The last two MotoGP seasons were arguably the most exciting in recent years. In 2016 we assisted a record-breaking nine different winners, two of which were independent riders. Last season gave us four different championship leaders, twists and turns, and a final showdown with the king of saves – Marc Márquez – and a dark horse – Andrea Dovizioso – who was not expected to be fighting for the championship at first.
So, what can we expect for 2018? Certainly, expectations are high amongst fans regarding the show, the excitement and the competitiveness of the coming season. The last two seasons set the bar high, which left fans craving for action during offseason.
Looking at the preseason tests, it is still too early to jump to any conclusions in terms of predictions. After testing in four different tracks, the timesheets were dominated by Honda (Valencia and Thailand), Yamaha (Qatar) and Ducati (Sepang). There were surely some riders who showed more consistency than others, nevertheless, they have used several different combinations of aero-fairings, tyres (new/old, soft/hard), and versions of their bikes, which makes it hard to make predictions from the outside.
Moreover, as Rossi said after the tests “(…) like last year, the situation changes very much from one track to another”, as in different bikes have advantage in different circuits. Hopefully, for the neutral MotoGP fan, this means the level of competitiveness will continue to be high.
This season will answer many questions as well, both regarding rider’s contracts and performances. For instance Maverick Viñales, despite extending his contract with Yamaha until 2020, has in this season another chance to prove his talent. In 2017, after dominating the preseason and taking off with 3 victories in the first 5 races of the championship, he didn’t quite live up to the expectations with an underwhelming second half of the season. Will Viñales redeem himself in the coming season?
As to Dovizioso, this is his first time as a title contender since the beginning of the season. The Italian rider is confident he will be able to fight for the championship. 2018 will show us if ‘Dovi’ was a one-season wonder or if he can leverage his experience to fight for the title again. His contract ends this season, but it seems both parties are keen on renewing it.
The reigning champion – Márquez – extended his contract with Repsol Honda for two more years. As to his performance, he is considered the most talented rider of the MotoGP, and in the last two years he has proven to be mentally strong, consistent, and able to be happy with just a podium, instead of having a “win or fall” mentality which was his main pitfall in 2015. Thus, it is hard to deny him the role of main contender for the 2018 title.
You can read the second part here.