2016 MotoGP Mid-Season Review Part 10: Hector Barbera & Andrea Iannone

In the tenth part of our mid-season review, we come to the Ducatis. Hector Barbera is the surprise leader of the Bologna pack, just ahead of Andrea Iannone. We compare Barbera's consistency with Iannone's impetuosity.

7th: Hector Barbera, Ducati, 65 points

First Ducati at the halfway point. That must be particularly sweet for Hector Barbera, given his reputation inside and outside the MotoGP paddock. With so many Spanish riders packing the grid, Barbera is one of the riders Dorna are believed to be keen to ditch. Yet the Avintia Ducati rider keeps finding sponsorship to ride, and keeps proving that he is still fast enough to compete. Both and without a tow.

The Avintia Ducati rider has benefited from consistency and experience. Now in his second year on the Ducati GP14.2 (technically speaking, a little longer, having first gotten his hands on a GP14 at Aragon in 2014), he has a good understanding of what is needed to make the bike go fast. The Avintia team have perhaps benefited most from the switch to the unified software, as it was they who did a lot of the heavy lifting with the Open class software for Ducati in 2015.

Barbera has also adapted well to the Michelins, using the extra rear grip to ride the Ducati like a 250, lots of lean angle and corner speed. That works well until the grip goes, a real problem especially with the Ducatis, which have a tendency to destroy the rear tires with their abundance of horsepower. That is most evident during qualifying. Barbera has been a Q2 regular, bagging a second row spot in Barcelona, and a front row start at the Sachsenring. Barbera is often (rightly) accused of using other riders to give him a tow, but at the Sachsenring, the Spaniard proved he didn't need it.

Barbera's race results have not been as strong as his qualifying, as you would expect for a rider who suffers when the tires go off. But he has consistently finished inside the top ten, with a best of fifth at Argentina, and has benefited from the failures of the other Ducati riders. Barbera is unlikely to finish the season as fastest Ducati, but he has proven he fully deserves his ride. Hector Barbera is no grid filler.

8th: Andrea Iannone, Ducati, 63 points

Andrea Iannone was to be the next Alien. Throughout his career in MotoGP, he has shown that he has plenty of talent, having bagged five podiums since his ascension into the factory Ducati team. But his decision making has always been questioned, Iannone having a history of rash moves.

All that seemed to change in 2015, with the Italian showing a new found maturity all year. His risk assessment was better, not making moves which would probably not come off, and settling for available points rather than throwing a good result away. Some people, including myself, put the difference down to the shoulder injury he was carrying, making him think a fraction longer before acting. Whatever the cause, the end result was a fifth place in the 2015 championship.

Having been given the chance to heal over the winter, his shoulder is much stronger in 2016. Iannone's decision making, however, is now much worse. The Italian stands eighth in the championship, despite having racked up two podiums in nine races. Canceling out those two podiums are four DNFs, all of them due to mistakes of his own making. That also includes one of the most boneheaded moves in recent history, torpedoing his teammate Andrea Dovizioso on the very last lap in Argentina, when the pair of them were on for a double Ducati podium.

Up until that moment, Iannone was odds on favorite to retain the factory Ducati seat alongside Jorge Lorenzo. After that incident, talks on a future contract were immediately suspended, though Iannone then redeemed himself at the next race in Austin with a podium. It was not enough, Ducati went for Dovizioso, and Iannone swore revenge.

Since signing for Suzuki, Iannone has been going all out for results. His modus operandi has not changed: do whatever it takes to get further forward, and worry about mistakes afterwards. That has caused him to crash out unnecessarily twice more since Argentina, while taking out Jorge Lorenzo in the process at Barcelona. There is no reason to expect anything different from Andrea Iannone in the second half of the season.

But Iannone's fundamental problem remains the same. The Italian is naturally exceptionally fast. But he lacks the critical thinking to turn natural talent into wins and championships.

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I don't see the more level headed and consistent Iannone of 2015 to be an exception to an inherent quality of his, and 2016 to be of a solid essential nature. In agree that the shoulder injury brought pause for him though. Part of how I see things is couched in experience of human nature. Some is hope, the mixed bag that that brings is obvious. Greatness doesn't seem to come despite struggle but with it. Perhaps the greatest defense we have available to us is sublimation. It can be barely tangible even to the individual involved.

I see Iannone as having gotten it all together for some races last season and Astronauting. Some brilliant battles! Skill, instinct, courage. He experienced this and knows he can, which preps him to fire off the trancendental brilliance of whatever 2nd stage rocket gets him out of orbit into Alien territory.

