Too little, too late? – Part One: After soothing his disappointment with a few days at the Malaysian holiday island of Lankawi, Dovizioso was ready to fight a battle that looked hopeless after he gave away 22 points to Australian GP winner Marquez.
A drastic loss of back wheel grip meant he dropped to 13th on the last lap, losing two places in the run to the line – to fellow Ducati rider Scott Redding and Honda’s Dani Pedrosa.
Redding had earlier obeyed instructions to get behind Dovi, but by the end the factory rider’s pace was too painfully slow. (And anyway Redding is switching to Aprilia next year, so …)
Looking tanned and relaxed, Dovi said on race eve: “We know it’s difficult but it is still open, so we have to try. There are often strange conditions here, and we have to be ready.”
If Dovi wins as last year and Marquez finishes lower than second, the title fight will remain unresolved until the last round. Should Dovi win and Marquez fail to finish, there would be just eight points in it.
Too little, too late? – Part Two: Maverick Vinales’s return to the podium for the first time in five races was the perfect celebration for a breakthrough in wet settings discovered during race-morning warm-up.
After starting the season as title favourite, handling difficulties with Yamaha’s 2017 M1 spoiled his momentum, and caused difficulties especially in the wet – although both of his race crashes (at Cota and Assen) came losing the front in the dry.
A switch to the 2018 chassis before Silverstone helped somewhat, but the big difference came at Phillip Island.
“We recovered the special feeling with the front,” he said. “Too late.
“We’ve been trying all year, then in 20 minutes we found the way to go fast in the wet.”
By Michael Scott