In the second edition of Aragon, the same questions were asked as in every double race in this 2020 season. Who could learn from the last race? Who has improved? Who can cope with the pressure of the last race? That was the question to answer today. Unfortunately, not everyone could cope with the pressure, the expectations. We saw ourselves failing.
Takaaki Nakagami, was long considered the best Honda rider this season. The Japanese rider was the only one who always drove to the point. He had a consistency that was so important in this crazy season. Then yesterday, something happened that hadn’t happened for a long time. A Japanese rider ended up on pole position. For Nakagami it was the first pole in MotoGP. I don’t think I need to write what it means for a Japanese rider to start the race from pole on a Japanese bike. But I do have to write how high the pressure of expectation is. In addition, Honda celebrated its 800th victory in the motorcycle world championship today. So it would have been great to celebrate the 801 victory with a Japanese rider in MotoGP. The pressure was too high. The expectations could not be fulfilled today. Neither Nakagami’s expectations of himself. Nor the expectations of others. Nakagami, was shattered by it today and did not meet expectations. In round one, he buried everything. He left his visor down, kept his helmet on and yet you could see his disappointment. This ended his series of being the only rider in the MotoGP field this season who was always in the points. So the race ended prematurely for him today.
Another Honda rider has improved in the last two races. Alex Marquez has started to step out of his brother’s shadow. A shadow that, despite his world championship titles, seems bigger than he is. He is always called “Marc Marquez’ little brother”. Alex Marquez drives as a rookie in a factory team that is spoiled by success. Even if it is only for one year, expectations are high. He has to deliver, especially since the retirement of Marc Marquez has hit Honda hard. Last weekend Alex Marquez was on the podium and today his goal was clear. He wanted to win. To show everyone. Show that he deserved it and that he is not just the “brother of”. For Alex Marquez, the race was over in the middle of the race, lying in 4th place. The Honda rider had wanted too much. Expected too much. He supported and lost everything. The disappointment was great.
Franco Morbidelli showed how to do it better, how to meet the expectations of others with ease. The Yamaha rider is competing for the World Championship. But he does not let himself be put off. When asked whether he will be competing for the World Championship, he replied > “The factory riders are fighting for the World Championship. I am not one.” Yes, it’s true. Morbidelli, unlike his team-mate Fabio Quartararo, does not receive any factory support. The Yamaha Petronas rider is competing in the season with last year’s Yamaha. But that does not affect his performance. With his victory today he proved that he is a force to be reckoned with in the World Championship. Morbidelli is free and does not let expectations put him under pressure. He has fun with what he does. Hopefully he will keep this lightness.
To fail because of your own expectations is hard. To fail because the expectations of others make you do it, that is harder. What helps? Not to give in to it. To trust yourself. To nip expectations and the associated pressure in the bud. Lightness may seem to be the key.
We can be curious to see what the next three races will be like. The World Championship is still open like never before. It will be an exciting final spurt.
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