Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Viñales delivered a masterclass in the opening round of the 2021 MotoGP World Championship at the Losail International Circuit, taking victory after a mid-race charge saw the Spaniard finish +1.092s clear of second place. Fabio Quartararo finished his factory Yamaha debut in fifth place.
The season opener got going at a blustery Losail International Circuit, with Maverick Viñales claiming his first win at the Qatari venue since 2017. Team-mate Fabio Quartararo had a fast start to the 22-lap race but ultimately slipped to fifth position in the closing stages.
From the front row, the factory pairing slipped to fifth and sixth positions after the start, but quickly found their rhythm as they began their attacks. It wasn’t long before the duo started making progress, with the factory Yamahas clearing Ducati’s Jorge Martin on lap three. With the podium positions already in sight, Viñales upped the pace, setting the fastest lap of the Grand Prix on lap four. Tag-teaming with his French team-mate, the pair set after Jack Miller, who was the next target in third place. The pair wasted no time in dispatching the Australian as they continued their charge towards the front of the field.
It wasn’t long until the leading Yamahas swapped places, as the experienced Spaniard got the better of 21-year-old Quartararo at turn 11 and immediately set off after the leading Ducatis, a quest he completed by lap 15 as he hit the front of the race.
From there, it was a masterclass from Viñales, who controlled the pace with the softer Michelin rear tyre, opening a comfortable one-second advantage over the chasing pack. The nine-time premier class race-winner didn’t look back, taking an emphatic victory under the lights. Meanwhile, Quartararo had slipped to fifth place as he battled with Suzuki’s Alex Rins throughout the closing stages of the race. The Frenchman held on to complete his factory debut rounding out the top five.
Petronas Yamaha SRT got their 2021 season underway with Valentino Rossi and Franco Morbidelli finishing the 22-lap Grand Prix in 12th and 18th places, respectively. The Doctor got his 26th Grand Prix racing career going with a bright start, although slipping to seventh, the 41-year-old stuck with his Yamaha counterparts before dropping further through the pack. The Italian recovered to take 12th place after losing a handful of positions after being forced wide at turn one mid-way through the race. Rossi’s countryman Franco Morbidelli suffered a technical failure on the grid but chose to start the Qatar Grand Prix to collect as much data ahead of round two next weekend at the same circuit.
Viñales’ victory awards him 25 World Championship points and puts him at the top of the standings, while Quartararo sits in fifth 14 points adrift. Rossi collected four points in his SRT debut, whilst Morbidelli missed out on a point paying position. Yamaha and the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP team also lead the constructors and teams’ championship with 25 and 36-point totals after Round one.
The MotoGP paddock will have a few days’ rest before roaring back into action for the second visit to the Losail International Circuit for round two of the championship.
Maverick Viñales, Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP – P1
“The race was especially good because I had the opportunity to fight with other riders, which is always important. It’s been a while since I last overtook so many riders in one race. Early on in the race, I felt this special feeling with the bike. Also in FP4 when we did the race simulation I felt fantastic and also in qualifying. I’m very grateful, because winning is not easy, so we are going to enjoy today. For the coming race we will work and try to improve again, because we know our competitors will also improve. I just want to say ‘congratulations’ to the team, because we did a good job this winter. I think this win is very good for the morale of the team, because it’s always important to trust ourselves. We still have some things to work on, especially on the race starts. But, overall, I think we can do a good job this season.”
Fabio Quartararo, Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP – P5
“I was feeling so strong in the beginning of the race. As soon as I overtook Jack [Miller], I was able to catch Joan [Mir] so fast, but then I noticed a big drop in the rear tyre, which we didn’t expect, because I didn’t have that during the test or the practice sessions. I decided to adjust my riding a little, but Maverick still overtook me. He was just in another league and had much more grip than I did. In the end I could overtake Rins and Miller because I was riding in a different way, so that’s something positive. Last year, on difficult days we made mistakes and finished in P14 or crashed. Today we are P5 and scored 11 points, which is good on a tough day like this, and I was 3s behind Maverick, so that is not that bad.”
Valentino Rossi, Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team – P12
“We expected more, especially after qualifying yesterday, but I struggled in the race. After several laps I had a problem with the tyres, especially the rear one, which is something that we also saw on Friday. We were hoping that it would have been less of a problem today, with the cooler temperatures, but unfortunately the feeling was similar and I lost some positions. I feel like I had a good start compared to the other Yamahas, but some others had a stronger one, I feel like we entered the first corner with a good speed though. Now we try to fix it and make it better for next week.”
Franco Morbidelli, Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team – P18
“It was a difficult race for us. We had a problem on the grid but we decided to give it a go anyway. Out of respect for my team and the work they do I wanted to complete the race, also so that we might understand the problem better. It is something we need to investigate further, I think we might have seen it at other times in the weekend, but during the race it was very clear that something was wrong. It was unfortunate that we had to have the bad race, but the good thing is that we have data to understand what was going on. I hope we can fix something for next week.”
Massimo Meregalli, Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP – Team Director
“The ideal plan for today was to have a good start, then let Maverick and Fabio make the most of the M1, riding Yamaha lines. However, we expected that our competitors would be strong at the start, so it would almost be impossible for us to lead into Turn 1. But Maverick and Fabio knew what they had to do. They made sure not to waste any unnecessary time battling each other and instead worked together as they rode to the top 3. In the end it was Maverick who had the race-winning pace today. His ride was truly stunning! Fabio wasn’t quite able to fight for the podium because of an unexpected rear-tyre drop, but he still put up a strong fight for fifth and collected some important points for himself and the team. We are very happy overall. Starting the season with a win is a great morale boost and a testament to Yamaha’s and the team’s hard work over the winter. Now we will have a few days of rest and then we will be back on track on Wednesday to prepare for GP2, and we will be looking into the issue that Fabio had with his rear tyre today.”
Razlan Razali, PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team – Team Principal
“Today did not go as we expected it to, for various reasons. We know Valentino experienced some issues with the feeling of the rear, so now we will listen to his feedback and see what we can do for the next GP. Franco also had some mechanical problems, which we are looking into because it is not like him to be in that position. We take the positives that he was able to collect data to help us rectify the issue. We know that the Yamaha is a great bike and I want to say congratulations to Maverick [Viñales] on his win.”
Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar Results:
- Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP)
- Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) +1.092
- Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) +1.129
- Joan Mir (Team SUZUKI ECSTAR) +1.222
- Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) +3.030
- Alex Rins (Team SUZUKI ECSTAR) +3.357
- Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) +5.934
- Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) +5.990
- Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) +7.058
- Enea Bastianini (Esponsorama Racing) +9.288
- Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) +10.299
- Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) +10.742
- Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) +11.457
- Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) +14.100
- Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) +16.422
- Luca Marini (SKY VR46 Esponsorama) +20.916
- Iker Lecuona (Tech 3 KTM Factory Racing) +21.026
- Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) +23.892
- Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) +46.346
- Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL) +9 Laps
- Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU) +16 laps
NC. Danilo Petrucci (Tech 3 KTM Factory Racing) +0 Laps