Stunning MotoGP comeback under the Qatari floodlights

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Fabio Quartararo made it two victories from two races for the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP team, after the Frenchman fought through the field to take victory at the Losail International Circuit. Team-mate Maverick Viñales produced an equally impressive comeback to secure fifth place after losing positions in the early stages of the 22-lap Grand Prix. Franco Morbidelli brought his PETRONAS Yamaha SRT M1 home in 12th place, with Valentino Rossi finishing 16th.

 

Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP made it back-to-back wins in Doha after Fabio Quartararo produced a stunning comeback under the Qatari floodlights to take victory at the Losail International Circuit.

 

Starting round two from fifth on the grid, Quartararo fell victim to the typical opening lap battle, dropping to eighth, just ahead of team-mate Maverick Viñales, who also dropped positions on the first lap.

 

As the race settled and the pace picked up, the factory Yamaha duo kept their cool and bided their time. They both knew it would be a race of two halves, with tyre management playing a big role in the second visit to Qatar. With the soft compound the favoured tyre, Quartararo and Viñales managed their pace comfortably as they maintained their positions in the leading group.

 

The Monster Energy Yamaha duo were line astern at the half-way point of the race and as the Grand Prix entered its second phase, Quartararo showed his hand. The Frenchman climbed his way up to sixth after benefiting from a mid-race tangle for two of his rivals and immediately set after Alex Rins in a hunt for a podium finish. The hard-charging former CEV champion was quick to dispatch Rins, moving clear of the Suzuki rider at turn four, securing fifth place.

 

Likewise, team-mate Viñales was also making progress aboard his YZR-M1. The Spaniard dropped to ninth in the early stages of the Grand Prix but used his race-winning experience from the opening round to get the most out of his tyres. By lap 16, the 26-year-old was up to sixth place after mistakes from Joan Mir, Aleix Espargaro and Francesco Bagnaia gave him the perfect opportunity to pounce. With the podium positions in sight, it was time for both factory Yamaha riders to give it all they had.

 

The factory duo then pulled off a double overtake at turn ten, as Quartararo moved past Johann Zarco with an inch perfect pass for third, whilst Viñales pulled off a carbon copy manoeuvre to that of his team-mate as he passed Jack Miller. Just four corners later and it was Quartararo’s turn to lead. The fast French rider had a perfect run through turn 14 and positioned himself for a brave pass at turn 15, taking the lead with four laps to go.

 

However, it wasn’t an easy task for Quartararo, who slipped back to second on the front straight, but that didn’t stop the number-20 rider, who regained the advantage with a pass at turn four. While the rider from Nice hit the front, Viñales had put himself in podium contention after passing Johann Zarco, but a mistake from the Qatar Grand Prix victor saw him slip back to fourth place with work to do in the closing stages.

 

Back at the front, Quartararo had opened his lead to just under half a second to Jorge Martin and continued to break away from the chasing pack, eventually crossing the line to take victory by 1.4 seconds. Viñales continued to put pressure on the two Pramac Racing bikes in what was a stunning final few laps charge, but a small mistake at turn one saw him slip back behind Rins. The Spanish rider gave it everything on the final lap of the 3.34-mile-long Qatari circuit, but just fell short, wrapping up the Doha Grand Prix in a strong fifth place.

 

Back at the front, Quartararo had opened his lead to just under half a second to Jorge Martin and continued to break away from the chasing pack, eventually crossing the line to take victory by 1.4 seconds. Viñales continued to put pressure on the two Pramac Racing bikes in what was a stunning final few laps charge, but a small mistake at turn one saw him slip back behind Rins. The Spanish rider gave it everything on the final lap of the 3.34-mile-long Qatari circuit, but just fell short, wrapping up the Doha Grand Prix in a strong fifth place.

 

PETRONAS Yamaha SRT’s Franco Morbidelli and Valentino Rossi had a difficult race, with the pair finishing in 12th and 16th places respectively. From tenth on the grid, Morbidelli found himself in a race-long battle for the top ten. The former Moto2 Champion was battling hard throughout the early stages of the race, but unfortunately could not make any further progress after using his soft rear tyre too early on, resulting in a P12 finish for the Italian, just 5.787s off the race winner.

 

Team-mate Valentino Rossi had an uphill battle on his hands after starting from 21st, but as always, The Doctor looked to make the most of a tough situation. Having found something in Warm-Up, Rossi launched from 21st on the grid, making up places on the run into turn one – but slipped back as the field jostled for position.

 

Rossi sat comfortably in the pack and matched the lap times of the leaders before making his way passed Danilo Petrucci at the midway stage. The 42-year-old Italian then had a late burst, using the last bit of grip from his soft tyres to move up into P16, but sadly for the nine-time World Champion, the gap to 15th was just too big, and he had to settle for 16th position as the flag dropped.

