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Grand Prix Of Malaysia preview and predictions: Laverty insists Marquez would deliver Ducati a world title but believes Vinales is the man they should turn to

Michael Laverty takes on BTSport.com in this week’s predictions battle and looks at who Ducati might turn to as they seek a first championship since 2007.

It’s the penultimate race of the season and the final flyaway, with Michael Laverty stepping up to the plate for the MotoGP team as the predictor battle against BTSport.com goes down to the wire.

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Teams are awarded 10 points for correctly predicting a rider’s position on the podium or five if they finish elsewhere in the top three, with BTSport.com leading but just five points this late into the season.

As ever you can watch each session from all three classes across the race weekend on TV or via live stream on the BT Sport app and BTSport.com.

Here are the overall standings after 17 rounds:

Round MotoGP team BTSport.com
Qatar 10 10
Argentina 15 10
Americas 0 0
Jerez 15 10
Le Mans 10 20
Mugello 10 20
Catalunya 10 10
Assen 15 5
Germany 20 10
Czech Republic 10 15
Austria 10 20
Great Britain 15 10
San Marino 5 15
Aragon 20 10
Thailand 10 20
Japan 15 10
Australia 10 10
Total: 200 205

It has to be Marc Marquez to take the win once again, Maverick Vinales won't be far behind and we think rookie Fabio Quartararo will bounce back from his early crash in Australia to get back on the podium. What about you?

“Marc first, just with the form he’s in at the moment and the championship in the bag.

“He said himself after Phillip Island that going head-to-head with Maverick this time he didn’t have a championship to think about so he could throw everything at it and I think he’ll continue to do that in Sepang.

“Second place for Dovi because the Ducati’s were really strong around Sepang in pre-season testing and I think a track like that with a lot of braking suits his style.

“If they can just figure out the tyre for race day I think he can give Marc a good race for it.

“Maverick has really found a good setting with the Yamaha and he’s full of confidence and was really strong in Phillip Island so I think he’s going to keep that form going.

“I just see the top speed deficit of the Yamaha hurting him on those two long straights in Malaysia and that stops him being a race winner for me but I think he’ll be strong all weekend.”

Predictions Round 16: Grand Prix of Malaysia

Podium position MotoGP team (Laverty) BTSport.com
1st Marc Marquez Marc Marquez
2nd Andrea Dovizioso Maverick Vinales
3rd Maverick Vinales
Fabio Quartararo

Marquez has broken several records this year and needs just nine points in the next two races to post the most ever in a season. Is that the one he will have been targeting most once the championship was won?

“It’s a fairly new record and it’s going to change when next year we have 20 rounds in the championship and if further races are added going forward.

“So I think what he’ll want more is almost having that ‘perfect season’ where he comes first or second every time he finishes.

“And also just to continue his number of race wins because I don’t think he really looks at titles and records, he’s a killer on the race track and just wants to win every time he goes out.

“He never gives a gift away and he refuses to settle for second if he thinks there’s any chance of a win so he’s stamping his dominance at the moment.

“This is peak Marquez but he still has room to improve in the future and is just showing everyone the skill he has on tap.”

He became the most successful Honda rider of all time last weekend, do you think we’ll ever see him leave the manufacturer?

“Given what’s happened with Jorge Lorenzo, a three-time MotoGP world champion and five-time world champion overall, it’s proven that it is the bike and rider combination and not just the rider or bike on their own at any one time.

“So I think Honda will push hard to keep him.

“But Marc might want to challenge himself in the future or thinking out loud, maybe even help out his brother and KTM could be a manufacturer that would come at him with a big-money offer.

“So down the line he may just be tempted away to prove to the naysayers that he can do it on another manufacturer as well.”

Would you like to see him on another bike?

“I really would and I don’t think there’s a bike on the grid he wouldn’t be successful on – well maybe not the Aprilia because it’s just not there – but I think he’d even put the KTM on the podium because I think he is that special.

“I don’t think he’d win a world championship on the KTM as it is now but that is a potential bike for him in the future once it develops a little bit further.

“You put him on a Ducati now and he’d give them a world title, that’s for sure.

“He is the missing link for any manufacturer if they want a world championship, get him on your bike and you’re halfway there.”

You told us at the start of the season and you were backing Dovi for the world championship. Do you think it’s his failings or Marquez’s brilliance that have meant he’s never really had a sniff?

“Ducati have thrown everything at it and Dovi has had a good consistent season he’s just unfortunate that he’s got a rival like Marc Marquez at the moment.

“If Marc wasn’t on the scene, Dovi would be world champion for sure.

“Nobody but Marquez could ride that Honda the way it is currently and I don’t see anyone else that could jump on it and do what Marc does.

“I do feel for Dovi because it’s just circumstances that are preventing him from getting his hands on that elusive world title.”

Dovi secured second in the championship last weekend, for the third year in a row. He’ll be 34 at the start of next season so do you think his hopes of a maiden championship have realistically gone?

“I think Ducati will give him another contract because he’s so good in terms of bike development, he’s your second-place guy and a good solid performer.

“But I think they might start looking at the likes of Quartararo or Vinales, someone new and fresh to try and take the challenge to Marc because it’s clear at the moment that Dovi can’t beat him over a season.

“Marc is only going to get stronger so I think Ducati will start looking at pastures new as they seek to find their future world champion.”

Do you think Vinales and Ducati would be a good marriage?

“I do. I’ve thought it for some time and right now there is a little bit of speculation about that.

“I think his riding style would really suit the Ducati and he might be a good guy for them to place their bets on.

“It would be an interesting one if they did go down that route because Quartararo seems more aligned with the Yamaha and if Valentino [Rossi] does decide to retire at the end of next season they might bring Fabio alongside Maverick.

“But if Valentino does stay on then Maverick could become a free agent, or he could decide himself to look elsewhere and I do think the Ducati marriage would be a slightly more suitable one to his riding style.”

Do you think the signs are there that he’ll be Marquez’s main competitor next year?

“I think so. He’s had a rough time since exploding onto the scene with Yamaha but he seems to have now figured it out.

“It’s still not easy for him, especially in those early laps, but he is starting to figure it out.

“He’s with Yamaha again next season of course and it’ll be interesting to see what developments they bring to the table for him to try and use a bit more of his riding style.

“It currently requires him to think about his riding, so he can’t ride on his subconscious and has to actively make an effort to ride in a way that suits the Yamaha.”