Second Last Round Brings Championship Battle in Hot and Humid Sepang
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Second Last Round Brings Championship Battle in Hot and Humid Sepang

By FORMULAMotoGPMag - 21 October 2022
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Author: Myanna Wedes

Ready to rumble both the thunderstorms and the World Championship in Sepang! The 2022 World Championship could be decided here in Malaysia as a result of the swing in the title race towards Ducati Lenovo Racing MotoGP Team against the fierce Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team. You have to feel for Fabio Quartararo after the events that unfolded at Phillip Island whilst looking forward to an intense between the two competitors that will bring shockwaves of electricity to the race at the Sepang International Circuit. It is the first race in Malaysia since 2019 as a result of the pandemic and the fans are more eager than ever to revisit the famous circuit that always guarantees a spectacle of highs and lows for those racing at the event. The mentality for Quartararo this weekend is to push and go for it because the past few races have been mentally draining and not a reflection of his normal self. Quartararo needs to enjoy the riding and bike otherwise a negative headspace is guaranteed to upset his rhythm. We have seen more smiling this weekend which is nice to see. The pressure is on for both riders to perform and of course the points tally tells a great story of the second half of the season for Ducati and their performance. They have been incredible when you analyse rider and team performance. At present, there are numerous Ducati’s which are fast, furious and in contention for race wins and podiums. Whereas there is one Yamaha performing at the front and the expectations of him are incredibly tough. Here at Sepang, the sun has been shining and then monsoonal rain at varying times of the day. When it rains, the rubber is washed away and it becomes a real test for the riders to pick which tyre compound will bring them the best possible race performance bike for the weekend. We anticipate Marc Marquez will be ready to conquer and go the distance to try and win at Sepang!

  • Sepang is notorious for tyre wear and we anticipate the degradation with the hot temperatures is sure to test the limits for certain riders. The Ducati versus the Yamaha on tyre performance will be monitored this weekend including the Suzuki team who are very good on managing the rubber. Sepang will be an ideal opportunity to work tyre pressures over a range of conditions. The front tyre wears down quickly due to the hard front braking. Therefore, if you miscalculate the compound of tyre and pressure, it can send you backwards.

Fabio Quartararo #20:

“After a disappointing end to the Australian GP, we have a difficult but not impossible task ahead of us. We need to close a gap of 14 points with two races to go. We will do our best this weekend in Sepang to recover some points. I was happy with my pace at the start of the year during the Sepang Test, so we’ll see where we stand now. As I said after the race on Phillip Island, I want to focus on enjoying the riding again – that’s when I’m usually the fastest.”

Pecco Bagnaia #63:

"I am happy to be back racing in Malaysia. Compared to Phillip Island, where we were last week, the temperatures here will be much higher, and with this tropical weather, it is also difficult to predict whether the race will be dry or wet. In any case, I'm calm: in Australia, where we struggled more than at other tracks, we fought for the victory, while Sepang is on paper a slightly "friendlier" track, so there are all the conditions to be able to do well. Now we are first in the Championship, and we have to stay focused more than ever. The approach, however, does not change: we have to think about doing our job well, as always, to try to get ready for Sunday's race."

  • Australian rider Jack Miller has his sights and targets set on third place in the World Championship. The Ducati Lenovo MotoGP Team look to imply team orders and it appears certain riders may adhere and others not so much. Miller is a genuine contender for third place in the World championship and does see the sport as somewhat individual. Therefore, he has to do what is important for his career and building the blocks for the upcoming years at KTM.

Jack Miller #43:

"After last Sunday's race in Australia, unfortunately, I can no longer aim for the title, but I am still in the fight for third place in the standings, as Espargaro and Bastianini also failed to capitalize in Phillip Island. So the goal this weekend will be to try to recover as many points as possible and get back into the fight for the top positions. Last Sunday, we really had the potential to do well, as it had happened in the last GPs of this second part of the season, but unfortunately, I was knocked out of the race and it wasn’t my fault. I feel comfortable riding the Desmosedici GP and the sensations continue to be positive, so I am confident that I can do well here in Sepang, where I have been fast in the past. My goal is to finish the last two races I have left with the Ducati Lenovo Team in the best possible way."

  • There is one rider who is on a mission as mentioned above and that is MM93. The strength is back to perform and the Repsol Honda MotoGP Team are hungry for success whilst working within reason knowing that Marquez has only been back on track for a certain period of time. Malaysia is physically demanding. Whilst conditions can change, the bike set up can also take time to perfect with mechanics having to work continuously in order to provide the rider with the best chances of securing quality results with moving conditions: dry to wet, wet to dry, mixture of both and wind that can sometimes impact the aerodynamics. In comparison, we do anticipate Alex Rins will be competitive this weekend after a sensational victory in Phillip Island. The Suzuki is silky smooth plus Rins has everything to gain considering Suzuki is leaving the sport. This weekend it looks to be a sell-out event, so the crowd will be ready to cheer on the various manufacturers where in Malaysia, anything is possible at the Sepang circuit.

Marc Marquez #93:

“We arrive in Malaysia having enjoyed a really beautiful race in Phillip Island, but we have to keep working. Australia is a unique track so we can’t expect to be fast straight away and we always see everyone very strong in Sepang because there is a lot of data from the tests. As always it’s about arriving to the track, testing some things and seeing what the situation is. The recent results are a big motivator for me and the team so now is the time to keep working and end the season as well as we can.”

Alex Rins #42:

“I’m still taking in the happiness from the last race, it was a real pleasure to celebrate a victory with my team again after such a long time, and the Australian GP will remain in my heart. But it’s time to move on to Malaysia now. Sepang is always a challenge, especially when it rains! But with myself and my bike feeling good, I’m hopeful of another strong result this Sunday.”

World Championship Scenarios:

  • Pecco wins and Quartararo doesn’t finish on the podium.
  • Pecco finishes P2, Quartararo doesn’t finish better than P7 and Aleix Espargaro doesn’t win.
  • Pecco finishes P3, Quartararo doesn’t finish better than P11 and Espargaro doesn’t finish on the podium.
  • Pecco finishes P4, Quartararo doesn’t finish better than P14 and Espargaro doesn’t finish on the podium.
  • Pecco finishes P5, Quartararo fails to score any points and Espargaro doesn’t finish on the podium.

It could be the first time in fifteen long years that Ducati win a World Championship. Tyre pressures are a key area of concern this weekend and there will be riders with their teams utilising the testing sessions to determine what is the best pressure available for optimum performance. During the Phillip Island race, Joan Mir suffered from front tyre pressures and was limited. The crew chiefs are also confirming their errors in judgment with half a dozen riders caught out not just Quartararo. It is Bagnaia’s first match point to serve! Who do you think will win this weekend?

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