Rins, Rossi 'will fight for title'

'It's not like the last two years' - Andrea Dovizioso says evidence so far shows four riders, from four manufacturers will fight for 2019 MotoGP title.
Rins, Rossi 'will fight for title'

This year's MotoGP title fight will be different to the Marc Marquez vs Andrea Dovizioso duel that has developed during the past two seasons.

That's the view of Dovizioso himself, who retook the 2019 points lead after Marquez's COTA fall, but could only finish in fourth place as Suzuki's Alex Rins claimed his first premier-class victory after narrowly resisting Yamaha's Valentino Rossi.

"I think the championship is different [this year]," said Dovizioso, runner-up to Marquez for the last two years. "I think Suzuki and Rins will fight for the championship. Valentino for sure. And Marc for sure.

"So these three riders plus me, I think we have really a big chance to fight for the championship. Also some other riders, but in this moment the championship shows this."

Dovizioso explained: "For sure Valentino is in a better situation compared to last year, I don’t think his bike is too bad. So I think he can fight for the championship.

"The Suzuki has improved, Rins has improved from last year. I already saw that from the test.

"So the championship fight will be difficult. It's not like the last two years where I fight just with Marc at the end of the championship. I think it will be different all season."

After three rounds - won by Dovizioso, Marquez and Rins respectively - the Ducati rider now leads the standings by three points from Rossi, with Rins five points behind and Honda's reigning champion Marquez trailing by nine points.

Pramac Ducati's Jack Miller, who completed the COTA podium, feels the Austin win was 'just the start for Rins and for Suzuki' while Rossi is a constant force to be reckoned with on race day.

"Definitely," Miller replied, when asked about Rins' championship chances. "[Rins] has a little bit the opposite of my problem, I’m always there in qualifying and seem to struggle in the race. He's the other way around. Like we see today, if he gets a decent qualifying position he’s able to challenge no matter what.

"Every time I sit down with the team and make a debrief or a plan for the race, we always say 'Rins and Valentino, they’re going to be there in the race'. Doesn’t matter where they qualify. You know they’re going to be there.

"I think the Suzuki is working really well at the moment. We had a great battle in Argentina. I was able to see some things. Also today once he came past me he clicked up a gear.

"He saw Marc go down, I feel, and he put the red rag to the bull. He took off! I have to say big congratulations to him. I think this is just the start of something for him and for Suzuki."

Rossi, who lost out to Rins by less than half-a-second, agreed that 23-year-old has shown he is now ready to challenge for the crown.

"I think for sure he is an opponent for the title, because it’s not one race. It's from the second part of last season that he’s always in front.

"Like Jack said, he’s always very fast in the race. Also sometimes struggling in the practice, and I'm very happy for this because we are more or less in the same boat!

"For me, he rides very clever, in a clever way. He’s very smooth with everything and this is very important for save the tyre in the second half of the race. He’s always strong. He’s very difficult to beat."

And what about Rossi's own title chances?

After starting strongly in previous years only to drop away during the second half of the season, the 40-year-old is reserving judgement.

"It's too early to say. We have some positive things, like for example this time last year I didn’t make two second places, just one," replied the nine time world champion. "But on the other side, it depends very much also on what happens during the season, because now MotoGP is like Formula 1. Everybody working and improving the bike.

"In 2017 after Austin I was first in the championship, but after we arrived in Europe, Honda and Ducati improved and the second half of the season was a disaster. So we need to take these points, but keep concentrated and push on Yamaha to work to improve the bike.

"In all three races of this year I was competitive. This is the most important. But now we have to try to continue like this."

Sunday's grand prix marked the closest Rossi has been to victory since his Assen 2017 win.