Valentino Rossi believes the reason Marc Marquez is leading the MotoGP standings at the halfway point is because he has been the best at damage limitation.
With nine races down, Marquez holds a slender five-point advantage of the top of the table following his second win of the season at the Sachsenring earlier this month.
Maverick Vinales, Andrea Dovizioso and Valentino Rossi all are all within 10 points of the reigning champion heading into the summer break, while Marquez’s Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa is only 26 behind.
While Marquez has suffered DNFs with crashes in Argentina and at Le Mans, he has been on the podium five times and has not finished lower than sixth all season – while Yamaha pair Vinales and Rossi have had four podiums apiece and have both finished as low as 10th.
Rossi feels it’s Marquez’s ability to grind out a result even when things are not going his way that has put him in command of the championship, although he remains adamant there is no favourite going into the second half of the campaign.
“Marquez is leading because in the times he was most in trouble, he lost fewer points than we did in our most difficult moments,” said Rossi.
“So he has been very strong, he won when he needed to, but when he struggled he limited the damage very well. That’s why he’s in the lead.
“I think all of us that are fighting for the world championship at this time are on the same level. There is no favourite. I would not discount Pedrosa, either, he isn’t far behind.”
He added: “For years, until the 2016 Barcelona race, there were only four riders who could win. Then everybody started to win.
“I don’t think it’s better or worse [for my chances], the important thing is to be there in the championship and to have won a race.”
Rossi took his first win in more than a year at Assen last month, boosted by the arrival of a new Yamaha frame following a particularly tough outing in Barcelona.
But the Italian says this is no guarantee he will take another victory for the remainder of the year, especially given now there are so many potential winners in the field.
“Nobody can predict what will happen in the next races of the championship,” said Rossi. “I don’t think we can say there’s a race I can definitely win.
“I would like to be quick at Misano, and I will try to be quick in the Asian triple-header, also there we can be very strong.
“But for now, the important thing is to arrive in Brno and be competitive.”
Additional reporting by David Gruz