Two-time MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo has taken on an unusual demeanor this weekend. Seeming beyond frustration, the Yamaha ace is carrying himself with a calm sense of resignation. Rival Marc Marquez isn’t a realistic target at the moment. Beating his teammate, Valentino Rossi, scratching his way to the podium, and securing maximum points given the circumstances — those are the goals Lorenzo can focus on this weekend at the Circuit of the Americas.
Lorenzo admitted, “We’re very far from Marquez, and at this track will be difficult to beat him. But the race is still to the end and we don’t know… You have to assess the situations. If you get mad and do not assess the situation, it’s easy to crash. We have to make the speed and the position we can do and no more.”
It’s already been a strange season for Lorenzo, even though it’s only just getting underway. Some have been critical of his preparation and offseason training program and then he was outpaced by a number of factory and open class riders alike in the lead-up to the season opening race at Qatar. At a circuit Lorenzo had never previously qualified off the front row nor finished off the podium (including five victories) dating back to his 125 days, he was struggling just to break into the top five in practice and qualifying.
Come race time, Lorenzo pulled a rabbit start and stormed off into the lead, but — possibly a bit too anxious to take out his frustrations on the field — he made a rare mistake and crashed from first place on the race’s opening lap.
As a result, he’s already up against it. Lorenzo is arguably still the best rider in the world but defending champ Marquez is continuing to make huge strides and will only get better. The youngster rides loosely but in control, apparently having figured out a new way to pilot these computerized technological marvels that formerly seemed to have only one proper way to be effectively ridden.
Making matters worse, the Yamaha YZR-M1 was once the epitome of rider-friendliness, but it has become more idiosyncratic and quirky as the platform has been pushed to the edge in an attempt to keep pace with Honda’s mighty RCV V4. The M1 has very few distinct advantages remaining (and only in just the right circumstances) while its disadvantages remain rather obvious.
If fact, Lorenzo now looks somewhat vulnerable to the attacks of the open class contingent — those with softer tires, freer engine development and usage regulations, and greater fuel allowances — at least in qualifying, stating that it “was like this in Qatar, is like this here, and will be the same all of the year.”
An early 25 point deficit to Marquez is threatening to become larger at the conclusion weekend. Thus far in Austin, Lorenzo has ranked 12th in FP1, 8th in FP2, and 7th in FP3. That’s progress in the right direction but you can safely assume not quickly enough for his liking.
It’s Lorenzo’s ambition to limit the damage and regroup when the series heads to some more welcoming venues in Europe. You can expect him to step up tomorrow — last year he reduced a mammoth second-per-lap gap at COTA and finished a respectable three seconds off the win at full race distance to round out the podium.
But you have to wonder about the mindset of a rider who finished no worse than second until after he had locked up the world title just two seasons ago, now that damage limitation has become a default strategy.
It’s possible that Lorenzo will reassess his options at the end of the campaign, especially if Marquez powers to two crowns in two attempts. Will Lorenzo stay with the Yamaha factory team he has competed for his entire MotoGP career — a partnership that has rewarded both sides with a pair of world championships? Early talks of an extension are reportedly already underway and Lorenzo says he would like to remain a Yamaha rider for the remainder of his career — although he frames that with statements reiterating that the future competitiveness of his equipment is of paramount importance.
With that in mind, might he actually consider a switch to Honda where he could forget about equipment imbalances and test Marquez — and himself — with a head-to-head confrontation?COTA, Grand Prix of The Americas, Jorge Lorenzo, MotoGP