Analysis: Assessing's Lorenzo's start to life at Ducati

After the first half of the 2017 MotoGP season, Jorge Lorenzo's Ducati move can neither be branded a clear success nor failure - but where does he rank among other riders who have tried their luck with the Italian marque?

Analysis: Assessing's Lorenzo's start to life at Ducati
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team, Andrea Iannone, Team Suzuki MotoGP
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team, Andrea Iannone, Team Suzuki MotoGP
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team

First, a quick review of the numbers: nine races down, and Lorenzo lies ninth in the standings on 65 points, just over half the tally of points leader Marc Marquez and 58 behind teammate Andrea Dovizioso. 

He's had one rostrum finish - third on home turf at Jerez - while finishing as low as 15th (in Assen), and he's qualified on the front row once (second in Barcelona) despite having been as low down the grid as 21st (again in Assen).

That gives him an average finishing position of 8.4 (against 4 for Dovizioso) and an average starting position of 11.8 (against 9.3 for Dovizioso).

If you had to choose a word to describe all the above, it would probably be 'inconsistent', albeit with the troughs being noticeably larger than the peaks.

Since Ducati joined MotoGP in 2003, the Borgo Panigale marque has had 12 full-time riders in its factory team, and interestingly Lorenzo slots pretty much bang in the middle of these when we compare how all of them fared in their first nine races aboard the Desmosedici: 

After nine races as a factory Ducati rider: 

RiderYearPointsWinsPodiumsBest finishChamp Pos.
 Casey Stoner 2007 185 5 7 1st 1st
 Andrea Iannone 2015 118 0 2 2nd 3rd
 Valentino Rossi 2011 98 0 1 3rd 4th
 Loris Capirossi 2003 96 1 3 1st 4th
 Andrea Dovizioso 2013 81 0 0 4th 7th
 Troy Bayliss 2003 79 0 2 3rd 5th
 Jorge Lorenzo 2017 65 0 1 3rd 9th
 Carlos Checa 2005 51 0 0 5th 10th
 Nicky Hayden 2009 46 0 0

5th

13th

 Sete Gibernau 2006 44 0 0 4th  13th
 Marco Melandri 2008 32 0 0 5th  14th
 Cal Crutchlow 2014 28 0 0 6th  14th

Of course, before making comparisons, it has to be noted that Ducati's competitiveness has varied significantly over the years, with Casey Stoner's 2007 title-winning year marking its zenith. The Australian's bumper haul of 185 points, five wins and seven podiums in nine races is therefore hardly a fair comparison for Lorenzo.

On the flipside, the period from 2011-13 marked Ducati's low point, which makes the achievements of Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso in their respective debut years seem all the more impressive when measured against what Lorenzo has managed.

Perhaps the fairest comparison for the Spaniard then is against Andrea Iannone, whose 2015 Ducati was a more competitive proposition than in previous years but not quite on the level of the Stoner era.

Considering Iannone's diabolical first half of the season at Suzuki, it almost seems unbelievable to think that in the first part of 2015, the Italian was a model of consistency, scoring two podiums and never finishing worse than sixth - enough to leave him best of the rest behind the Yamahas of Rossi and Lorenzo at the halfway point of the year in the standings.

But, there are still two mitigating factors for Lorenzo. The first is that Iannone had spent the previous two years at the Pramac squad on a satellite Ducati, and that he had not spent years honing his style on another type of bike in the way that Lorenzo had with Yamaha.

The second is that the MotoGP field is far more compressed now than it was two years ago. On a bad day, Iannone could reasonably expect to finish no lower than sixth, whereas now the competitiveness of the leading satellite riders - not least of all Pramac's Danilo Petrucci - is such that an off-day can easily result in a place outside the top 10.

For that reason, true comparisons become hard to make, and certainly Lorenzo will take little comfort in having better stats than the likes of Carlos Checa and Sete Gibernau, who were well past the prime of their careers when they arrived at Ducati.

Likewise, Nicky Hayden and Marco Melandri were signed to be reliable number twos to Stoner rather than stars in their own right with pay packets to match. Cal Crutchlow's annus horribilis in 2014 is hardly something to aspire to matching, either.

Clearly, Lorenzo's adaptation to the Ducati has taken longer than the man himself would have liked, and the stats from the opening half of the year don't make for particularly pleasant reading, especially when Dovizioso has emerged as a genuine title contender on the other side of the garage.

But, the fact Lorenzo managed to find some consistency in the four races spanning Jerez and Barcelona - even enjoying (admittedly brief) spells in the lead in two of those - is certainly an encouraging sign, and should provide a solid foundation for a more consistent set of results from Brno onwards.

Now that expectations have been tempered, a few more podiums, front row appearances and lead cameos, combined with fewer anonymous weekends, in the second half of the year would probably be enough to make 2017 a qualified success in the eyes of most observers.

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