Only a mechanical mishap or uncharacteristic mistake will stop Marc Marquez from becoming the youngest ever MotoGP world champion at Phillip Island on Sunday, according to five-time title winner Mick Doohan.
The 20-year-old Spanish rookie only needs to finish eighth or better to clinch the 2013 crown at the Australian Grand Prix, provided Yamaha rival Jorge Lorenzo fairs worse.
Marquez holds a commanding 43-point series lead over countryman Lorenzo, whom he pipped for second place at last Sunday’s Malaysian GP in Sepang.
If he outscores Lorenzo by seven points in Sunday’s race, he will be become the first rider in 35 years to win the championship in his debut season in the top category.
“The championship is his to give up at the moment – although the likelihood of that is very, very remote,” Doohan told AAP on Thursday.
“Marquez really needs to have some sort of mechanical problem or some other mishap for Lorenzo to have any chance going forward from here.
“Marquez has been very, very consistent. If he doesn’t win, he’s generally on the next step of the podium and he only really needs to be in the top three or four to win the championship this weekend.
“He knows he just needs to keep it together. The pressure is really to not do anything too crazy.”
Doohan said he had been blown away by Marquez’ performance this season – posting six wins and 14 podiums in just 15 races – but he also noted his dramatic rise owed something to Australian two-time world champion Casey Stoner’s retirement.
“I’ve seen plenty come and go through the ranks and he’s up there with the best of them, without a shadow of a doubt,” said Doohan.
“But let’s not lose sight of the fact what he’s jumped on to. He’s jumped on to the factory Honda machine which Casey Stoner was on.
“He’s still got to perform but … I think you would’ve seen a different Marquez had he gone into a tier-two team.
“He was pretty much given the magic carpet to ride, he just had to stay on the thing – and he did that superbly.”
Doohan, victorious at Phillip Island in 1998, said Marquez would still have to fend off a very hungry Lorenzo, who has nothing to lose in trying to defend his title at the famed Victorian circuit.
“Without a doubt he (Lorenzo) is going to give it his all,” he said.
“Whether or not that means taking extra risk – I don’t think he needs to. That extra risk is probably more likely to turn into tragedy than victory.
“If he just keeps it together, remains focused on what he’s trying to do and pushes as hard as he can to try to pressure Marquez into making some type of mistake, that’s really the only option he has.”