The biggest storylines in MotoGP after Le Mans

What to expect from the 2021 MotoGP season

Photo credits: kitanai inu via Bēhance and Marca

By Daphne Seberich

MotoGP is back, and the 2021 season is well underway. The pinnacle of motorbike racing will crown for the 73rd time a driver and a constructor team as champions of one of the most dangerous and fastest sports in the world. 

After five of the 19 planned races of the season already having taken place, fans might be wondering what the main storylines in MotoGP are in 2021. Marc Márquez made its comeback. Current world champion Joan Mir will attempt to win two championships in a row, and ‘El Diablo’ Fabio Quartararo is the main favorite to clinch his first title with Yamaha’s factory team. 

For someone that actively watches every MotoGP race, those storylines seem a cliché. There are many reasons to tune in to watch this season of MotoGP go down. What have we learned in the first five races of the season?

  1. Ducati’s Desmosedici is blistering fast
Photo credits: Oberdan Bezzi via Bēhance

It doesn’t surprise that the Italian factory team from Borgo Panigale has engineered a masterpiece motorbike. The Desmosedici, ridden by the newly-signed bikers Jack Miller and Francesco Bagnaia, was the fastest and most powerful bike at the pre-season testing in Qatar. The first five races didn’t prove otherwise as well. 

Ducati is well-known for its 90 degree V4 engines, which give them a significant advantage on the straights. This season, although, the difference between Ducati and other constructors is abysmal. No Honda, Yamaha, or Suzuki can keep up with the pace of the Italian motorbike. 

Statistics are on the side of Ducati as well. Every bike in the Top 10 for highest speed reached was a Desmosedici. Johan Zarco recently achieved 362.4 km/h in Qatar’s FP4 session, breaking the record set of 356.7 km/h by Andrea Dovizioso in 2019. Compared to the Japanese companies and Aprilia, the Italian ‘speed devil’ is miles ahead of his competitors. 

It’s been two consecutive races of dominance for Ducati. The Spanish GP ended in a 1-2 podium finish for the constructor, and the French Gp was another 1-2 if considering Johan Zarco’s Pramac as part of the Italian manufacturer. The leaderboard sees three Ducati in the top five in the driver’s championship. This season seems like another positive year for the Italian team, who could very well double down on last year’s constructor’s championship. 

  1. Marc Márquez most likely won’t equal Valentino Rossi for most titles in 2021
Photo credits: Pat Stott & Brunno Roosevelt via Bēhance

All MotoGP fans are glad to see the eight-time world champion Marc Márquez back on track on his Honda, but the comeback wasn’t as sweet as imagined. After recovering from the troublesome injury of his right arm that kept him away from racing the past season, Márquez doesn’t seem to be the rider that we were used to seeing on race weekends. The Spaniard champion has had trouble finding its confidence back on his motorbike, finishing three of the five races to have taken place in DNF’s. Marquez is currently 17th in the standings, 64 points behind leader Quartararo and two points behind his brother Álex in 14th place. 

The French GP presented its opportunities to the Spanish champion. Márquez was leading the wet and crazy race at Le Mans until he crashed. Yet again, he fell onto his right arm, which ended his winning chances once and for all. If the eight-time champion can’t even capitalize on points at wet races, which are his strong suit, 2021 doesn’t seem to be the year of the comeback. Valentino Rossi, who is the most successful rider in the history of MotoGP with nine championships, and the Italian fans can breathe a sigh of relief.

  1. Fabio Quartararo and Francesco Bagnaia’s race to the top will be thrilling to watch
Photo credits: Marca & La Voz de Galicia

Who would’ve thought that after Joan Mir winning in 2020, the championship fight would be between Fabio Quartararo and ‘Pecco’ Bagnaia? The two youngsters driving for Yamaha’s and Ducati’s factory teams seem to have separated themselves from the competition in the championship standings. The duo is only split by one point, leaving a gap of eleven points between themselves and Johan Zarco in third.  

Where does Mir stand on the leaderboard? The current world champion sits in sixth, 31 points behind leader Quartararo after collecting zero points at Le Mans. There are no doubts that the Spaniard could come back, as we have seen him do at the end of 2020. As of now, the two Ducati riders and ‘El Diablo’ have had the upper hand and don’t seem to have any intentions of slowing down.  

