Former 500cc World Champion Wayne Gardner is now offering his Grand Prix insights and opinions on a regular basis to cyclenews.com readers and we're happy to have him. For even more from the Wollongong Wonder, visit his website at www.waynegardnerapproved.com.au.HALF-TIME REPORT CONTINUED...........
To be honest, I haven't paid too much attention to Aleix this year. He's a guy who's obviously had a couple of lucky breaks to get where he is and good on him, but he looks like he's struggling. Obviously, the Ducati's a hard bike to ride and it is his first year. However, he's no shining star at this point in time and we may have to wait until next year for some better performances. Then again, he didn't have a winning history in the 250s either, so I wouldn't hold my breath.
Nicky's had his moment in the sun and I don't think his results are going to get any better. I think he reached his peak at Honda a few years ago and I think he's definitely reached his peak as far as getting results on the Ducati is concerned. He's a second tier rider - always has been and always will be. He puts the hard work in, but I just think he lacks the aggression and skills to really succeed. He just lacks that last two or three-percent that guys like Stoner and Vale have got.
I expected a lot of Casey this year and he certainly hasn't lived up to it. To an extent, he's been let down by the Ducati and its inherent front-end problems, and I think he's achieved the best results possible on that machine. It's just unfortunate he's sometimes overstepped the mark and crashed along the way. However, he is still exceptionally fast, and I think has the ability to be the very best out there. His only real problem, as I see it, continues to be his bike development skills, which I suspect is what's really letting him down. I hope this doesn't continue to be a problem in the future.
Despite what many so-called fans and experts reckon, Valentino Rossi's winning days are far from over. In fact, I guarantee that he'll be winning races again by the end of the year. Forget about the fact he broke his leg. It had nothing to do with pressure from Lorenzo. We hadn't seen the best of him prior to that crash and I think he would have won at Mugello if he'd stayed upright. If the year had developed into a Rossi-Lorenzo dogfight, my money would have been on Vale.
Jorge's been very impressive. He's always been a good rider but this year he's really taken it to another level. He's on a good bike, he's got a good team around him and he's learnt a lot in a short space of time. Most importantly, he's learned to stop crashing and how to win consistently at this level. Unfortunately for everyone else, I think there's even more improvement to come. He will be World Champion this year and he deserves it. He's done a great job.
Ben's done a great job in his first full season of MotoGP. He's struggled a bit for consistency, but this is only because he still doesn't know all the tracks or how to extract the best from his bike in a short period. He's managing to learn a lot without making too many mistakes. I think his main strength has been his calculating approach. He understands what he's looking for and he's prepared to work hard at it. It's just a matter of time before we see him at the front on a regular basis.
Yet again, Dani has shown himself to be a potential race-winner on any given weekend. But I kind of feel that he's reached his limits and I don't think he's got a MotoGP title in him. This year he's shown definite improvement, but I don't think it's been enough relative to what the other top guys are doing. His big problem continues to be his difficulty in riding with worn tyres towards the end of races. I think he's destined to be another Randy Mamola - always the bridesmaid but sadly, never the bride.
Andrea's made some pretty good improvements this year. He's really impressed me and I hope he can continue the trend in the second half of the season. However, he's still lacking a bit of consistency - especially when it really counts. He has his moments of brilliance, but just lacks that last little bit required to be a top class front-runner. Maybe next year he could be a bit closer to the leaders, but at this stage he's still not one of the top four.