Schwantz on… Marc Marquez
I think Marc, as Pedrosa's rookie teammate, is going to have a season like Rossi, even though they're at different ends of their careers. I think there'll be a circuit or two where Marquez will dominate. The important thing for him is to not dig himself a big hole by making any typical rookie mistakes in the first few rounds. Make sure you score good points, and not do anything silly. Then start turning up the pace.
Marquez should learn from Rossi's first year of 500cc. In the first three races of the season, Rossi went crash-crash-11th, and scored just five points. Over those same three races, Kenny Roberts Jr. scored sixth-first-second – which was 55 points. So Vale dropped 50 points to Junior right there…and at the end of the season, he lost the title to him by 49. See what I mean? Being smart as a rookie is crucial.
Schwantz on… Cal Crutchlow
Cal Crutchlow is in an interesting situation on the Tech 3 Yamaha. Your position in a satellite team is to do your best to beat the factory team, and don't worry about helping anyone but yourself. Cal's got to think, “I haven't quite got the equipment that Lorenzo and Rossi have, but that's going to make it that much sweeter when I manage to beat them.” And I think that's what you saw in that last test at Jerez, when he went quickest. When time's short, the weather's iffy he can wrestle that thing around and he's thinking, “I can do a few more things with my bike than Jorge can with his or Dani can with his.” He's not going to be far off, and maybe when Rossi has an off weekend, when he's not right there with Pedrosa and Lorenzo, Cal's going to want to prove to Yamaha, “Hey, you put the wrong guy on that factory bike!”
But he's gotta be smart, too. I saw a quote from him early last year saying, “If I was on a factory bike I'd be winning races.” And I wrote somewhere, “You're on a satellite bike and you've not got a podium finish, so don't even talk about that yet. Show me some consistency at the back of that top three, and then you can make that assumption.”
He read it, and he called me, and asked, “What do you mean by that?” and I said, “Cal, you're not even a podium finisher yet. No way you can say a factory bike will make you win races.” He came back and said that someone had wrongly attributed it to him. Anyway, we had a good genuine chat, and he was a very real guy, and at the end he admitted, “You're right, how could I be saying that?” And of course, he did then get a couple of podium finishes in the second half of the season.
The thing is, Cal reminds me a bit of myself – ride that sonofabitch as hard as you can go – and it's so easy for people with our mindset to think, “Hey, if I can get this close enough to the top bikes' pace, I can make the difference,” and so you just quit working on improving the bike. That's a trap that so many riders can fall into. How a rider should think is: “Hey, we didn't have a perfect bike last weekend, let's get it closer to perfect this weekend.” If you make even a small breakthrough that means you can ride it easier, then you can go faster on it without being on the edge so much.
And, anyway, you should want to test to improve your own experience and performance. I remember hearing Kenny Roberts Jr. saying once: “I'm not going testing; you don't have any new parts to test!” I'm like, “Oh, so you're the freakin' perfect machine, are you? You don't need to test yourself?” I can't understand a rider who gets a chance to ride his grand prix bike and says no. It's so short-sighted. Whether it's wet, whether it's drying… I don't care. You're always going to be testing in a condition that at some point in the season is going to confront you, so why not make yourself better prepared for that condition.
Anyway, my point is that Cal can still be using this opportunity to work on improving himself and his bike, keeping himself sharp for when the big opportunity does arrive.
Schwantz on… potential podium finishers
Stefan Bradl [LCR Honda] is absolutely someone who I think we can see on podiums this year. I think he did a great job last year, and then everyone started bragging on him just after midseason and he started making mistakes. But I watched him test in Austin last month, and then we went to dinner and I was listening to what he had to say. That kid is a sponge, soaking everything up, listening to everyone on the team so that he can take as much knowledge as possible into his second season. I look for big things from him, and if anything happened to one of the factory Honda guys, I wouldn't be surprised to see Stefan subbing for them.
And talking of satellite Honda teams, Gresini put a good bike together so I think Alvaro Bautista is going to be knocking on the door of the podium quite regularly, especially in those Spanish races where he goes so fast.
Schwantz on… Claiming Rule Teams class
My take on the CRT bikes is that it's a completely separate race to MotoGP and it does not get enough attention from TV, from the media, from anyone. I think those teams need to be allowed to do a lot more to their machines to get them up nearer the MotoGP bikes in terms of pace. They need to be allowed to run any tire they want – Bridgestone, Dunlop, Michelin, Avon – whatever. Then you'd have, say, Michelin developing a softer tire that allows a CRT bike to run up among those prototypes for the first eight laps or so. If they all start on the same or similar equipment, that's never going to happen. Let them play with the big teams and then there's a chance of them scoring a surprise result.
That would also give Bridgestone a reason to continue to develop instead of sitting back and saying, “Dani makes his tire work; don't know what your problem is!” Plus, from a practical angle, it's sensible to have another manufacturer in there to cover your backside in the worst-case scenario if Bridgestone decides to quit. A second manufacturer who's already building tires of the right spec for these bikes can then hopefully just step up production to cover the whole prototype field.
There are other things that I'd do to help the CRT bikes' pace – maybe allow more aero work, for example. But anyway, I just feel that something has got to be done, for the sake of the teams themselves and also the fans because, apart from Valencia at the end of last year, the gap between CRTs and prototypes was two or three seconds per lap and that's no good. It's kinda funny but sad to hear people brag, “Oh we got 24 bikes this year,” and you think, “Yeah, but you still only got five that are competitive.”