The old guard took steps out of the premier class this weekend, with Loris Capirossi announcing his retirement at the end of the season and Colin Edwards making a withdrawal of sorts to the CRT second tier.
It is uncharacteristically late for the 'rider roundabout; to really kick into gear, and this owes a lot to a lack of genuine candidates for a MotoGP ride. These past few weeks, the Spanish media have been particularly keen to place one of their own onto the provisional 2012 grid - one Marc Márquez.
Adding fuel to their argument has been the great form shown by their latest idol in the Moto2 category. Márquez has won five of the past six races in the intermediate cylinder class, and is closing in on leader Stefan Bradl. A perfect candidate for the premier class, you say?
Not quite. Whilst certainly destined for MotoGP, why should the reigning 125cc World Champion rush his journey up through the ranks?
The Moto2 class is still a novelty in Grand Prix racing, and there is hardly a precedent of success for riders moving up to the next level. Toni Elias was picked up almost reluctantly by LCR Honda after his title-winning season, as no other teams were fully convinced as to his ability to adapt a successful 600cc style to an 800cc bike with Bridgestone control tyres.
Would the modest success achieved by Karel Abraham -the only other rider taking the Moto2 route to MotoGP this year- appeal to Márquez? Would it be preferable to another year blazing Moto2 and gaining further confidence? Option two sounds like the best bet, especially when we look at those who have gone before him.
Defending the 250cc title was the making of some of the best riders on the premier class grid. Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo learnt how to be dominant riders by repeating their success as reigning champions. Marco Simoncelli also proved that his 2008 crown was not merely a fluke with a strong -if characteristically inconsistent- 2009 campaign as number one.
Contrast this with those who moved up too soon: Gabor Talmacsi, now searching for a Moto2 ride. Aleix Espargaro, Yuki Takahashi and Niccolo Canepa, left out in the wilderness after not performing to the required standards in a sole MotoGP campaign each.
Moto2 could also do with some established names sticking around and adding depth to the field. Another year of Márquez, Bradl, Simon, Smith and Iannone battling for wins would lend credibility to a class created with the idea of cutting costs and providing a strong support act show for MotoGP.
Márquez might have a phenomenal 'win it or bin it' record this year (when he hasn't crashed, he has finished either first or second in every race) but could benefit from learning lessons that only come through experience e.g. keeping off the racing line when others are on hot qualifying laps, or finding the full limit of a bike.
The plus side of an immediate move up would be the relative equality of satellite bikes in the first year of 1000cc competition. However, it is still a step into the unknown.
We are going to see Márquez in the premier class. It is inevitable. His talent and phenomenal record show just how quickly he has progressed since the days in which he was so small, he had to be lifted onto his bike by his mechanics. He will win more races before the end of the season, too. Let's just enjoy more Moto2 masterclasses like that seen at Misano before wishing the 18 year-old into the lion's den.
125cc's Zarco snatches defeat from the jaws of victory
I couldn't let this week's column go by without mentioning 125cc rider Johann Zarco and the quite bizarre end to the lower cylinder category San Marino Grand Prix. On three separate occasions this season, he has been within a corner of his first win, and on all three occasions something has gone wrong. Disqualified at Barcelona, missing out by virtue of fastest lap time in a Germany dead heat, and now letting title rival Nico Terol past on the line at Misano. I propose a new term for the MotoGP dictionary:
- Zarcolepsy (noun) The act of spontaneously losing concentration and throwing away almost certain 125cc victory.