Amid the hype of the new season, and most of the talk which has been about the chances of the Yamaha and Ducati riders, one rider has gone almost unmentioned, despite having more to prove, than most, this season.
Italian rider, Andrea Iannone, joined the Suzuki team over the winter break after two difficult seasons at Ducati. In 2015, an unreliable bike produced inconsistent performances. In 2016, the early part of Iannone’s season was littered with crashes. Most notable of these was the now infamous collision with his then team-mate, Andrea Dovizioso at the Grand-Prix of Argentina. It proved the final straw with the team, and Iannone was informed he would need to find a new team for 2017.
Such a setback would have ended the mental resolve of most riders. However, this provided the motivation for a stunning turnaround in performance and fortunes. Regularly a contender for pole position in qualifying, and an ever present points scorer, including multiple podium finishes in the races. This remarkable turnaround culminated in Iannone securing his maiden Grand-Prix victory at the Austrian round, ensuring he could leave the Bologna outfit with his head held high.
Fast forward to now.
The pre-season campaign really could not have gone any better for both the 27 year-old and his new team. Although never quite setting the outright fastest laps at any of the tests, the word from the team is is one of a quietly confident nature. The bike appears to still be as smooth to handle as last season, and explains how Iannone was on front running pace from his first time out on the machine.
However, there is undoubtedly a good deal of pressure resting on the shoulders of the Italian this season. The bike is clearly competitive, so there is immediate expectation to turn in consistent results from the start. Both due to the bike’s perceived capabilities, but also because of the expectation that Suzuki’s second rider (Alex Rins) will take a significant portion of the season to adapt to the demands of piloting a MotoGP bike, as opposed to a Moto2 machine.
Lastly, there is the expectation that Iannone can ditch the unwanted tag of ‘Crash Kid’ this season. Although he impressed considerably during the latter half of 2016, Ducati’s public reason to release him has stuck as an unfortunate reputation. If he can see out the season without many trips to the gravel traps, it will go someway to restoring ‘The Maniac’ in the eyes of many as a quality leading rider in the world championship.