Last season was unique at all levels and the same can happen with the 2017 championship. This pre-season was very lively and surprises were something we did not miss. It seems that this year is going to be very lively and the tests carried out so far manage to raise the veil a bit about what can happen.
Maverick Viñales is the rider to beat in the first round
The Yamaha rider was the fastest rider in all tests since joining the team in November. Since then, Maverik Viñales has led the lap times in all the test sessions.
After the first two tests of 2017 – Sepang and Phillip Island – many felt that Marc Márquez will not have the task facilitated until Valencia. The Honda rider had a last test of Losail a bit difficult, after having suffered three falls on the last day, one of which took place in the middle of a race simulation.
On the other hand, Maverik Viñales completed the race simulation and his times fell again. This is something to keep in mind, even as the rider had a 0.076 second slower pace than his initial laps, as he raced through his 20th lap of simulation.
Honda is within reach of the title despite the difficulties
The move to a ‘big bang’ engine seems to have improved the aggressive character of the RC213V, but the bike is still demanding work. Márquez’s five accidents in Qatar were to be the complete opposite of what happened to Viñales.
But HRC and its riders are sure to be better off than last year’s tests. In addition, Honda’s potential is justified by the top three places that Marquez finished the tests at Sepang, Phillip Island and Qatar.
Honda may have had a difficult time in Qatar but if the brand wants to repeat the 2016 event it will have to improve its performance throughout the year, just as it did last year. If that happens, Márquez will have an excellent chance of winning another world title.
A season of learning for Ducati
At Sepang, the Ducati had a decent test and at Phillip Island the brand struggled a bit. In Losail, everything returned to the point, since the Qatar circuit is favorable to the characteristics of the GP17.
The last day of testing was particularly impressive, with Jorge Lorenzo leading the times for much of the night. The rider finished fourth, 0.18 seconds behind Maverick Viñales, while Andrea Dovizioso was only 0.071 seconds behind.
In Losail, the Ducati is always a threat to victory and this time was no exception. We will see how it will be during the season …
Rossi and the discontent of the winter tests
For some riders, especially those who need a precise setup, the test times can be a good indication to predict where it will be possible to finish in the next races.
Others, such as Rossi and Márquez, are known for their ability to develop a winning bike. For this reason, you must not put so much value on the times of the Losail tests because the teams may be hiding the game before the first race of the year.
But there is no doubt that Valentino Rossi has had more difficulties in the last tests. At 38, the Italian is known for not taking risks in a single round of testing, but the fact that Rossi has not completed a race simulation is a point to weigh in his situation. If Il Doctore feels good on the bike, he does long tests. Otherwise, it works point to point and goes looking for answers, trying new ideas in shorter stints. This is what happened in Qatar.
In addition, the fact that Maverik Viñales has come to Yamaha and has been instantly faster, despite zero knowledge about M1, should also be taken into account.
Satellite teams: the preseason surprises
Several satellite riders were in the best places on the lap times during the winter and it was not over a single lap. Cal Crutchlow, Jack Miller, Alvaro Bautista, Danilo Petrucci, Scott Redding and the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rookies – Jonas Folger and Johann Zarco – gained prominence over the last preseason tests.
After seeing the first victories of a satellite team since 2006 at the hands of Miller and Crutchlow, could there be more in 2017?