Then comes new electronics and tires, just like everyone else, and he backslidies into orbit. Boneheaded rookie moves. Their nature is hungry grasping, a scrambling to grab. Briefest of lapses with greatest of consequences. Effortful without sufficient grounding. At the end of braking, around the turn in point. The trigger pull of the gunfight.

He did it last yr with the first Gigi seamless eyebrow Ducati. And he can do it again. Like we say about so many riders (and they to us about themselves more privately) "he could do it if he were on a Yamaha."

I can see a purification and steeling for Iannone possible in races to come this season with the adversity. He has clarity of focus, distractions were there that I see as a part of the bone head equation (getting the Duc seat for next year, the pressure of being seen as Aliening, believing it oneself).

The first fantastic boneheading at Argentina is of particular interest to me. At the time he had had better pace than Dovi all weekend and looked poised to battle for the win. It was Dovi that got very aggressive with Iannone, and using the drive and motor they shared, cluttered up Iannone's momentum in earlier laps. Dovisioso could have gotten into rhythm just behind Iannone and the pair of them dance to a 1-2 finish. Perhaps have even drafted by or taken advantage where he had seen he had it. Instead he started a knife fight.

Iannone's mistake on the brakes between corners was indeed his own fault. The second one ploughing through Lorenzo who meandered on a bizarre line was certainly 100% his too. And still I see what he made possible last year. And that he is not at a plateau in his career but rising with a big dip. Unless he keeps being a big dip.

At Suzuki next year - has me thinking of Hopkins. When he was Astronauting he began crashing a lot and sustaining injury. Notice this has not subsided since, notice he is out again now in BSB? John Hopkins has a lot of active busy energy, and a focusing style that is a bit diffuse. His emotions reach his throttle hand. Look how that unfolded. BUT...again, he was on the Suzuki. The electronics on that were shite. Some 800cc races had stars aligning, but not enough of them. "What if he had been on the 990 Honda?"

Your 2017 riders better get some serious horsepower gains Brivio. And the electronics must get improved for drive out. Your bike is gaining ground just like it did as an 800. The 2017 Suzuki could be similarly poised as the 2015 Ducati was...ready to podium. The Suzuki and Iannone have a lot in common now re the possible and the actualized. His yellow 29 will look nice on your livery. So would some red paint scuffs (and look out or you will get orange ones!).

A garage wants to win, and be a part of something special. Me? In my red garage I would rather have Iannone than Dovi next yr. Particularly when a passion of mine is cultivating the semi-tangibles that Alien. But if in management above the garages with Lorenzo coming in escaping several years of strained competition for organizational preference, you would have to go with Dovi.

Folks tend to over represent acute instances over more subtle steady factors when explaining phenomena. Sincerely hoping that neither me nor Iannone trend towards the bone head that we have been on occasion. Still considering him in what I think is balanced view. His personal experience of going from last silly season's gem to this one's curr must have been devastating. The demons of the dark hour have come to visit. AI29 my friend, not only needn't they roost, but they can be tamed into fuel to get back out of orbit. More pressure is on Suzuki and your adversaries, hold your poise and clarity.

First a big thank you David for keeping up our interest during this very long time between races.
I'm not totally on board with your assessment over Iannone. I don't think that he was ever first option at Ducati for that seat next to JL. And the fact that at first Ducati approached Marquez is in my eyes even further proof of it. They were never going to let those two together in that garage. So that's where my reading on the situation differs from yours. In 2015 AI proved his potential and a somewhat mature approach: fighting brilliantly and settling for points. Scared of no-one, fast, no stupid moves. He entered 2016 strong and confident as opposed to Dovi down beaten. And that's when all hell breaks lose: Ducati starts poking MM and JL . I don't believe for a second that they were going to keep him and pair him with one of the 2 aliens. I don't need to explain why: we've all seen him taking it to MM and showing no reverence towards JL. My bet is that Iannone felt - though at subconscious level- that they were gonna get rid of him. And started acting erratically with a huge help from Dovi. We saw this from Qatar, opening laps and Dovi pointless overtakings at this early stage of the race and Iannone crashes. IMO Dovi was not trying to keep his seat at Ducati. He was trying to prove that he deserved what had already been tacitly decided and approved. On the other hand Iannone wanted to go with a bang. A bang it is. Not the right one though.

My sense was always both Ducati riders were on edge from race one this season. Ducati quite openly talking about needing a race and championship potential winning rider on board must be a kick in the guts to hear, even if in Dovi's case at least, he must know himself, he is not.


I do think Iannone received the crappy end of the commentary though. Dovi was rash and agressive to not eventual purpose in Qatar and Argentina yet received publically not one word of criticism. The Argentina crash particularly while ultimately caused by Iannone was a result of both ducati riders, particularly Dovi all race long - up to the moment of crashing.