A week is a long time in motorsport it seems.
In just a couple of short days we’ve had confirmation Andrea Dovizioso will not compete in 2021, Andrea Iannone is staring down the barrel of an unprecedented four-year ban and Marc Marquez will not race again this season.
Oh, and there is the small matter of Joan Mir being on the cusp of an extraordinary MotoGP World Championship title for both himself and Suzuki.
Even if you’re living under a rock, you’ll want to come out from underneath it for this weekend’s Valencia MotoGP.
Joan Mir, 2020 MotoGP World Champion – The maths
They say points mean prizes and until last weekend there had never been a truer representation of this than Joan Mir’s apparent route towards the 2020 MotoGP World Championship title as he closed on an unlikely and unexpected success without topping the podium.
And then he won… if timing is everything, Mir’s belated trip to the top of the podium in Valencia couldn’t have come at a more impeccable moment than if he was delivering the funniest joke of all time.
While no-one would begrudge him the 2020 MotoGP title win without winning, Mir himself was certainly feeling an increasingly heavy monkey on his back. But victory last weekend, coupled to some fairly woeful results of his rivals, have turned him from championship contender to champion-elect.
With a lead swelled to 37 points, all indications suggest he could very well be crowned MotoGP World Champion by the end of the weekend.
Stripping out his rivals performances, Mir needs to just step on the podium this weekend, in that he needs a minimum of 14 points to win the title regardless of where anyone else finishes. Even then, should Mir finish in fourth place, those 13 points would still give him the title if Fabio Quartararo and Alex Rins can’t win.
We won’t hang the gold medal around his neck just for now but given Mir has stepped on the podium in seven of the last nine races, the odds have certainly shortened immensely.
With that in mind, we’d love to know exactly who placed a bet on Mir winning in 2020, because you’re potentially in for a big pay day? Let’s just say we’d be surprised if Joan himself had been down the bookies before this season begun…
Is this the last we’ll see of Andrea Dovizoso?
It’s been a weird year for Andrea Dovizioso. One of the most unassuming figures in the paddock has been subject of numerous headlines in the wake of his fraught-turned-toxic relationship in the Ducati fold.
Moreover, for one of the most consistent riders on the grid, even rollercoasters have fewer dips and crests than the Italian’s wild season.
This has now led to the confirmation Dovizioso will not only leave Ducati but the sport altogether in the form of a sabbatical, a word that has meant ‘retirement’ as much as it’s meant ‘hiatus’ in other years.
To his credit, Dovizioso has stuck to his guns and refused to be funnelled into whatever was left in the rider market, which is both admirable and questionable.
From the outside it looks like a waste of his immense talents. One of the longest serving riders on the grid, while some may argue Dovizioso has lacked the final few percent to become a MotoGP legend, he’s unusual in the way his best years have come in the autumn stage of his career.
Yes, 2020 seems like a missed opportunity, but we’d suggest Ducati is the one missing open goals rather than Dovizioso himself. We actually think Dovizioso will be on the grid at some stage in 2021 – the moment a rider becomes injured, Dovizioso is likely to be the first man on call, while manufacturers might be looking at him as a long-term punt for a 2022 fight back
Is it too early to suggest Dovizioso either replacing Valentino Rossi at Petronas SRT Yamaha… or, wilder still, heading up the line-up of a VR46 team in 2022? He may be gone in 2021 but Dovizioso is unlikely to be forgotten.
In the meantime, let’s just say we’re salivating at the prospect of the big ‘tell-all’ interview that’s bound to come approximately 1 minute after his Ducati contract expires…
What now for Aprilia after Andrea Iannone blow?
We’ll save our opinions about Andrea Iannone’s four-year drugs ban… except to say you’ll be very hard pressed to find the maximum penalty handed down in any other sport when doping has been cut and shut cases. So read into that what you will.
Regardless, it leaves Aprilia’s decision to doggedly remain loyal to Iannone until this sorry affair was resolved before making a decision on 2021, rather querysome. Noble yes, but also a bit short-sighted. Hindsight, eh?
Either way, there is now a seat in the team very much vacated and options are rather thin on the ground. Aprilia’s reputation for nurturing new talent hasn’t been too good so far, just ask Sam Lowes and Scott Redding, but given the effort is close to becoming full-factory from 2022, now would be the time to put its faith in the next generation.
While Cal Crutchlow reportedly had a pre-agreement in place should Iannone not return, that is believed to have expired in October. That’s not to say he is out of the running, but talk has gone rather quiet of late.
Instead, Marco Bezzecchi is the name being touted as Aleix Espaegaro’s team-mate for 2021 in what would be a surprise graduation for one of the Moto2 standouts.
In his second season of Moto2, Bezzecchi has shadowed his more illustrious team-mate – and fellow VR46 protege – Luca Marini with two wins and six podiums, elevating him to future MotoGP status.
That looks like it may come earlier than expected and we can imagine Valentino Rossi’s help in negotiating has greased the wheels a touch.
We would hazard a guess that this is setting up rather nicely for Rossi’s legacy to be well in place before he calls time on that career…