Marc Marquez: MotoGP has an overtaking problem, 'nearly impossible'

A common compliant after Sunday’s French Grand Prix was how difficult it has become to overtake in MotoGP.
Marc Marquez, French MotoGP race, 15 May
Marc Marquez, French MotoGP race, 15 May

Despite featuring arguably the most competitive field ever seen in the premier-class, with eleven different riders and all six manufacturers on the podium already this season, passing in MotoGP increasingly depends on an opponent making a mistake.

Some riders, such as reigning champion Fabio Quartararo, believe the characteristics of their machinery are partly to blame, with a lack of acceleration and/or top speed leaving them too far away by the braking zone.

That has always been the case, to a greater or lesser extent. Likewise, the complaint that closely following other riders can cause the front tyre temperature to rise, increasing pressure and reducing grip.

But others, including eight-time world champion Marc Marquez, feel the overtaking situation has got noticeably worse in recent seasons due to the introduction of wings and ride-height devices.

Exactly why is unclear, but one theory is that the front tyre is being made to work harder than before, due to higher loads under braking and cornering, with turblance (or 'dirty air') from the wings also contributing to the overheating.

Examples at the past two races include Quartararo shadowing winner Francesco Bagnaia for the entire 25-lap distance at Jerez, while Jack Miller and Marc Marquez held off a much faster Aleix Espargaro for the final podium place until a late mistake.

On Sunday at Le Mans, Quartararo was stuck behind Aleix Espargaro (for what became third) from lap 2 until the finish, while Luca Marini kept Maverick Vinales at bay from lap 13 to the chequered flag.

"I must be the rider Vinales hates most!" Marini joked afterwards.

Marc Marquez, French MotoGP race, 15 May
Marc Marquez, French MotoGP race, 15 May

Marc Marquez: ‘People want to see overtakes!’

“With the actual motorbikes, or the situation in this category, to overtake somebody now you need to do a very aggressive move,” Marquez explained. “With the holeshot [ride height device], with the aerodynamics and all these things, it is so difficult to overtake now.

“I already said in the Safety Commission in the past that we are going this way. We are getting faster lap times, but people don’t realise if you are going half a second faster or slower, they want to see overtakes!"

Aleix Espargaro, French MotoGP race, 15 May
Aleix Espargaro, French MotoGP race, 15 May

Marquez added: “For example, Fabio was very fast but today he was ‘locked’ [behind Aleix Espargaro]. It was the same for Aleix behind [Marquez and Miller] in Jerez.

"If the rider in front does not make a mistake, it is nearly impossible to overtake.”

Capitalising on the mistakes of others eventually allowed Marquez to finish a subdued sixth in the Le Mans race.

“Yesterday I said our position was between 5th and 7th and three riders [Rins, Mir and Bagnaia] crashed in front and so we achieved our target,” said the Repsol Honda rider. “I was not able to be faster and just tried to finish the race.”

Luca Marini, French MotoGP race, 15 May
Luca Marini, French MotoGP race, 15 May

Luca Marini: ‘You just stay behind and wait for a mistake’

Luca Marini may only be starting his second MotoGP season, but the VR46 Ducati rider has seen enough to believe something needs to change to improve the show.

The Italian hopes future front tyre development can be directed specifically at countering rising pressure when following other riders.

“With the tyres now it’s really, really difficult to overtake because the front pressure goes up [behind other bikes]. Then in the braking it’s not so easy because everyone is braking very late,” he said.

“These MotoGP bikes are incredible. Also the tyres are incredible. In my opinion Michelin did an incredible job with the rear tyre. Now they need to focus on the front tyre to make more show.

“Like this now, you just stay behind the rider in front and wait for him to do a mistake. If we don’t do mistakes, it’s impossible to do overtakes.”


Aleix Espargaro: 'The front tyre was on fire'

Many riders have a warning light on their dash to warn them of rising front tyre temperature when following too closely.

Aleix Espargaro, who was forced to drop back from Miller and focus on defending third from Quartararo at Le Mans, said:

“Every time I tried to get close to Jack, I started to have a lot of movement on the front. I saw on the dash that the front tyre was on fire. So, I let him go about a half second, eight-tenths, and I just stayed there.

“Every time I got closer to Jack, I had a problem with the tyre pressure. I couldn’t overtake. It was impossible. But I knew that Fabio had exactly the same problem awith me, as I had with Jack.”

Luca Marini, French MotoGP race, 15 May
Luca Marini, French MotoGP race, 15 May

Marini, who finished ninth on Sunday after holding off Maverick Vinales for the second half of the race, joked:

“I must be the rider Vinales hates most! Every time he’s behind me I try not to let him past. He’s so much faster in terms of race pace but he cannot overtake me because, in my opinion, the front feeling, front [tyre] pressure.

“If you don’t do a mistake, the rider behind cannot overtake. Or only if you have a lot more speed on the straight, but now that’s not the case.”

Francesco Bagnaia, French MotoGP race, 15 May
Francesco Bagnaia, French MotoGP race, 15 May

Would a rider+bike minimum weight help?

The difficulty in following another rider closely through the corners, due to rising front tyre pressure, has made acceleration onto the straights even more vital for creating passing opportunities.

That’s bad news for Marini, who at 1.84m and 69kg is one of the bigger riders in MotoGP.

“After the acceleration, I arrive too many metres [behind] at the next braking, so it’s impossible to overtake other riders if I don’t want to crash into them,” Marini said.

“Maybe it’s because I’m taller or I weigh more than other riders. It can be an option to put a minimum weight on the [MotoGP] bike. If Carmelo or Dorna want to do this, for me it would be better.

“I know for Petrucci it was the same. It can be more fair [to have a minimum weight]. In other sports and other categories it’s like this."


Pol Espargaro: I tried to overtake 6 times, 6 times I ran wide

Another rider struggling for acceleration but, like Quartararo, for technical rather than physical reasons, was Marquez’s team-mate Pol Espargaro.

“One of my biggest problems at this moment with this bike is I cannot overtake. I don't feel I have a strong point to attack the other riders,” he said after finishing in eleventh place at Le Mans.

“I was losing quite a lot on acceleration by pure grip and then to overtake I needed to recover the time I was losing, plus brake much later. I tried to overtake the KTMs like six times during the race and those six times I went wide.

“As soon as I get stuck behind someone, I'm not able to overtake.

“I know the situation with the front tyre getting hot is becoming more and more [of an issue]. Plus, if you add to this that we have a poor acceleration, then you need to recover so much more on the brakes to try and pass.”

Read More