For the third time so far in the 2020 MotoGP season, the championship will complete back to back races this weekend when the action resumes at the Misano World Circuit for the rather long-winded Gran Premio dell’Emilia Romagna e della Riviera di Rimini.
But while last time out we saw two very different race weekends at the Red Bull Ring as crashes and red flags caused chaos and waylaid the best-laid schemes of riders and teams alike, there’s plenty to suggest that we’re going to see a second race at Misano closer to the pattern of race two at Jerez.
However, with a stronger than expected showing from some manufacturers and racers in last Sunday’s San Marino Grand Prix at the circuit on Italy’s Adriatic seaside, there might be a few surprises up peoples’ sleeves this time around.
Can Yamaha’s control continue?
On paper, it’s hard to see Yamaha not once again having the deciding hand to play after 27 laps of action on Sunday afternoon.
It dominated practice and qualifying last week, eventually seeing its four machines secure the top four spots on the grid.
When the lights went out, it was an imperious charge from Franco Morbidelli, too, with the VR46 Academy rider using every ounce of his track knowledge to ride away from mentor Valentino Rossi for a flag-to-flag win for Petronas SRT.
Rossi put up a fair effort behind too, only losing out on a podium finish in the final corners to Joan Mir, and while Rossi’s works team-mate Maverick Vinales had an absolute nightmare (that he still turned into a sixth place), it’s perhaps cruel but fair to chalk that down to his sometimes-fragile mentality on any race day when conditions shift slightly rather than any Yamaha shortcoming.
At a track that suits Yamaha’s bike and allows it to play to its cornering strengths, it’s easy to predict more of the same pace this time round.
But there is one joker in the pack: Morbidelli’s team-mate Fabio Quartararo, who crashed out of last weekend’s race after making what he admitted afterwards was a rookie mistake.
Conceding his title lead to Andrea Dovizioso in the process, he needs to regain ground on Sunday – and he showed last week that despite a poor start, he had the pace to do so.
Will Suzuki up its game?
Misano should be a circuit that plays to the strengths of the Suzuki GSX-RR, and Mir showed that it lived up to its potential with a late charge through the field in last week’s race to take third off Rossi almost at the chequered flag.
But the usual crux of Suzuki’s problem remains – if Mir and team-mate Alex Rins want to compete for the victory they have to ensure that they don’t have to charge through the field by qualifying better.
It was a key target area for them over the winter and the subsequent coronavirus delay to proceedings. They’re making steady progress, and it’s becoming easier for them to put together a time attack in qualifying. Should either be able to do that on Saturday, then expect them to get involved in the mix at the front.
A much stronger Dovi?
Somehow, Dovizioso went into the weekend at Misano cautious about his pace on the factory Ducati, went into Sunday’s race not expecting miracles to happen – and came out the other end as championship leader despite only finishing the race back in seventh.
He exploited Quartararo’s mistake with a solid if unimpressive result of his own. That won’t be enough come Sunday should Quartararo up his pace and avoid mistakes.
But the tables might have turned a little bit in favour of Dovizioso after Tuesday’s mid-week test at Misano, where he parked up his bike at lunchtime seemingly delighted with the improvements that he had found in only half a day of riding.
“Compared to the last GP, I feel I can be much more competitive this weekend, he said afterwards.
“Still, we have to keep our feet on the ground: our rivals have also been working to improve and getting a spot on the front rows will be even more important, but in general, I am confident and positive.”
Can the weather play a role?
It wouldn’t feel like 2020 without a sense of impending doom floating around somewhere in the back of everyone’s minds, and this weekend that could be down to the weather.
It’s a long time since MotoGP had a wet race (all the way back at Valencia in November 2018), and it guarantee to throw a spanner into the works.
The forecast right now says that it’s a possibility but that it’s unlikely – but should we get one of Misano’s famous downpours, then there are a few local wet weather experts in the form of Rossi and Danilo Petrucci who could pull off a surprise.