2016 MotoGP Mid-Season Review Part 5: Marc Marquez

Politics may have featured heavily so far this year – witness the first four pieces of this mid-season review – but there has also been plenty of racing. So now, lets take a look at how the MotoGP riders have fared so far in 2016, counting down the riders based on their current position in the championship.

1st: Marc Márquez, Honda, 170 points

2016 is the year of the impostor. Everything we thought we knew about the current riders in MotoGP has been turned on its head. Marc Márquez is a shining example of this. He has gone from a rider who wants to win every race, even if he risks crashing out, to one who is willing to settle for less when there are no better options.

The reason for his transformation is simple: the lessons learned in the tough first half of the 2015 season. After Assen, the eighth race of 2015, Márquez had crashed out three times and trailed championship leader Valentino Rossi by 74 points. Three races later, Márquez had cut the deficit to 52 points, having won two races and finished second in another. Believing he could still catch the Yamahas, Márquez pushed too hard at Silverstone in the wet and crashed out, then did the same at Aragon. Heading into the flyaways, his deficit had grown to 79 points again.

If Márquez had been prepared to settle for a podium or a place just off the podium in Argentina, Mugello and Barcelona, he would have trailed Rossi by twenty-something points rather than seventy-something. That would have left him with less pressure at Silverstone, and the same at Aragon. Márquez would have been in the championship battle all the way to the end of the season. How then might Phillip Island, Sepang and Valencia have played out?

It has been one of the hardest lessons Marc Márquez has ever learned. But like all hard lessons, they have the biggest impact. The 2016 season has seen Márquez race the way he should have last year, rarely pushing beyond his limits, winning when he can, settling for podiums or worse when he can't. The one mistake he made was at Le Mans, where he lost the front but got back on to score points. At Jerez, but most especially in Barcelona, Márquez swallowed his pride and settled for a podium rather than risking it all for a win which may not have been there.

Márquez' patience has not come easily. He is still struggling with a Honda RC213V which does not accelerate well. That has left him to try to make up ground in braking which he is losing out of corners. That, in turn, has meant taking more risks with a front Michelin which gives less warning before it lets go. Márquez has used to every ounce of his cat-like reflexes to save crashes and keep the bike upright. His highlight reel in 2016 will consist of a string of front-end saves.

His patience has been richly rewarded. Márquez leads the championship by 48 points, and has a pretty strong hold on the 2016 MotoGP crown. The rider leading at the midway point has almost always gone on to become champion, barring a couple of exceptional situations. Ironically, it is a reversal of fortunes which sees Márquez with such a large lead. Where the Spaniard has been solidly reliable, his rivals have kept making mistakes, often under pressure.

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So two thoughts come to mind. Is MM's change of strategy due to his own maturing -or- did HRC have a sit down with him and explain championship vs. win it or bin it?

Or perhaps a combination of both is most likely.

Marquez and maturity - this guy is YOUNG. A season seems like an eternity to him. He really IS maturing and developing, HOW and with what/whom is important. He tamed his win it/bin it. So many factors at play. The bike itself is SO unruly that it will offer plenty of gravel trap opportunities. The Honda lost drive w/o electronics nor mechanical grip, forcing him to a showdown with the bike/track/opponent in the braking zone. On a bike designed to overload and smash the Bridgestone. For a Marquez that was inclined to take that very aspect over the limit and pull it off. HRC didn't have to force him, the bike and he had that all to themselves.

For Marc Marquez, the way he is put together temperamentally, it is difficult to over represent the relevance of the on and off track experience of late 2015 into early 2016. Safe to say that he has NEVER in his life faced the disillusioning and deeply destabilizing experience of clashes with Rossi and the oceanic sphere of influence that is yellow. No need to get back into it here. So pleased that it has subsided. But Marc? Maturation. That is not isolated to any context. He gained something of a tempering. Metal crafting includes extreme heat finishes that make for strength, if the material is pure it gains integrity.

The Rossi twilight - Marquez morning prove to be more interrelated the more one examines it. I don't believe that it is personal by nature, and taking that view makes it much richer. Marquez can practice a "Rossi line" through a gravel trap inside a corner in FP, feel comfortable doing so, and keep it to himself. What is he doing there? Developing a sense of control via mastery of "where it all went wrong." With increased insularity that leaves him less vulnerable. Great microcosm. It isn't just mindful relaxing into consistent finishes on an inconsistent bike.

I love this kid!

I have been watching his sport for over 20 years and I never saw (and I have watched all that I could find of old WGP races I could find) and I never saw a rider like him, maybe it is just me, or he is a rider that suits my eye, I don't know, but after all he has shown he still finds the way to impress me.