Mugello, Italy

Mugello MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Prisoner's Dilemma In Q1, A Grand Conspiracy, And The Pressure To Perform

All is fair in love, war, and motorcycle racing. When the racing is close, and the rivals are strong, then riders, teams, and even manufacturers will go to extraordinary lengths to try to win. There have already been veiled accusations of cheating at Mugello – Aleix Espargaro wondering aloud how the bikes from some factories seem to be able to do things which should not be possible with the spec electronics – though things are rarely quite that blatant. But mind games, intimidation, getting in people's way, putting them off their stride, trying to instill doubt in their minds, all these things are common.

Sometimes, those tactics can backfire. In Q1, for example, Valentino Rossi and Alex Rins found themselves caught in a classic case of Prisoner's Dilemma. In the dying minutes of Q1, while Andrea Dovizioso was chasing a quick lap to put him through to Q2, Alex Rins found Valentino Rossi behind him. At that point, Rins was clinging onto second place, behind Michele Pirro, but he knew that Dovizioso was on a charge. If Dovizioso went faster than he did, he would be out of Q2.

Stark choices lay ahead. Push for a lap and risk giving Rossi a tow, and having Rossi beat him to Q2. Try to force Rossi to pass him, then hope that Rossi would push for a lap, and use the speed of the Yamaha to gain a few extra km/h along the front straight, and bag a spot in Q2.

Caught in a trap

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2019 Mugello MotoGP FP4 Result: Quartararo Makes Yamaha Shine

The final practice outing on the playground for the premier class lifted spirits down at Yamaha, once Fabio Quartararo got comfortable on a new medium rear tyre and set a series of impressive high 1:46s and low 1:47s to snatch the top of the timesheets from the reigning world champion. Adding to Yamaha’s joy, Maverick Viñales quickly joined his satellite colleague at the top, ending FP4 less than a tenth of a second off the Frenchman and with similar pace. There was little wiggle room at the top, with Marc Marquez in third position less than a tenth off his compatriot.

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