Tomorrow, Marc Marquez has the first chance to clinch the 2017 MotoGP world title a race early. With 33 points in hand, the Honda rider and reigning champion can sleep sweet dreams tonight while Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso, the title challenger, needs to gain at least eight points on Marquez to take it to the wire at Valencia.
From the outside it may seem simple, but things are not so easy. If the performance of the machine, the setup and the tyres are important, the role of the mind and the man on the bike is even more important. On the eve of the penultimate race of the season both Marquez and Dovizioso have a lot of pressure, but how different it is the pressure of the leader to that one of the rider who is chasing?
We asked the Italian Professor Amedeo Maffei, psychologist, scientist of the mind and mental coach of top athletes, including MotoGP riders, Ferrari drivers, golfers and cyclists, for his analysis of the two men:
How one rider can rise from a disastrous race like Andrea Dovizioso in Australia and be so strong in the following round only five days later?
“The reason is that the rider who is in second position and is chasing the title is aware that his success is not enough to guarantee the final result, so he can relax more as he knows that not everything depends on him. Now Dovizioso is free of a huge responsibility. The possibility for him to clinch the title depends on the mistake of another person. This creates a transfer of responsibility.
“Dovizioso can focus on chasing the win, without the pressure of having to manage the world championship.”
So now the pressure is all on Marquez and he said on Thursday that ‘the pressure is all on his shoulders, while if Dovizioso finishes second, anyway he would have done a great season’?
“If we look what happened in Australia during the race Marquez looked behind to see where Dovizioso was. Tomorrow he will race with three worries: firstly not to crash, secondly to know Dovizioso’s position and thirdly not to lose too many points.”
Do you think that also a mind of a multiple champion and ace like Marc Marquez can be affected by the pressure?
“Even a champion faces the pressure when he is in front of a final event that has as a prize like the world title. The mind of an ace can behave like an ordinary man who is afraid to lose.”
What is the different kind of stress of the leader and the pressure of the rider who is chasing?
“The pressure of the leader is that it is in his hands to manage the race at the best and give his maximum. The rider who is chasing has lost the ‘fear to lose’, he can give the maximum and hope in the mistake of his rival. The pressure of the responsibility is completely different.
“In Australia, Dovizioso had a lot of pressure: he was obliged to defend the expectations derived from his great results during the season. Once he played his cards and had to play it out, these tensions don’t repeat themselves”.
Looking at the race preparation and the management of the pressure, how does a leader prepare a race and how does the chaser prepare it?
“The leader prepares the race as if he had the title already in his hands. The rider who is in second position competes to clinch the victory that crowns a very good season. As Andrea Dovizioso himself said, even if he finishes second, he will have done a great season. But it is not finished. If tomorrow he succeeds, he will keep the battle for the title open till the final with the target to fight for the word title in the finale in Valencia.”