VR46 in 2013 MotoGP
With Stoner’s announced retirement a couple weeks ago, and almost every rider contract set to expire at the end of this year, paddock rumors are already rife with speculation on where everyone will end up for 2013. So the MotoGP fans here at Ultimate MotorCycling figured we’d add our two cents.
Jorge Lorenzo will stay at Yamaha; he’s expressed that desire many times. He’s very happy there, the team is very successful, and he knows the bike and company well. Yamaha is equally–or more–keen for him to stay; with Stoner gone from the scene Jorge is definitely the guy to beat. Honda may or may not bid for his services, but Lorenzo is sharp enough to merely use that as a negotiating tactic for more money rather than as any real intention to go to Honda.
With Lorenzo firmly staying at Yamaha, we can put ourselves in Honda’s shoes and ask: who is the only possible rider capable of beating Lorenzo to the 2013 title? The answer can only be Rossi. The other top-tier players such Pedrosa, Hayden, Spies, and possibly Crutchlow and even Bradl, are simply not quite in Lorenzo’s league. Damn close, but not quite. Dovizioso too–he’s very very fast, but he’s already proven he’s a brilliant third place finisher on a Honda, not a winner. From Honda’s perspective all these guys are oh-so-nearly-there …but not quite.
With or without the Rookie Rule, Marquez will be up there as well, but to expect him to challenge Lorenzo in his first year (probably on a factory bike with a satellite team) is a tall order and getting to grips with the Bridgestone tires and MotoGP electronics quickly enough to be an immediate title contender is extremely unlikely–even for Marquez’ prodigious talent. No, if you’re Honda, and looking for the one rider sure to compete with Lorenzo and Yamaha–Rossi is the only bet.
Ok, so if that’s how Honda must be thinking–how is Rossi thinking? He has stated that he intends to compete in MotoGP for two more years. That’s not to say he might not go for more, but let’s take him at his word for now. So what does he want to achieve in the last two years of his extraordinary career?
What Rossi wants is to win a title on the Ducati. He’ll take the “Stoner is better” monkey off his back and cement his legacy as the GOAT; and of course, he’ll be (even more of) a hero in Italy. …but what if Ducati can’t make a bike that will get him there? That’s a heck of risk for someone who has a known career expiration date that’s only two years away.
What Rossi wants more than anything is to win another title–and better yet, to beat Lorenzo while doing it. He’d prefer to do it on a Ducati for sure, and he’d maybe like to do it on a Yamaha. But it would be very difficult to become Yamaha’s favorite now that Lorenzo’s so firmly ensconced there. But no matter what, winning another title (or two) is his priority, and Honda has a bike at least the equal of, and in some ways better than, the Yamaha. Furthermore, Jeremy Burgess and Rossi’s crew know Honda and their way of working; it’ll be just like old times.
The only thing that will stop Rossi going back to Honda is if Ducati prove to him that they have a bike capable of winning. And like Rossi’s career, time is not on their side. They have to do it before contract negotiations firm up with other riders and the opportunity goes away–and that’s probably by around the summer break in six races time. The only thing worse for Rossi than admitting failure at Ducati and walking away after two years, is persevering for four years and walking away from his career without another title.
Rossi is a racer and a multiple Champion. He wants to finish his career on a high and beat Lorenzo into the bargain. Honda likewise has an enormous racing heritage and wants to win probably even more than Rossi does; and they have the financial horsepower to lure him away and make it happen.
The only thing stopping both parties is the much-publicized pissing match they had at the end of 2003 and Rossi having to admit defeat at Ducati. But does anyone seriously think either of those reasons will prevent Rossi and Honda re-joining forces again in order to win?
Just our two cents. Worth what you paid. If you think differently, tell us about it in the Comments section below. And enjoy this weekend’s racing at Catalunya!