Quiet man Dovizioso makes Honda pay
There could barely have been three happier faces on the podium at Sachsenring last weekend, with Dani Pedrosa sealing his first win of the season, Jorge Lorenzo taking an unlikely lead at the top of the championship and Andrea Dovizioso also benefitting from Casey Stoner's penultimate corner crash to take his third podium of the season.
It was with typical understated joy that Dovizioso stepped onto the box for the 19th time in his MotoGP career and his brilliant ride to hold off Cal Crutchlow and beat Ben Spies to third provided a timely reminder to factory team bosses planning for the 2013 post-Stoner shake-up that he remains one of the true class acts in the field.
As Repsol Honda scaled back from three to two riders at the end of last season, Dovizioso was in some ways unfortunate to be left out of the factory reckoning, but Honda’s loss was the immediate gain of Yamaha who instantly benefitted from his vast experience and famously concise feedback from the very first test at Valencia.
In fact, a good deal of the credit for the way Yamaha have closed the gap to Honda - and perhaps even overtaken them with the 1000cc YZR-M1 – over the winter must surely be attributed to Dovizioso's input.
Now, with Spies desperately struggling for form and Lorenzo with a championship to think about, Dovizioso's contribution to the machine's ongoing development will be vital.
Indeed, in the post-race test at Barcelona last month, he was entrusted with a new engine and electronics package which he used to set the fastest time of the day, some seven tenths of a second quicker than Lorenzo's best effort in the previous day's race.
He backed that up with an impressive display at Aragon later that week, assessing a revised engine spec and giving additional feedback to Yamaha's engineers, and after crashing out of the next race at Silverstone he has followed up with back-to-back podiums at Assen and Sachsenring.
It makes you wonder if Honda are regretting not making more of an effort to keep the former 125cc world champion on one of their bikes for a 10th season.
With justifiable hype around Crutchlow's sparkling start to his second campaign at the top level, Stefan Bradl's impressive adaptation in his rookie season and an uncertain future for Valentino Rossi at Ducati, the unassuming Dovizioso is often overlooked in the speculation surrounding the factory rides for 2013.
However, with Yamaha feeling the benefit of his 60 grand prix podiums in all classes, it is hard to argue that the Italian does not deserve one.