Maverick Viñales takes the first win of the season, as Ducati face off with Mir in thrilling final lap.
The #12 man stormed to glory last night, taking the lead from Francesco Bagnaia on Lap 14 and not looking back. Starting from P3 on the grid, Viñales’ start was entirely engulfed by the Ducatis, as Bagnaia, Jack Miller, Johann Zarco and Jorge Martin all charged to the front for the holeshot. Viñales soon began his recovery from 8th on the track, overtaking Valentino Rossi on the first lap.
While the four Ducatis were tough to break, both of the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP men managed to weave their way into the mix early on in the race, with Fabio Quartararo leading the blue duo. With 12 laps to go however, Viñales took the lead ahead of his teammate within the sea of red, and set his sights on Pramac Racing’s Johann Zarco in P2.
The Yamaha man made light work of the Frenchman just one lap later, after closing down the 0.5 second gap. However, Bagnaia was another story. The Italian put up on hell of a fight to keep the lead, causing Viñales to make numerous attempts at an overtake, before finally claiming P1 with 8 laps to go. With a clear track finally ahead of him, the Spaniard wasted no time forming a gap back to second place, and went on to claim the win with a final gap of over a second.
While Viñales took the win, it was Ducati’s Pecco Bagnaia and Johann Zarco who stole the show, along with Suzuki ECSTAR’s Joan Mir in the final laps. With both men in red having a phenomenal race at the front, Joan Mir had more work ahead of him. The defending champion climbed gradually throughout the race while the world’s eyes were on the excitement at the front. Mir and teammate Alex Rins both made exceptional strides up the board, with the pair facing off for P4 with just 5 laps to go. While Mir made light work of his teammate, Rins’ astounding ride is not one to forget, as he eventually finished the race in an admirable P6.
In the final laps, Mir was able to claim both Bagnaia and Zarco, and with less than a lap remaining, it seemed that the Spaniard would take the podium’s middle step. But fans – and probably Mir too – were in for a shock, as the sheer power of the Ducatis took advantage of Mir’s wide line in the final corner, allowing both Bagnaia and Zarco to steal the entire podium frim underneath the champion’s feet on the final straight, leaving Mir high and dry in 4th place. With the Ducati’s speed on the straights being forever marvelled, it really shouldn’t have surprised us; but I think it’s safe to say… boy, we were definitely surprised.
The other Ducati men in that first-lap quartet also had admirable rides, with Miller battling strong to the end in 9th place, and rookie Jorge Martin finishing in P15 after a phenomenal debut race in MotoGP.
The duo that had a disappointing race would be that of the Petronas Yamaha SRT squad, especially after such a strong start to the weekend on Friday. Despite Rossi’s promising start to the race, it unfortunately didn’t last, as The Doctor fell down the order to finish 12th. While Franco Morbidelli’s race was even worse, with the younger Italian’s P7 on the grid being his best position all race. Morbidelli began sinking from the start of Lap 1, and ended up in a dismal 18th place. Hopefully the next race will hold better results for the pair.
The Espargaro brothers had decent rides, as Aleix showed competitiveness from the first lap. The Aprilia Racing Team Gresini man was able to remain in the Top 10 throughout the race, and finished strong in 7thplace; while brother Pol improved on his P12 starting position, climbing the board to finish behind his sibling in P8.
The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing pair Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder improved on their weekend’s results so far, gaining points in 13th and 14th place, respectively. Iker Lecuona rounded out the KTMs in 17th place, as Tech 3 teammate Danilo Petrucci crashed on the opening lap.
The LCR Honda duo also had a Sunday to forget as both riders crashed out after fighting for points. Takaaki Nakagami crashed at Turn 9 with 16 laps to go after losing the front, and Alex Marquez followed suit at Turn 4 with just 9 laps remaining. With both riders having such a competitive 2020 season, we can only hope that things turn around for the pair soon.
Another rookie of note last night was Esponsorama Racing’s Enea Bastianini. Starting from P13 on the grid, Bastianini’s start wasn’t perfect, giving the Italian P18 to work with on the opening lap. However, the race proved a steady climb up the order for the #23 bike, and was within point-scoring positions by the halfway mark. By the chequered flag, Bastianini achieved a Top 10 result for his debut in the top class, just over 2 seconds behind Miller in 9th. Teammate Luca Marini had a steady ride, finishing just outside of the points in 16th place.
With Race 1 of the 2021 season done and dusted, the MotoGP grid have made betting on the crown even harder. All we can do is hope that the rest of the season is as thrilling as its opener.
This weekend we are back in Qatar from Thursday, for the Tissot Grand Prix of Doha.
MotoGP’s Free Practice 1 will start on Friday at 15:40 Local Time (GMT +3).
Feature Photo: Yamaha Racing