Rider of the Round is an inside look to those on formidable form during specific rounds of the MotoGP season, depicting one rider considered to be above the rest for their performance within each class: Moto3, Moto2, and MotoGP.
The first race of the weekend saw a heroic Joan Mir power through the grid as the world watched him claim the podium’s top step for the second time this season, in fact the entirety of the top three finishes faced déjà vu as Qatar’s results were only mimicked here in Argentina. While Mir proved to be strong for the majority of the weekend, the Spaniard faced a ‘blip’ in qualifying resulting in a sixteenth position start. Scotsman John McPhee climbed up the timesheet every session -with the exception of FP3 – to take Pole in qualifying. His strength on track was further demonstrated during the race as he successfully managed to stick with the front group, despite its intimidating size for the first number of laps – viewers saw the likes of Rodrigo, Suzuki and Canet making their mark early on in the race, with Migno and Oettl following suit with the lead group as Loi won the battle for sixth. Martin followed the form of McPhee, gaining positions in practice and qualifying and proving to have a strong race in the lead group, finally taking the last spot on the podium.
All three of the podium placers deserve formidable praise for their efforts, and while Mir’s performance was outstanding, it is debatable that working through the grid to take first is just as difficult as holding a top position throughout the race – it is Moto3 after all! The efforts of remaining as frontrunners by McPhee and Martin were outstanding, however the performance of the Scot on the final lap grew admirable, especially when it came down to the final corners, while attempting at a brave overtake of Mir he was able to fend off an attack by Martin from behind without being caught out by either factor; despite his failure to take the first position, another second place is a very respectable result and a smart investment for the title battle, making McPhee the Rider of the Round for Moto3.
Moto2’s race saw action all over the grid; a battle for sixth place saw rookies Bagnaia and Brad Binder brawling with the likes of Cortese and Vierge. Baldassarri managed to improve on his tenth position on the grid by swiftly riding in fifth for numerous of the final laps to then go on to take fourth overall. Oliveira made his, and KTM’s, first mark on the podium after a strong start from pole position and consistent lap times throughout the race.
However the real nail-biting battle was that of front-runners Morbidelli and Alex Marquez, the latter constantly gaining ground on the ever-consistent race leader throughout the race in a game of cat and mouse and was able to conserve tyres well, keeping considerably smoother lines on track to that of Morbidelli in the final stages and had the potential of taking his first ever Moto2 win before his untimely highside at turn seven on the final lap, resulting in the younger Marquez brother finishing in twenty-first place.
While the efforts of Marquez were admirable, it is the persistence of Morbidelli over the weekend that has caught the eye of many; while losing out on pole position during qualifying, Franco quickly took the lead in the first lap and dominated the race from there, even the threat of Marquez didn’t hinder his performance as the Italian snapped back at the overtake with ease, and the last lap highside of his teammate only guaranteed his second win of the season and his place as this week’s Moto2 Rider of the Round.
For the final race of the weekend, I think it’s easier to start by addressing the elephant in the room (or on the grid):
Whatever that team did during the off-season, it’s clearly working! Their top 10 form on Friday guaranteed both riders a spot in Q2 on the Saturday, earning Karel Abraham a phenomenal second position on Sunday’s grid. Despite his best efforts however, Abraham quickly descended the ranks within the first few laps, being demoted to fourteenth by the second lap. But as the race went on, the number 17 bike was seen climbing the order as others either fell or lost their touch on the track, leaving Abraham to claim a solid tenth place at the chequered flag.
Other names enticing interest in the race were those of Danilo Petrucci, Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger; all three making the astounding efforts
of maintaining high positions from the get go, battling the factory Repsol Honda machine of Pedrosa until his unfortunate crash.
Although each rider of the grid in the final result made impressive strides, it is the display made by Aspar’s other rider, Alvaro Bautista, which made a real impression. While possibly being overshadowed by his teammates P2 in Qualifying, Bautista managed to also place within the top ten on the starting grid. From there it was nowhere but upwards for the Spaniard as lap after lap showed progress while the number 19 was able to battle and then bypass the battle for fourth, including the factory Honda, to then extend the gap from 0.44s at lap 16 to 8.981s at the flag; a phenomenal lead made in less than ten laps which levelled Aspar’s best result, matching Eugene Laverty’s fourth place at the Argentine circuit last year, results in Alvaro Bautista being MotoGP’s Rider of the Round.
Argentina portrayed a selection of riders that caught the eye of the public. Next stop: Austin. Who will be Rider of the Round there?