Written by Apostolos Papageorgiou, Edited by Alexandra Campos
Aleix Espargaro was running in second place at the Catalan Grand Prix. Entering the final lap he was holding off the Pramac duo when he suddenly started slowing and waving to the crowd before he got up to racing speed again, losing three places in the process. As it later turned out, the Spaniard thought that the penultimate lap was the final lap and not some sort of mechanical problem. This is the first time this year Espargaro has made a mistake this costly, so how does it affect him going forward?
If we’re talking about the championship, the Aprilia rider lost 14 points to his main rival Fabio Quartararo, though that point deficit would’ve only been five, had it not been for his final lap blunder. That leaves him 22 points behind Quartararo in second, with 11 rounds to go. While Aleix is still well in the title hunt, he will for sure be kicking himself for letting his rival pull away in the standings.
This begs the question: what about his team’s faith in him? Well, it’s already been sealed. It became known this week that both Espargaro and teammate Maverick Vinales, whom Espargaro insisted on bringing over from Yamaha last year, will be driving for Aprilia until 2024. This makes complete sense, given that Aprilia constantly changed riders for their second bike since 2017, when their current star joined with little success. Aside from this, Aprilia would be insane to let go of the man who stuck with them through some terrible years, gave them their first podium last year in Silverstone and also their first win in Argentina this April, in MotoGP. Along with turning them into a consistent threat to the sport’s big boys, like Ducati and Yamaha.
This then only leaves us with one question. What will Espargaro himself do? Will he be able to accept his mistake and move on, or is this a turning point for the worst? I think it’s safe to say the latter will happen. You’d have to be very naive to believe that someone with his experience, who spent years in uncompetitive machinery, throw away a championship challenge for a simple misunderstanding. On top of that, the man is experiencing his best season yet. The fact something like this is worth writing a whole article about shows just how good Espargaro has performed so far and, barring any unforeseen circumstances, will continue to do so. As he said, this may be his first and last title push, so he might as well make the most of it!