If you didn’t have time to watch yesterday’s MotoGP race, find time. It was one of the most exciting, unpredictable races I think I’ve ever seen. For some years now MotoGP have been running flag-to-flag rules, meaning if it rains during the race, you’ve got to pit, swap bikes and head back out on a bike with different tyres. Either that, or you stay out and struggle on the tyres you started the race on. As always, strategy, judgement, luck and skill played a massive part in Sunday’s flag-to-flag MotoGP in Austria. Some played it absolutely perfectly, others didn’t. This is what we’d score the performances of the top ten.. out of ten.
1st Brad Binder – 20/10
There’s been a lot of talk about how brave Brad Binder was during the MotoGP race in Austria, deciding to stay out on slicks when the heavens opened. And that is absolutely the case, it was a proper ballsy move. But it wasn’t just ballsy, it was calculated. He’d have been trying his best to work out how much time he’d loose in the pits compared to how much faster he’d be able to go on wets. Would he be able to make up for the time lost in the pits? His decision to stay out on dry tyres, when the rest of the top five decided to swap, is what won him the race… partly.
Because he still had to ride the thing. And riding a nigh-on 300bhp motorbike, with all its dry settings dialled in, on slick tyres in the wet would be close to impossible for most people, but he did it. That’s why I’ve scored him twenty out of ten. Ten out of ten for bravery and ten out of ten for skill.
2nd Pecco Bagnaia – 9/10
Pecco looked strongest to take the MotoGP win before all hell broke loose in Austria, and I think, had the race been a lap longer, he probably would have done. But if my aunty had balls, and all that. Whilst you could argue that coming into the pits to change tyres cost too much time and ultimately cost Pecco the win, staying out on slicks could have very easily seen him sat on his arse. No, he rode well, made the sensible decision to pit when he did, and was rewarded with a second place finish.
3rd Jorge Martin – 8/10
Last week’s winner, Jorge Martin was running around fourth for most of the race, and like Mir, didn’t look as though the podium was possible. But despite doing the pitstop thing and going backwards and then forwards again, he did it. So for him, you’d have to say swapping to a bike with wets on was probably the right move. But he probably wouldn’t have won it, whatever he’d have done. Still, third’s pretty good for a new kid, isn’t it?
4th Joan Mir – 8/10
Whatever happens, whatever the conditions, the reigning champ’s always there, ready to pounce. He didn’t look like he was in podium contention but when everything went to rat-poo, he kept his calm, got on his wet bike and stormed his way to a fourth place finish. Because he knows that strong results like that, weekend after weekend, can win you a world championship.
5th Luca Marini – 9/10
This was a pretty special ride from Luca Marini. Before the heavens opened he was in about 15th, scrapping for a point or two. When the rain came that all changed. Not only did he leapfrog the pitstop party, he slipped and slided past a handful of others that stayed out on slicks. Pretty impressive stuff.
6th Iker Lecuona – 9/10
Not many people expect to see Iker Lecuona in the top ten, let along the top six. In fact absolutely nobody expects to see him on the podium (sorry Iker, but it’s true). Had the race finished a lap earlier though, we’d have all had to eat our metaphorical hats, as the KTM riding Spaniard crossed the line, for the penultimate time, in third place.
But it wasn’t just his Supermoto skills that helped him secure a sixth place finish, his best result yet in MotoGP. Because even quite early in the race, he was up there in the top ten. I wonder if we’ll start seeing him in there a bit more often.
7th Fabio Quartararo – 6/10
Fabio looked as though he was giving it the big ones early on in the race but I don’t think he would have had the pace to beat Marc Marquez and Bagnaia if it’d stayed dry. But he had a big championship lead, so I think he would have been content with third place. When he came out the pits in fourteenth though, I didn’t think it was going to happen. He wouldn’t have been too upset about Binder winning, who’s currently only sixth in the championship, and he might have lost a bunch of points to Bagnaia and Mir, but he’s still got a healthy lead in the points table.
8th Valentino Rossi – 5/10
It’s lovely to see Valentino back in the top ten of a MotoGP race, but it would have been really nice to see him finish on the podium. And for a moment, it looked like it was going to happen. Within the space of a few laps, he went from fourteenth to third and I genuinely thought there was a chance that barely a week after he announced his retirement, Valentino Rossi would take his 200th MotoGP podium in Austria. I was a little bit gutted when the boys on wets caught him and passed him, but it was nice whilst it lasted.
9th Alex Marquez – 5/10
We didn’t see a lot of Marquez the younger on yesterday’s TV coverage because he spent most of the race outside the points. But that doesn’t matter, because he was in ninth place when it counted (i.e. at the end of the race) and bagged himself some precious points. That made him Honda’s highest scoring rider and the only one in the top ten at the end of the MotoGP race in Austria. Not a good day at the office for the big H.
10th Aleix Espargaro – 3/10
I expect ‘Spaggers was rejoicing the rain one moment, and then cursing it the next. With three laps to go, he was in second place but unfortunately his pace in the wet was fairly shocking and eight people passed him. Some with wets on, some with dries on. He probably should have pulled in for wets when the rest of them did… Hindsight’s a sexy mo-fo though, isn’t it?