MotoGP Numbers: Can Valentino Rossi Come Back?

50 points, 6 races—Rossi’s chances of catching Marquez.

Can Rossi catch Marc Marquez?
Valentino Rossi chasing Marc Marquez is something MotoGP fans have gotten used to over the past few years. If Rossi wants a shot at the 2016 title, he’s going to have to put Marquez behind him, literally.©Motorcyclist

With 12 of 18 rounds of the 2016 MotoGP championship already run, there is officially one third of the season still to go. The title race is heavily in favor of Marc Marquez, with a 50 point lead over Valentino Rossi and 64 points over Jorge Lorenzo. Because I geek out on this stuff pretty much non-stop, I took a deeper dive into the points situation in 2016. These are the scenarios and situations for the top three riders in the 2016 championship fight.

How big is a 50-point lead with six races to go? To overturn that lead, Rossi would need to score an average of about 8.5 points per race for the rest of the year. That's as simple as Rossi winning two races while Marquez DNFs. But as famous as Marc Marquez is for boiling over, he's been the most consistent rider on the grid in 2016, without DNF all year and scoring points in every round. Rossi, on the other hand, crashed out of the race at COTA in Texas as well as the rain-soaked Dutch TT at Assen (plus blew an engine at Mugello).

The 2016 MotoGP Championship
The consistency of Marc Marquez has some people thinking he already has one hand on the trophy. But what will the remainder of 2016 bring?©Motorcyclist

More realistically, if Marquez finishes each of the final six races in the points, Rossi averaging 8.5 points equates to finishing ahead in varying degrees. The 9-point difference between 25 points for a win and 16 points for third would be enough for Rossi, on average, to chip away at Marquez's lead. If Rossi is second (20 points), he needs Marquez to finish fifth (11 points) to make up 9 points, and if he's third he needs Marquez to finish ninth (7 points) to gain the necessary advantage. It starts to look less and less likely, barring an injury or meltdown from Marquez—neither of which I would want to see.

And then there’s the story of thirds, as in the first two thirds of the season. If we break down the first 12 races into batches of six, there is interesting data on how points are affected by the changing of tides. Take rounds one through six, in which Jorge Lorenzo scored 115 points (despite crashing out of round two in Argentina) by winning three races and finishing second twice. Rossi, in those same six races scored only 78 points, with one win, two second place finishes, and a fourth—good results other than his two DNFs in rounds three and six. That’s a 37-point swing, including two non point-scoring rounds. That makes Rossi’s task look plausible but still extremely difficult.

Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez handshake
Rossi and Marquez’s relationship has cooled from the volcano temperatures of 2015 to a friendly simmer this year.©Motorcyclist

Perhaps more telling is the second third of the season, rounds seven through 12. In that stretch Lorenzo hit a dismal spell of form: After being speared by Ducati’s Andrea Iannone at Catalunya, Lorenzo’s next five finishes netted him a total of 31 points. At the same time, Valentino Rossi scored 82 points in those six races, including his DNF at Assen. And there you have it: 51 points in six races. Again, tracking down Marquez at the front of the world championship will get more difficult as each race passes for Rossi, but it is still well within the realm of possibility. As is Lorenzo’s hope of regaining his composure and making up 64 points. If anyone has the capability to do that, it’s the robotic Mallorcan.

Next up, the Grand Prix of San Marino, 9 miles from Valentino’s hometown of Tavulia. Also, an interesting note—as Rossi said in the pre-event press conference, Misano was the first track that he visited to watch a GP, and the first proper track that he rode on a full-size bike. Rossi estimated that it was 1992. One year before Marc Marquez was born. It’s truly a golden time for drama in MotoGP. The race kicks off at 2:00pm local time, that’s 8:00am EST, 5:00am Pacific in the US. It can’t come soon enough.