In the week before the Aragon MotoGP round, I confidently predicted that Marc Marquez would win his second race of the season. The race proved me wrong: Pecco Bagnaia took a stunning victory at the Spanish track, Ducati's first since Casey Stoner in 2010. But the race also showed that the confidence I had in Marc Marquez was justified.
For 15 laps, Marquez sat patiently behind Bagnaia, as the pair set a pace which no one else could follow. Then, the Repsol Honda rider started to inch closer to the Italian, nipping at the heels of the Ducati, putting Bagnaia under more and more pressure. And with three laps to go, he unleashed an all out attack, diving under Bagnaia at Turn 5, Turn 1, Turn 15. Bagnaia countered perfectly each time, finally clinching the win when the Spaniard ran wide in a last, desperate attempt to get past at Turn 12.
Pecco Bagnaia won the Grand Prix of Aragon. But Marc Marquez didn't lose it. He was simply beaten by the better rider on the day.
But the Aragon MotoGP race did offer a glimpse into the future of the sport. Into the rise of a new generation, the Mahindra Mob, a group of riders who learned their trade on an underpowered but decent handling Moto3 bike, and had to ride around the limitations of their machine. Into what the 2021 version of Marc Marquez is capable of, and whether the 2022 version will be substantially different to 2021. And into where the championship stands as of now.
In these notes:
- The last three blistering laps of Marquez vs Bagnaia
- What Marc Marquez can and cannot do
- Will a weakened Marquez produce a better Honda?
- Perfect Pecco's impeccable victory
- The Mahindra Moto3 talent factory
- Quartararo draws the short Michelin straw
- A look at the championship
- Bastianini and Lecuona, late bloomers
Let's start with those last three laps. It wasn't the first time a Ducati and a Honda had faced off at the Aragon circuit. In 2018, Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso duked it out for the win, with Suzuki's Andrea Iannone hot on their heels. Then, it was Marquez who came out on top.
This year, it was different. In several different aspects. But first and foremost, because Pecco Bagnaia has more tools to counter Marc Marquez than Dovizioso had. The Ducati Desmosedici GP21 – a bike which Dovizioso arguably had a massive hand in the development of – is a much better bike than the GP18 the Italian veteran used to chase Marquez in 2018. (The counterpoint to that, of course, is that Marquez' 2018 bike was a worse machine than the current iteration of the Honda RC213V.)
But Bagnaia can also do things on the Ducati which Dovizioso could never manage. "I fought many times against Dovizioso, but Pecco was the same as Dovizioso but with more corner speed," Marquez reflected in the press conference after the race. "I tried to analyze where he was fast and where were his weak points, but there were not any weak points. In all the racetrack, he was fast. So I said, okay, where can I overtake? I didn’t find the place to overtake, because he was braking later than me and stopping the bike better and accelerating better."
In short, Marc Marquez couldn't pass Pecco Bagnaia because Pecco Bagnaia was riding better than Marc Marquez. At Aragon, a track where Marquez has dominated in the past. But not on Sunday. What changed?
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