Jorge Lorenzo’s MotoGP title hopes were dragged back from the abyss on Sunday when he won a chaotic Australian Grand Prix that saw championship leader Marc Marquez disqualified over a pit stop infringement.
Before the race all the riders had been instructed to change their bikes on the ninth or 10th lap after Bridgestone announced it was unable to guarantee the safety of its rear tyres beyond 10 laps following resurfacing work on the Phillip Island track. With the race reduced from 27 laps to 19 as a consequence, it was Yamaha rider Lorenzo who coped best with the unusual circumstances as he won convincingly from pole position to breathe new life into a title battle that seemed to be petering out.
Marquez came into the race knowing a victory, allied to Lorenzo finishing third or lower, would hand him the title in his debut season; instead he saw his lead reduced to 18 points with two rounds remaining after earning a black flag for failing to change his bike on schedule. Honda’s Dani Pedrosa came second, with Valentino Rossi of Yamaha third.
“I’m really happy with this win; we’ve also been lucky because Marc made this mistake,” said Lorenzo. “Without that he would have been second or first because he was really fast today. So we’ve been lucky but we were unlucky in the middle of the championship so today is a balance.
“Now we have options. If Marc keeps constant on the podium then it is impossible to win the championship but there are a lot of laps to go so anything could happen.”
Marquez admitted his Honda team had made a mistake and took his disqualification without complaint. “Today was our first experience of a flag-to-flag race, and suffice to say it wasn’t a good one,” he said. “My team and I had set out a strategy and we thought that we could come in after lap 10, but in reality this counts as an extra lap.
“We hadn’t had that in mind and this was a huge mistake,” he added. “We had everything well planned and I followed the instructions on my pit board. You learn from these things, though, so now we have to move on and focus on the race in Japan.”