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GP Week : Issue 73
23 GPWEEK OPINION >> THERE will be plenty of worried faces and sleepless nights over at the headquarters of the Honda Racing Corporation. Actually, that's probably a pretty normal state of affairs. And has been for far too long, in the motorcycle side which was the original core of Honda's empire, and its specialised racing branch. Because Honda has been having a really horrible time in grand prix motorcycle racing for an awfully long time now. The marque dominated the last years of the 500 class, and likewise the first years of the 990s. Honda's place at the top of racing seemed assured. But the last World Champion to ride a Honda was Nicky Hayden in 2006 -- a win that was favoured with luck largely because of sundry problems for Rossi. -- including a Yamaha that was not as reliable as Nicky's V5 Honda. But it had all started to go wrong a couple of years before and, again, Rossi was the determining factor. Like other Honda riders before him, he had begun to feel unloved by a company that holds engineers in higher regard than throttle jockeys. The machines had given him a hat-trick of championships from 2001 through to 2003. But the feeling he got from his employers made it more attractive to try to beat them than to stay on and carry on winning for them. He wanted to prove that the rider was more important than the machine. And the success of that proof has resounded every year since, with a succession of false moves and ultimately even engineering weakness from a company whose overweening confidence had been dealt a paralysing blow. After Rossi, Honda thrust the mantle on Alex Barros and Max Biaggi, both of whom fell short. Biaggi's time with HRC was more than merely unsuccessful. The difficult Italian was so disruptive that he even managed a fist fight in pit lane with easy-going team-mate Hayden at an early test (Max had a fondness for frightening rookies and slower riders by passing with millimetres to spare, and then brake-checking them). Then came Dani. And who is to say he might not yet do it, given a year free of injury and tyre problems? Though after four years with just two wins a year, the Dani Show is getting less and less convincing. But this time the engineers are also to blame. Four-stroke masters Honda somehow managed to get wrong-footed by the switch to 800cc, and have been lagging ever since. The RSV is, as ever, a beautifully crafted motorcycle, but up against Ducati and Yamaha, it just lacks that final gloss to the power curve. Senior management changes over the past year or so have seen Shuhei Nakamoto come in as vice-president, fresh from an equally embarrassing and abruptly terminated spell in Formula One. Can he do enough to prevent the same thing in MotoGP? MICHAEL SCOTT MotoGP Editor opinion t double act ... looking at braking points. Fernando acknowledges this: ""Winning with Michael on the track has more value". Michael appreciates the sentiment, and pats the Spaniard's shoulder. He bowed out before Alonso beat him. He has since said, after 15 years of campaigning in F1, he was tired. Now he has recharged his batteries. Another journalist perks up: "You're twice a winner here. What do you think about the circuit?" Michael's response is instant: "Bring on number three ..." It was, therefore, deflating for him to discover he was, to use Michael's description, "a bit rusty". Nico Rosberg was ahead of him all weekend. The majority of press here (most, bar the Germans) have been giving Michael a hard time about this. One photographer called out to Nico as he walked past: "Oi, make sure you blow that old man away". Rosberg's response was unreservedly cold: "I will." Despite his legion of fans, Schumacher's not very popular within F1. But he's been away a long time -- give the guy a break. Besides, he was out-qualified by his team mate for his first race for Ferrari. That order didn't last long. Ross Brawn will always defer to Michael, and he will end up running Mercedes just as he did Ferrari. Over the next few races, the car will be changed to his liking and steered away from Nico's preferences. Then Michael will begin winning again ... as soon as we return to Europe.