After Andrea Dovizioso and Ducati scored a stunning, surprise and starring victory on both rider and manufacturer’s home soil in Mugello, Italy last week, Dovizioso doubled up on Sunday with his second win of the year at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Sunday.
Dovizioso is the first Ducati rider to win back-to-back races since Casey Stoner in 2010, and did so Sunday in Spain after hounding the Repsol Honda teammates before getting around them.
First passing Marc Marquez and then Dani Pedrosa, Dovizioso made it through to the lead and would hold them both off the remainder of the race.
Marquez came second with Pedrosa third, with second Ducati rider Jorge Lorenzo fourth and Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco completing the top five finishers.
Dovizioso later explained that the race came down to tire management at the notoriously abrasive Barcelona circuit.
“We realized the grip was so bad and the rear tire consumption so high, that we shouldn’t just focus on the speed. And when we started the race, no one could push because everyone had to save the tire a lot,” Dovizioso said.
“I overtook a few riders and was behind Dani, and decided to stay there. He saved the rear tyre well, and I did, but I was able to conserve the front. I didn’t know what was going on behind or if someone was able to catch us because our pace wasn’t very high.
“Ten laps to the end I tried to push but when I got to the front I realized my tire was finished! But it was the same for them, too. It’s a strange feeling because I’ve never won by not pushing 100%!”
With this result and with points leader Maverick Viñales finishing only 10th, Dovizioso has closed to within seven points in the championship, now in second place (111-104).
Marquez (88), Pedrosa (84) and Valentino Rossi (83) are all within striking distance but need the top two to have an off weekend to catch up that gap.
MotoGP resumes in two weeks’ time at Assen in the Netherlands.
Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.
It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.
“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”
In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.
With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.
In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.
“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.
“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”
Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.
“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said. “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”
Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.
“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.
“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”
Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.