Some of those that might benefit from the delayed start to the 2020 MotoGP World Championship - due to the cancellation of Qatar for the premier-class and postponement of Thailand - and those that might see it as a missed opportunity…

  • Marc Marquez, Takaaki Nakagami and Miguel Oliveira will now have more time to recuperate from their winter shoulder surgery.
  • Aprilia, whose heavily revised RS-GP only took to the track in January, now has at least several more weeks to improve the reliability of its promising new machine before facing a full grand prix distance.
  • Andrea Iannone, currently suspended pending the outcome of his doping case, has a better chance of being on the grid for the opening race or at least missing fewer rounds.
  • The deadline for the homologation of 2020 engine design (for non-concession teams) and start-of-season fairings takes place at the 'first event'. The extra time now available will be helpful to any manufacturer not 100% sure of its engine and aerodynamics package – such as Honda, which re-tested some 2019 parts (including the fairing) to try and solve cornering issues with the latest RCV - or those facing a tight deadline on the production of parts.
  • Having won the last two Qatar MotoGPs, Andrea Dovizioso and Ducati will surely be disappointed not to have a race at Losail this year. The same goes for those that looked strongest during testing at the track, including fastest man Maverick Vinales (Yamaha), Petronas Yamaha riders Franco Morbidelli and Fabio Quartararo, plus Suzuki team-mates Alex Rins and Joan Mir
  • Ducati's rivals now have a better chance of having their holeshot devices and/or ride-height adjusters ready for use from the opening race. Presently, only Aprilia is thought to have joined Ducati in using a (front) holeshot device in a recent MotoGP race.
  • The class rookies – having experienced the full power of a MotoGP bike at Sepang and Losail, following last year's tests at tight Spanish circuits - can now adjust their training and be better prepared physically for the first race.
  • The likely return of Thailand to an early October date shouldn't favour anyone in particular. It was predicted to be even hotter in March, but the new spec Michelin rear tyre would mean past Buriram set-ups need to be changed regardless of when the race is held.

The Qatar MotoGP was cancelled because any arriving passengers that had visited Italy in the last 14 days would have been placed into quarantine for two weeks, as a precaution in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

'Italy clearly plays a vital role in the Championship and in the MotoGP class - both on track and off - and therefore the decision has been taken to cancel premier class competition [in Qatar],' said a Dorna statement.

Putting logistics aside - six MotoGP teams are based in Italy - cancelling the race was the sporting thing to do given the effective 'ban' on the six Italian riders (including Iannone) from taking part. Imagine if they couldn't race and Marc Marquez went on to win the title by less than 25-points over Dovizioso...

But it also raises an interesting question: How many riders, manufacturers or paddock members need to be barred to trigger such a 'race cancelled' decision, either for logistic or sporting reasons?

Portugal (Miguel Oliveira), Australia (Jack Miller), South Africa (Brad Binder) and Great Britain (Cal Crutchlow) each have just one MotoGP rider and a far smaller presence in the paddock compared to Italy, Spain or Japan. Would an event be cancelled if one of the 'smaller' nationalities couldn't enter a country?

Likewise, KTM would be the only MotoGP manufacturer severely affected by enhanced entry restrictions for Austrians, compared with the three manufacturers from Japan and two from Italy.

Or what if the nationalities unable to enter 'only' included riders present in the Moto2/Moto3 classes, rather than MotoGP?

Either way, Thailand's postponement was due to the curtailing of large public gatherings and, as the virus spreads around the world, that probably represents a bigger threat to upcoming MotoGP events than any country-specific entry restrictions.

 

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