By Neil Morrison
As Marc Marquez danced his RC213V around the three pronged right-handed turns 16, 17 and 18 at the Circuit of the Americas for the final time, balancing and sliding on both his elbow and knee in third gear to become the youngest ever winner of a premier-class race at just 20 years and 63 days old, those in the know demanded calm and a bit of perspective.
After the race, the greatest motorcycle grand prix winner of them all Giacomo Agostini told Cycle News
, “he is very fast now but it is difficult to keep that for the whole season. There will be tracks where he lacks experience… like Laguna.” Wayne Rainey, another serial champion warned, “He's racing against people who are as talented as he is now.” And they were right.
Yet fast-forward three months and seven races and the young Spaniard heads the MotoGP standings with a staggering 163 points after a comprehensive victory at Laguna Seca, a track he had only previously seen on TV and that was supposed to be the most difficult to learn.
Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa, his nearest challenger, is 16 points adrift with Yamaha's reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo a further 10 back.
Marquez has notched up three race wins and been equally impressive in terms of consistency, normally a rookie's weak point, finishing on the rostrum in all races bar one. Even when he fell at Mugello the young Catalan was only three laps away from finishing in a comfortable second.
Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. A quick glance at Marquez's records in the smaller categories shows he eclipsed even his current peer's records.
When celebrating his 20th birthday in February this year, Marquez had amassed 26 grand prix wins. Pedrosa, nearing the end of his second successful 250cc campaign at the end of his teens, had 21. Rossi had 17 wins and Lorenzo 14 to show from their teenage years.
It isn't just the numbers that impress though. At times he has been ruthless with his rivals and doesn't shy away from close combat, no matter who's in his way.
Once they return to fitness, Lorenzo and Pedrosa are sure to prove a tough prospect for Marquez to contain, and the 2013 season is still only at its halfway point. But whatever else happens, Marquez's rookie achievements have already been spectacular.
Here we look at Marquez's season so far alongside previous giants of the sport in their rookie years.