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With ten points awarded for correctly predicting a rider’s specific position on the podium or five if they finish elsewhere in the top three, the leaderboard could look very differently come Sunday evening.
Here are the riders both teams are banking on this weekend as we close in on the French Grand Prix, with coverage of Free Practice 1 from Le Mans starting at 7.45am this Friday, 17 May.
Round 5 Predictions: French GP
|Podium position||MotoGP team (Huewen)||BTSport.com|
|1st||Marc Marquez||Marc Marquez|
|2nd||Valentino Rossi||Andrea Dovizioso|
|3rd||Fabio Quartararo||Valentino Rossi|
We're both expecting Marquez to deliver and for Rossi to be on the podium in France once again, but I see you're backing rookie Quartararo at his home GP. What's your reasoning?
“Marc Marquez is the go-to man. To see past him winning, you’ve got to see something a little special from everyone else.
“Both he and the Honda are working really well at the moment so he’s becoming the default for winning just about every round this year!
“Valentino Rossi has a great track record at Le Mans and so do Yamaha. Valentino has finished on the podium in seven of the last nine races here and even when he crashed out in 2017 he was chasing down the leader Maverick Vinales.
“Rossi is always in a podium positon come rain or shine so for me, it’s another sure-fire pick.
“At his home Grand Prix, I don’t think Fabio Quartararo is going to choke like Johann Zarco did last year.
“I think Quartararo is the real deal and as I’ve said the Yamaha works well around Le Mans, so for me he’s an emerging force and I think the French crowd might lift him to that podium.”
With Marquez your man for ‘almost’ all occasions now, do you think he’s reaching new levels of consistency that we’ve not seen before?
“Marquez evolves every year and that’s the impressive thing about the 26-year-old.
“A couple of years ago he all-but crashed in every session, then he pulled back from that. We also had another phase of win or bust with him and he’s pulled back from that.
“Now he takes the maximum from every weekend and I think where he’s evolved to now makes him the most dangerous weapon in Grand Prix.
“He recognises where the limit is now – even if his limit seems to be far beyond that of anyone else – which makes it really difficult for the rest of the paddock when they’re dealing with someone that good but has also now matured.”
So are we approaching peak-Marquez?
“In the old days, riders generally used to peak at around 28. That would be when the talent of the man would be matched by his maturity and experience – the perfect curve if you like.
“I think Marquez has brought that down a little, as you would expect with the evolution of sport, but that’s just typical of him because he’s redefining motorbike Grand Prix racing.
“That’s what he’s done from how you ride a motorcycle, to how you go about the business and the devastating part of it for his rivals is that he absolutely loves it.
“Oh to be Marc Marquez! If I was ever to be reincarnated I would love to come back as Marc Marquez because he’s enjoying his life and he is the best there is at the moment.”
How do his championship rivals cope with that thought then?
“What all top sportsmen or women do now is focus on their own game. It’s no good focussing on someone like Marquez because you are just chasing his coattails.
“That’s where someone with the experience of Rossi will be comfortable working on his own game and not particularly looking at Marquez. Sure they’ll come together at some point at the weekend and he might learn something but he won’t be focussing on the Spaniard.
“Nobody will be completely ignoring what Marquez is doing but they will be focussing on their own game, what they have got to do to make themselves and their machinery the very best on track.”
You clearly see Rossi as a threat to Marquez this weekend at least. Why do both he and Yamaha go so well in Le Mans?
“The Yamaha has always been a positive, front-end bike that hooks up fairly well and style-wise you’ve got a lot of stop-start corners at Le Mans. It’s quite ‘nadgery’ and it’s not everyone’s favourite, there’s no doubt about that, but it seems to suit the Yamaha.
“Another factor is the Michelin tyres. In the past you might have a tyre that suited a particular manufacturer on a certain race track. Whereas the brilliance of Michelin – and we’re at their home Grand Prix this weekend remember – is almost that one tyre suits all the manufacturers and we’ve not seen that before.
“That has brought the racing closer together but at the tracks where certain bikes thrive, it means riders aren’t having to fight a motorcycle because you’ve got a tyre that will work in the way you want it to on that bike.”
It’s not just Michelin’s home GP of course, your pick for third – Quartararo – will also be out to impress in front of his home fans. Will he feel under extra pressure to perform?
“He’s a little Marquez-esque in as much that he’s enjoying himself and pressure doesn’t get to you when you’re having a good time.
“You quite often see at a home Grand Prix, it doesn’t matter who the rider is, you either get chokers or winners. Some riders it lifts and for others it just wrecks their day – they just can’t put it together.
“It’s not just on track of course, a home rider will have double the duties he would normally have. There’s friends and family, sponsors and extra media work and you can’t ignore the extra workload at your home Grand Prix.
“Those things wear you out because you go to sleep later, you’re up earlier. Imagine going for the biggest job interview of your life – how would you sleep the night before?”
Did you see him rising to the demands of MotoGP so quickly?
“There were a lot of people that thought it was a bit quick for him to be signed by a factory team, and I understand that, but my position has always been that he would suit a MotoGP bike.
“I watched the way he went about his business, the way he rode and his style, and he just looked like a MotoGP rider to me – and I said that in our commentaries right back at the beginning of last year. Quartararo had something about him on the Moto2 bike that just reminded me of a Grand Prix rider.
“He’s on a motorbike that’s fairly compliant to new riders, the Yamaha is supposedly quite a good bike to ride generally, and why did they sign him so quickly?
“At the end of the day, the Petronas Yamaha SRT team is supposed to be a factory junior team for Yamaha. So if you’re looking at great hopes coming through then both he and [Franco] Morbidelli are good signings.
“Has he exceeded expectations? Yeah, probably. I expected him to ride it well but I didn’t expect him to be vying for a Grand Prix win like he was last time out – and he may well be in that position again this weekend which would be special!”
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