Sam Lowes believes the true pattern of the 2017 MotoGP season won't become clear until the Grand Prix of Barcelona, as a selection of satellite riders and class rookies have surprised the premier class old guard.
“I knew the first few races were going to be difficult,” began the Aprilia man. “I knew that back where I am now is not where I'm going to be at the end of the year. Honestly, I think this for the whole class – not just for Sam Lowes and Aprilia – the way that it's started this year, you need six races to understand the situation.”
In Argentina, just two factory riders – Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi – finished inside the top twelve, while riders like Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso often found themselves outside the top ten in free practice.
Cal Crutchlow believes the variety in results is due to a variety of factors, with several of the top names changing manufacturers, Viñales' emergence as one of the class' leading names and a variety of the satellite machines being well-sorted and set up among them.
“As I always say, at the start of the year, the bikes are a lot closer than the middle and the end of the year,” said the LCR Honda rider on Thursday. “The other reason is you've seen riders move bikes, with Jorge going to Ducati, stuff like that.
“I think it's closer at the front, with Marc, with Maverick, with Valentino being there, me being there. I think the racing is actually closer again this year,” he said.
What's more, the pace of the factory Ducatis has been a surprise, with both Andrea Dovizoso and Jorge Lorenzo struggling in Argentina, while Alvaro Baustista finished fourth, and Karel Abraham qualified on the front row.
“I think Dovi hasn't taken his form from preseason [into the start of the season], he had a great result in Qatar, but he's always strong in Qatar,” said Crutchlow. “In Argentina, he was unfortunate but he wasn't on the pace. Lorenzo's definitely not on the pace. So then I think it equals out.
“I don't think the satellite riders are any stronger than last year or anything like that, I just think the racing is closer again. You saw a lot of satellite podiums and satellite wins last year as well. But you'll see, I think it will equal out a little bit soon.
“Zarco, he's rode very well, give him his due. But the bike he's on, you can't imagine. As I said in the interview the other day, you put Jack and Tito on that bike and he'd be in exactly the same position. You put Dovi back on this bike, and I think he's in the fight for the championship. You put Marc on the Ducati, and he's away with it.
“There are many, many different scenarios that you're never going to see. But it's great to think about, and good for the riders, good for the championship, because we're all doing different things, battling, some races competitive, some races not. It mixes things up.”
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