Analysis: 10 things we learned from Qatar MotoGP testing

Last Friday, the MotoGP pre-season came to an end in Qatar, wrapping up a winter that confirmed some expected things and that brought some surprises. Oriol Puigdemont summarises what we learned in Losail.

1. Jorge Lorenzo in a league apart

The reigning champion is more in-form and confident than ever. Apart from riding the most well-balanced bike on the grid, he's the rider who has probably adapted best to the Michelin tyres.

He dominated the first test in Malaysia, and after going through Phillip Island without making too much noise, he arrived in Qatar - where he was the star both thanks to his speed (he lowered the track record by three tenths) as well as his race pace.

The world champion left Doha having completed the longest (21 laps) and most consistent race simulation of all.

2. Yamaha has the bike to beat

There is no way to know which of the Yamaha prototypes offered the best performance. The M1 has evolved in a consistent manner during the past year from a strong and rideable base concept that takes advantage of the power of its engine like no other.

Let's not forget the Japanese manufacturer has just won the triple crown in 2015, something that could easily be repeated this year.

3. Valentino Rossi close, but close enough?

The Italian has enjoyed a good pre-season and in most long runs he has finished close to Lorenzo, but the signs suggests that he is not in a position to fight with his teammate on a regular basis.

Rossi's approach to the season has to be the same he used from the middle of last year: that is, to take advantage of any weaknesses from his rivals and maximise his opportunities.

4. Honda has not found its way

While we wait to see the real impact of the final day of testing in Qatar, especially for Marc Marquez, it looks very likely Honda will face a difficult start to the season.

"We knew we were going to struggle, but we didn't think it would be so much," said one of the main engineers in the Japanese manufacturer's squad in Qatar.

Right until that final day, Honda was not sure what was the main problem with its RC213V, and that in itself is a major worry.

5. The Marquez enigma

The two-time champion has been through his most complicated pre-season since arriving in MotoGP. With the arrival of the new electronics and the Michelin tyres, the Honda has become even more sensitive - something that, for a rider like him who is always close to the limit, becomes a big obstacle.

It's yet to be seen if that "radical change" that his team tried on the final day will work and allow him to fight for a place on the podium, the goal Marquez has set for the first race of the season.

6. Maverick Vinales a serious contender

This winter has witnessed Vinales take a step forward to become one of the main candidates to fight for the podium and maybe even a victory this season.

Judging by the last two tests at Phillip Island and Losail, it appears obvious that the Suzuki rider has reached the level of maturity necessary to right at the front, although we'll have to wait and see how he handles fighting wheel-to-wheel with Rossi, Lorenzo or Marquez.

7. Suzuki knows what it's doing

The Hamamatsu-based manufacturer has hit the ground running in its second year since its return to MotoGP, and the GSX-RR is starting to look really good, especially in Vinales' hands.

Its new engine offers more power than the previous version, which was put under the spotlight often in 2015, and has also added the seamless gearbox, the system introduced by Honda that is worth 0.010s in each gear change.

It's yet to be seen if Suzuki will have the full version (for upshifts and downshifts) ready for Qatar. The main question is whether the team can be consistent throughout the whole season.

8. Ducati ready for the fight

The Italian team took its time before it allowed its riders to focus on setting up the new Desmosedici GP, but when Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso made them theirs, the times were there and, according to both, with relative ease.

Dovizioso's race simulation last Thursday is worth noting, especially if we take into account that, as both riders said, they weren't in "time attack" mode.

9. Michelin's ups and downs

Michelin's return to MotoGP has not been as smooth as expected by the French manufacturer, who will have to work hard to have all the tyres ready for the first race of the year.

Its compounds have generated a mixed reaction throughout the field depending on the circuit. In Malaysia, the majority was talking about how great the tyres were, while a few days later at Phillip Island, many riders were left shaking.

Those ups and down meant that after the last tests, the manufacturer was forced to come up with a new front tyre compound that had not planned initially.

10. Qatar a chance for the underdogs

The new rules may have shaken up the grid's status quo, at least ahead of the race round, which presents itself as a big opportunity for the teams and the riders who don't usually have a chance to run near the front.

Riders like Pramac Ducati's Scott Redding, who finished the last test with the second fastest time, or Avintia rider Hector Barbera, who despite having a two-year-old Ducati has enjoyed a fantastic pre-season, may have their chance to shine.

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Event Qatar March testing
Track Losail International Circuit
Drivers Valentino Rossi , Jorge Lorenzo , Marc Marquez , Maverick Viñales
Article type Analysis