deserves an A, for sure. But, having said that, 2019 was a difficult year for the #1 rider at Yamaha. It was highlighted by wins and low-lighted by events where he seemed to be out to lunch. I suggested elsewhere that perhaps Maverick is like Lorenzo was at the peak of his career. Deadly fast in qualifying and unbeatable when he could streak off into the distance and control the race but seemingly unable to FIGHT for the win when he had to do so from within the pack. Maverick must do something about his Lap 3 to Lap 9 “doldrums” Despite having the “works” bike, he was over-shadowed for most of the season by the rookie, Quatararo, of whom more later.
Valentino Rossi. B+ The aging veteran endured what, for him, would have been an ordinary season. Despite showing flashes of speed in practice and qualifying and even being at the sharp end early in races, he inevitably faded to finish around the middle to low of the top 10 and many seconds off the winner’s time. Rossi claims that he is still enjoying his racing and is still fast enough, but the figures don’t lie and, when you look at how long it is since he has won a race, let alone a title, you have to start thinking that the former champion will see out his 2020 contract before retiring and setting up his own team. As noted with Lorenzo above, you rarely ever get the chance to retire on your terms and, while he may be enjoying his racing still, fans are increasingly likely to remember his recent years and not remember his glory days.
Ducati Factory team:
Andrea Dovizioso. A-. That may seem a bit tough given that 2019 was his third year in a row being runner-up in the title, but the fact is that Andrea was very much showed up by Marquez now that the Ducati’s previous power advantages have been negated by the 2019 Honda engine. Yes, he won twice but both wins were heart-stoppers and could have gone either way. Andrea is not getting any younger and, if he can’t win a title soon, he may find himself on the way down without having won one at all which would be a real shame.
Danilo Petrucci. B+. Danilo’s season was distinctly in two parts. He rose splendidly to the challenge mid-season when the talk of him being replaced at the works team by Miller was in full swing, but, once he was confirmed at the factory, he dropped his bundle and had a very ordinary second half of the season. The volatile Latin temperament is something that we often see in riders who produce their best JUST when contract renewal time is coming up and nowhere did we see that better than in Danilo’s 2019.
Alex Rins. A- A win at Austin was his highlight and the distinct improvements to the Suzuki helped keep him in the hunt for most of the season. But Alex’s season was patchy, punctuated by several unforced errors when he was in good positions and his seeming difficulty in making a rear slick go the distance despite having a beautifully handling bike. Could, and hopefully WILL do better.
Joan Mir. B+ A very promising year for the rookie. It probably could have been better (well, it certainly WOULD have been better) but for his mid-season testing crash. But Joan bounced back well from that to actually shade his more experienced team mate in both qualifying AND in races towards the end of the season. He has adapted well and it is looking very promising for 2020.