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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