MotoGP - What We Learned From Argentina
Argentina Delivered Another Classic MotoGP Spectacle
The last weekend in March also saw the second MotoGP event in as many weeks as Argentina hosted the second round of the 2023 season. After an enthralling season opener, the gauntlet was handed over to Argentina to see if it could live up to the hype generated in Portugal and boy did it deliver. So, who came out on top from Argentina, and who has work to do moving forward?
(Image Credit: MotoGP)
Marco Bezzecchi Continues Rossi's Legacy
In a wet Grand Prix on Sunday, one man defied the conditions and put the opposition firmly on the back foot. That man was Marco Bezzecchi. A winner in junior categories, but by no means a title favourite in either Moto3 or Moto2, Bezzecchi had an assured debut season in MotoGP last year with Valentino Rossi's VR46 team. Whilst a lot can be said for the Ducati machinery underneath him, 'Bez' built upon his impressive podium in Portugal with a second place in the Argentina Saturday Sprint and in the wet Sunday Grand Prix, settled into an early lead and strode off into the distance to take a commanding first win for rider and team. Thanks to a slip-up elsewhere, this rider/team combination leads the championship and Bezzecchi looks like a genuine contender with more than enough talent to match the machine underneath him.
Bagnaia Isn't Invincible
Mistakes that arguably cost him the title in 2021 and put him on the back foot in his 2022 title-winning campaign reared their head once again for 'Pecco' Bagnaia in Argentina. The factory Ducati rider rode home to a cautious sixth in the Saturday Sprint, but in Sunday's GP made a costly error. The Italian lost the front of his Ducati, sliding out of contention whilst in pursuit of Bezzecchi, conceding the championship lead in the process. Errors such as these were thought to be a thing of the past, but Sunday was proof that Bagnaia still has chinks in his armour.
Franco Morbidelli Has His Mojo Back
In 2020, Franco Morbidelli was arguably the class of the field, taking multiple wins and finishing runner-up in the championship. However, his time as a factory Yamaha rider has been fraught with complications and the former Moto2 champion has looked like a shadow of his former self since sustaining a knee injury in 2021. But in Argentina, Morbidelli looked to have regained his form aboard the uncompetitive Yamaha M1. Fourth place in both the Sprint and the Grand Prix has rejuvenated Morbidelli which will delight not only his fans but the man himself. Hopefully, Morbidelli can build upon a strong foundation made in Argentina.
Fabio Quartararo Is Struggling
Fortunes seemed to have swapped sides in the Yamaha garage, as Fabio Quartararo endured a torrid weekend around the Termas de Río Hondo circuit. The Frenchman was off the pace of his teammate Morbidelli for the majority of the weekend and once again struggled in Qualifying, mustering a 10th-place grid spot. This meant he was entrenched in the cut-and-thrust world of the MotoGP midfield, where it can be a bit of a dogfight. Unfortunately for Quartararo, he finished just ninth in the Sprint and seventh in the Grand Prix. The season is only two rounds young, but a title charge for Yamaha and Quartararo looks out of the question.
Brad Binder Had A Rollercoaster Weekend
In Saturday's Sprint, Brad Binder did what only Brad Binder could do. Starting from 15th on the grid, the KTM rider was third by the end of the opening lap and made his way into a lead that he would never relinquish, taking an unlikely win ahead of last-lap charging Bezzecchi. The result was another boost for KTM, who look far stronger than they did in preseason testing. However, Binder's heroics were quickly forgotten with an early crash in Sunday's Grand Prix and the South African rider was relegated to running at the back of the field and out of the points.
Honda's Woes Continue
Honda's opening to the season continues to be a miserable one. Without an absent Marc Marquez - who is recovering from an operation on a broken hand, sustained in his much talked about Portugal crash with Miguel Oliveira - Honda's hopes were pinned on Joan Mir but things couldn't have gone much worse for the 2020 champion. Mir qualified last and a crash sustained in Lap 1 of the Sprint ruled him out of Sunday's Grand Prix. LCR Honda riders Alex Rins and Takaaki Nakagami never looked likely to trouble the top runners in Argentina either, making it another weekend to forget for HRC.
Alex Marquez Is At Home With Gresini Ducati
Free from the shackles of an uncompromising and uncompetitive Honda (see above), Alex Marquez is settling well within the Gresini Ducati squad. The Spaniard secured pole position in a damp qualifying session, and finished an assured fifth in the Sprint, before taking his first podium since the 2020 Aragon GP with a determined third-place finish. It looks as if both team and rider made the right call to collaborate this year.
Aprilia Lose Pace In the Wet
Friday practice paved the way for a great weekend for Aprilia and their riders Maverick Vinales and Aleix Espargaro, but with the dampness and rain throughout the rest of the weekend, their pace evaporated. Vinales was seventh in the Sprint and Espargaro crashed out. In the Grand Prix, things got worse for both riders as Vinales and Espargaro only managed 12th and 15th respectively. The team will be massively disappointed to come away from Argentina having not picked up at least a podium when their Friday pace had them set to repeat their victory from last year.
Next up on the MotoGP calendar is Austin, Texas. The world's greatest two-wheeled spectacle will take on the Circuit of the Americas from April 14 through 16 for the third round of the Moto GP season. Check out the riders' standings after the first two rounds below.
2023 MotoGP Riders' Standings
1 - Marco Bezzecchi - Mooney VR46 Racing Team - Ducati - 50 Points
2 - Francesco Bagnaia - Ducati Lenovo Team - Ducati - 41 Points
3 - Johann Zarco - Prima Pramac Racing - Ducati - 35 Points
4 - Alex Marquez - Gresini Racing MotoGP - Ducati - 33 Points
5 - Maverick Viñales - Aprilia Racing - Aprilia - 32 Points
6 - Jack Miller - Red Bull KTM Factory Racing - KTM - 25 Points
7 - Jorge Martin - Prima Pramac Racing - Ducati - 22 Points
8 - Brad Binder - Red Bull KTM Factory Racing - KTM - 22 Points
9 - Franco Morbidelli - Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP - Yamaha - 21 Points
10 - Fabio Quartararo - Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP - Yamaha - 18 Points
11 - Luca Marini - Mooney VR46 Racing Team - Ducati - 15 Points
12 - Alex Rins - LCR Honda CASTROL - Honda - 13 Points
13 - Aleix Espargaro - Aprilia Racing - Aprilia - 12 Points
14 - Augusto Fernandez - GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 - KTM - 8 Points
15 - Takaaki Nakagami - LCR Honda IDEMITSU - Honda - 7 Points
16 - Marc Marquez - Repsol Honda Team - Honda - 7 Points
17 - Fabio Di Giannantonio - Gresini Racing MotoGP - Ducati - 6 Points
18 - Joan Mir - Repsol Honda Team - Honda - 5 Points
19 - Miguel Oliveira - CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP Team - Aprilia - 3 Points
20 - Raul Fernandez - CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP Team - Aprilia - 2 Points