Quartararo surprises week-in and week-out with his blistering times. The Frenchman has been on pole on three occasions this season and has managed to win back-to-back races in Qatar and Portugal. 

Not all is easy for Quartararo. Italian prodigy Francesco Bagnaia is giving him a real fight at the top. The Ducatista has had a brilliant season so far, impressing with his comebacks from outside the points to the podium. An example of his incredible form was his recovery from 20th after the start to fourth at the finish line. Even though Bagnaia might not be the fastest in qualifying on certain occasions, his race pace makes up for it and allows him to be in the title fight with Quartararo. 

I believe we will see more exciting and thrilling fights between the two youngsters with the best coming out on top to win the championship, unless…

  1. Jack is back

…Unless Jack Miller gets in the mix for the title as well. The Australian continues to impress with his Desmosedici after winning back-to-back races in Spain and France. It wasn’t since Casey Stoner in 2012 that an Aussie won two straight race weekends in a row. Miller is now in fourth place in the standings, only four points behind Zarco. Jack is back and here to stay.

Photo credits: Vincente Angelo Vinta via Bēhance

MotoGP could see another thrilling fight at the top between constructors and especially drivers. 2021 seems to be a good year for motorsport, with Formula One being more competitive at the top as well. Who will come out on top? We will find out as the season continues at Mugello in Italy on the 30th of May. 

Morbidelli show is not enough: Joan Mir is the new MotoGP 2020 World Champion

Despite securing a brilliant win for Yamaha, Morbidelli’s efforts were not enough to stop Joan Mir’s championship celebrations in Valencia. Quartararo’s nightmare start paved the way for an easy title win.

By Daphne Seberich

The MotoGP 2020 championship fight is over. Despite being this a season without title defender Marc Marquez, due to the injury he suffered at the beginning of the season restart, the race to the top was full of action and unpredictable. No one thought at the start of the 2020 campaign that a second-year rookie would even be a title contender. Even though the French youngster Quartararo was on top of the rankings for the first half of the season, thanks to winning three Grand Prix, consistency proved to be the key to success. That is what characterized Mir’s efforts: being able to snatch the title, despite only winning his first race ever in MotoGP during last week’s European GP.

Starting from P12, the Spaniard had the challenge to make his way up the grid, needing a 12-point lead to teammate Rins and Quartararo to win the championship during the event held in his country. 

Although both contenders were starting the race in the same conditions as him, which is at the back of the pack, Morbidelli’s pole and a potential win could have ruined the celebrations. Mir needed to secure at least P10 to have a one-point margin to automatically take the crown. 

At lights-out, Morbidelli gets challenged by Miller, proving the superiority of the Ducati’s engine in straight-line speed. The Yamaha Petronas rider leans tighter into the corner forcing the Pramac Ducati racer to go wide, keeping therefore the lead of the race. His teammate at the end of the pack takes a too wide approach to the first turn of the race, dropping back to P21. The championship-winning hopes for the “Diablo” were gone right and there. 

Mir found himself, thanks to the Frenchman dropping back, in tenth place, which would assure him the title win. From there on, the Spaniard’s goal was to manage the race and take the needed point home. 

Meanwhile, at the front, Morbidelli proves to have a great race pace, setting the fastest lap in 1:31.428. His teammate at the back of the field unbelievably crashes, leaving what for him was a Valencia nightmare behind.

Not many overtakes happened at the Ricardo Tormo circuit, but the most significant were the ones done by Rins to secure P4 and Mir’s for P7. The points advantage was enough assuring the championship win for the #36 driver. 

Miller’s final laps were as if he was on fire. Even though his motorbike was on a softer compound, that should have dropped significantly in performance, especially compared to the hard tires chosen by Morbidelli, the Aussie started closing the gap to the Italian, giving us viewers an exciting last lap of the race. The Ducati engine allowed the Pramac driver to overtake the Yamaha, but a very smart switch-a-roo done by “Franky” put him back ahead.  At every turn there was, Miller attempted to fight back, but only at the last straight he got his opportunity, leading to a photo-finish. 

What an exciting last lap. Morbidelli wins ahead of Miller and Pol Espargaro. The real rider in the spotlight is Joan Mir, winning his first MotoGP drivers’ championship. Will he defend the title against the indisputable king of motorbikes Marc Marquez next season? 

Photo credits: Ultima Hora & Motociclismo