Kevin Schwantz believes the destination of the MotoGP world title this season is far from a foregone conclusion.
Repsol Honda's Marc Marquez has been a sensation in his maiden year in the premier class and leads defending champion Jorge Lorenzo by 39 points, but American GP legend Schwantz says Lorenzo – winner of the last two rounds at Silverstone and Misano – will continue to pile on the pressure in the final five championship rounds.
“I think Jorge has the race craft to keep pressuring Marc,” said the 1993 500cc world champion.
“He has to keep the pressure on in practice and qualifying, too. I think he is the only one who could do it and beat Marc. Or Marc could do it himself…”
Schwantz also told the Australian MotoGP's Keeping Track
podcast he wasn't sure if Spanish star Marquez would have the 'race finesse' to challenge for the title in his maiden season.
“I watched pre-season testing and he had good speed from the get-go,” he said.
“But I wasn't sure if he'd have the race finesse because, although the bikes are a little easier to ride than the old 500cc bikes, they are still not easy to race.
“So for him to jump on the bike and then, by the time they got to Austin, to win that race in a convincing fashion…and if he had not made the mistake at Mugello he would have probably finished second and would now perhaps have a 50-point championship lead.
“He rides that thing on the ragged edge. He crashes on a Sunday morning like he did at Silverstone and Misano, but he bounces well! He is only 20 years old and nothing scares him.”
Schwantz also provided his thoughts on Valentino Rossi's return to Yamaha this year and the Texan believes the Italian star still has the capability of running with Lorenzo, Marquez and Dani Pedrosa at the front.
“I said at the start of the season that I thought he would win races this year, but what I thought he was going to find hardest would be figuring out how to go with the same pace as the other guys from early on,” said the 49-year-old.
“Then he made a good start at Misano in the early laps and was right behind Lorenzo, before Marquez got in front of him and he drifted back to fourth.
“I think there is just something a little bit missing with Vale now. If he could get a little bit more confidence with the motorcycle and in himself, then he could get with those guys at the start of the races and stay with them.
“That's where the race should be won or lost. I think he's still got the speed, we've seen that later in races - he's still as fast as anybody.”