It would be, and is, too easy to sit around and debate who may or may not win MotoGP 2019. It’s a handful of contenders or less depending on how far manufacturers have pulled their respective thumbs out of their arses.
What is interesting is which riders are going to provide the most entertainment or have the biggest impact next season - and it may well not be at the front.
Dorna’s blue riband class can be sliced into three parts. The fight for the title, the fight for top rookie and the fight for most-improved. The former will be the usual suspects but it very well might be a different Spaniard at the top of the tree.
No-one in their right mind looks past Marquez to win the title, it will probably be a question of by how much. Honda’s 2019 RC213V will be a better bike than 2018. HRC are chasing top speed again with a redesigned front fairing and airbox combination to close down Ducati, and they have Jorge Lorenzo too who absolutely will give Marquez a run for his money.
The change from Ducati to Honda is much less than from Yamaha to Ducati, so everything Lorenzo learned on the Desmosedici will be more or less applicable to the RCV. But Ducati boss Gigi Dall’Igna is producing a better-turning GP19, which will rock up at Sepang, and if Yamaha have done what they need to with the new engine spec, Maverick Vinales will have something to say on the matter.
MotoGP has two extraordinary rookies in 2019, Joan Mir and Pecco Bagnaia. Both are former world champions on factory or close-to factory machinery and both tested well - although Mir’s Ecstar Suzuki team didn’t provide him with many new tyres, preferring him to work on used-rubber pace.
Somewhere in the middle is the fight between Franco Morbidelli and Alex Rins. Rins showed his outright pace in 2018 and now needs to find consistency in order to challenge for podiums on a regular while Morbidelli is now free from the difficult RC213V and on a Yamaha which suits him much better.
Rins carries the weight of Davide Brivio’s expectations as his team-mate is a rookie, so all the success and failure is down to the former Moto2 star. Morbidelli is in the same sort of boat, as he has Fabio Quartararo across his garage, but the new Petronas Yamaha team will have nothing like the (official) expectations of the Suzuki squad.
Rins is expected to win in 2019, whereas ‘it would be nice’ if Morbidelli stuck it on the box a bit. It also depends on whether Yamaha’s new engine is suitable for all three of the men who are riding it (Morbidelli, Rossi, Vinales) or whether it has been designed solely to suit the man Yamaha need it for the most (Vinales).
Will VR46 challenge for the title in 2019? Doubtful. Will he win races? Probably, two or maybe three - Le Mans, Misano, Assen are the most likely.
Just one more thing: Ignore Petrucci and Miller at your peril. Both are going equipped with GP19s. Fireworks are mandatory.