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5 things we learned from the Argentina MotoGP

Five talking points from the second MotoGP round of 2017...
1. Misery for Marquez and Honda, Crutchlow podium

Marc Marquez and Honda were probably braced for defeat at the hands of Maverick Vinales and Yamaha in the opening rounds, while awaiting more favourable circuits and refinements to the new big bang engine.

But the nightmare scenario was to compound the current Yamaha pace advantage with an early-season DNF - which is exactly what happened when Marquez fell from the lead on lap 4 in Argentina.

Was Marquez pushing too much? He thinks not, and wasn't really sure why he fell, but accepted it was ultimately his mistake.

A later fall at exactly the same corner by Repsol team-mate Dani Pedrosa underlined the knife-edge front-end of the RCV, a problem magnified by the need to overcome Honda's acceleration issues by gaining time in the braking zones, which in turn means running the hardest front tyre.

Cal Crutchlow went on to claim Honda's first podium of the season and stuck with the factory Yamahas for most of the race despite a mystery 'warning light' forcing caution, proving the RCV is already competitive... if it can be kept upright.

2. Perfect Vinales still a step ahead

Perfect may be an overused word, but it's hard to see what more Maverick Vinales could have done in his first two races for Yamaha. Riding like he's already a MotoGP champion, the 22-year-old worked his way patiently through the field to win with apparent ease in Argentina.

Sure, sixth on his wet M1 debut in qualifying is a relative weak point, but he was already quicker than team-mate Valentino Rossi, a proven winner in such conditions. That was important to Vinales, who admitted he wanted to find out if last year's wet difficulties were down to him or the Suzuki.

"I found [the answer] because I'm first Yamaha. Valentino is like the wizard of the wet, he's always in the front, and I'm just ahead of him. So I'm quite happy and confident."

Pole man Marquez was 1.7s ahead of Vinales, with next best Karel Abraham one-second in front on the damp track.

"With a new medium wet I could have gone at least one-second faster," Vinales said. "So I know that when it's going to be full wet and everyone is the same, I can be there."

That probably leaves a late-race 'bar-to-'bar showdown with the likes of Marquez or Rossi as the last remaining unknown for Vinales, but first they need to get that close...

3. Race day Rossi delivers again

If it weren't for Vinales, Valentino Rossi's pattern of struggling in practice and qualifying, then delivering a podium charge in the race would be classed as pure heroics. Instead, the puzzling thing is why Rossi struggles so much before the races, while new team-mate Vinales dominates on the same machine.

Rossi has long pinpointed the reason for his 2017 difficulties; movement from the front of the bike limiting corner-entry speed.

The softer construction 2017 Michelin front was the initial suspect, but while a proposed stiffer tyre may help disguise the issue (leaving aside the controversy of whether Michelin should react to a minority of riders, if there is no safety issue) the fact Rossi then suffered the same front sensations in the wet means it would not be a miracle cure.

The Italian's speed in both the Qatar and Argentina races also suggests the problem can be overcome by set-up or bike changes. Unfortunately, it's almost as if Rossi and his team have to start afresh at each circuit - the successful Qatar race set-up having not worked on day one in Argentina.

4. Bautista stars on dark day for Ducati

It wasn't only the factory Honda team that failed to see the finish in Argentina, the official Ducati team suffered the same fate.

But while the Hondas were at least at the sharp end when they departed (Marquez 1st, Pedrosa 4th), Jorge Lorenzo lined up 16th on the grid before hitting the back of Andrea Iannone at turn one, with the luckless Andrea Dovizioso taken out of seventh halfway through the race.

Aspar's Alvaro Bautista was already ahead of Dovizioso (and the sister GP17 of Danilo Petrucci) by that time and went on to claim fourth place, lapping quicker than the podium finishers in the closing stages.

While Rossi is missing the front-end of the 2016 Yamaha, now being used successfully by Tech 3 rookies Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger - Dovizioso, Lorenzo and Petrucci could be forgiven for casting an envious glance at Bautista.

Nonetheless, Lorenzo feels he would have had the pace to fight with his fellow Spaniard. The triple MotoGP champion is now making up for lost set-up time, having taken a wrong turn with seat-height modifications during winter testing.

"I made a mistake in the pre-season, trying to make the bike lower, but for this bike it was a mistake. We were a little bit late to know that, but it's better now than never," said Lorenzo, who had been eleventh on his Ducati race debut in Qatar.

"I think I could have improved my pace in the race, so probably with a good start and no problems on the first lap, I could fight with Bautista for fourth or fifth, that group."

5. First points for KTM

The new KTM team scored its first MotoGP points, in its third race (counting the Valencia wild-card) with Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith 14th and 15th in Argentina.

The performance was not only a morale boost for the Austrian factory as it seeks to find its feet in the premier-class, but allowed a vital assessment of the RC16's current capabilities.

After a lonely race in Qatar, both Espargaro and Smith battled other brands in Argentina, the Spaniard in particular sticking with the Marc VDS Honda of Tito Rabat and Avintia Ducati of Hector Barbera to the chequered flag.

"We are missing some speed in the straight to overtake the two guys I was fighting with, Barbera and Tito," was one of Espargaro's observations.

Team manager Mike Leitner welcomed the feedback: "This is what was super positive about today because for the first time Pol was directly fighting with other riders. He could see the strong and the weak points of the bike even better and the lap times were acceptable."

Add your talking points in the comments below...

By Peter McLaren




Cal Crutchlow - Career Profile by Crash_net


Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Marquez leads, Argentine MotoGP, 9th April 2017
Nicky Hayden - A tribute
Private testing action from Barcelona
Morning (left) and afternoon (right) lap times from Weds at Barcelona test
Marquez fall at private Barcelona test
Barcelona Circuit of Catalunya chicane final sector
New Catalunya chicane during private test
New chicane in use at Catalunya MotoGP test
Pedrosa, Zarco, Vinales, French MotoGP 2017
Vinales, French MotoGP 2017
Crowd, French MotoGP 2017
Baz, French MotoGP 2017
Rossi, Vinales, French MotoGP 2017
Iannone, French MotoGP 2017
Folger, French MotoGP 2017
Crowd, French MotoGP 2017
Dovizioso, Crutchlow, French MotoGP 2017
Vinales, Zarco, Rossi, French MotoGP 2017

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