 

With Quartararo’s victory, the factory Yamaha duo see themselves head to Portimao joint second in the standings, with the pair sitting on 36 points. Yamaha also head the charge in the constructor’s championship with 50 points, while Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP maintain their advantage in the teams’ championship.

 

The MotoGP World Championship will return to action in Portugal as the riders return to the roller-coaster that is Portimao across the weekend of 16-18 April.

 

Fabio Quartararo – Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP, 1st

“I have no words. This race win is different from the previous three MotoGP races I‘ve won so far. After the last race I was a bit disappointed in myself. During this race it was totally different. I was thinking so well, I played a lot with the map and the tyres. Nine or ten laps to the end I thought ’Right now is the moment to push and show our potential‘.

 

“It‘s great to finish in first position! I was so happy with FP4, because I felt like I was the only rider to do only high 1‘54s laps. So we made a plan, but the team also told me to play it by feeling, and I did that really well today. I was feeling so good. When I overtook Zarco, I also immediately overtook Martin. I was so scared when I hit the debris on track. I thought ’Not a puncture, please!‘, because it made a bad sound. My last lap didn‘t feel as fast as the earlier ones, but it was enough for the win. Singing the French anthem with Zarco today was the best moment I ever had.”

 

Maverick Viñales – Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP, 5th

“For sure, the race didn‘t go as we expected, but I‘m still quite happy, because in the end this is a positive result. I was managing the tyres a lot at the beginning so I could be stronger at the end. It paid off, because at the end I was very strong, especially the rear grip was good. I just wish we would have had five more laps. We will try to come back stronger. I know we have to improve some areas, mainly my riding style. The most important thing is that the bike has great potential, and we demonstrated this in the last ten laps. I was trying to overtake and be stronger every lap. We tried, and overall I felt it was a positive day, even if the results didn‘t show our true potential for Qatar Race 2. Still, I think fifth is a nice result, and I fought back with all that I had.”

 

Franco Morbidelli – PETRONAS Yamaha SRT, 12th

“It was a difficult race, but at least I was able to fight this weekend. We went back to a configuration that we had in early 2020, so the problems that we had in the race today were the same as we faced at the beginning of last season, where I used the tyre up too early. This looked like the best setup for us at the moment, to give a better feeling on the bike. I think it worked as we have some positives from today: I felt like I was able to race, my lap time wasn’t too bad and it was the same as the winner. However, I wasn’t able to be strong enough in the final laps because the tyre issues and having to fight from tenth meant that I wasn’t able to exploit the potential I had at the start of the race. We will now keep working to understand what has been going on during these days in Qatar, and start afresh in Portugal.”

 

Valentino Rossi – PETRONAS Yamahas SRT, 16th

“It is not a great result today and starting from behind is very difficult, because all of the bikes are strong. My pace was not so bad, but it was not enough to stay with the group, especially in the first laps. I expected a little bit better because this morning we found something that helps me to ride better. I thought that I could stay with the group in front, but we did not have enough to do so. We also suffered a bit with the rear grip with the soft tyre. We’ve tried a different swingarm and that has helped a bit. There are a lot of European tracks where we know the grip is good, so hopefully we can expect better results. We will see what happens in Portimão.”

 

Massimo Meregalli – Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP, Team Director

“Today‘s race was very difficult to predict. The second race at the same circuit is always more challenging, because everybody is faster. We had a very promising FP4, but the tyre degradation remained a big question mark. We knew the start would be tricky and that in the end it would all come down to tyre management. Our riders had to be patient in the beginning and then be brave and try to win the race. The riders did exactly that. In a way this race was a carbon copy of last week for us. Fabio rode in a fabulous way today! He chose the perfect moment to make his move to the front, and the lap times he put in to pull away from the group were phenomenal. Maverick also came very close to taking a place on the podium. Two laps before the end, to avoid another rider, he ran wide in the last corner. It’s a shame that he didn’t have enough time left to close the gap again, but fifth place is still a good result after such a hard race. All in all, it‘s been a really great start to the season for our team. These two victories are the best reward for our team members after 35 days of staying here in Qatar. A big ’Thank you‘ to all the people who contributed to the achievement of this double win.”

 

Razlan Razali – PETRONAS Yamaha SRT, Team Principal

“To be honest, I am quite happy that we have now finished these first two MotoGP races at Qatar, as we can now focus on analysing what has happened and be prepared for Portimão. It is what it is and hopefully we can do better there, especially as it was quite a good race for us last year with the podium of Franco.”

 

Tissot Grand Prix of Doha Results:

  1. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP)
  2. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) +1.457
  3. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) +1.500
  4. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki ECSTAR) +2.088
  5. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) +2.110
  6. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) +2.642
  7. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki ECSTAR) +4.868
  8. Brad Binder (Red Bull Factory KTM Racing) +4.979
  9. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) +5.365
  10. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) +5.382
  11. Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama) +5.550
  12. Franco Morbidelli (PETRONAS Yamaha SRT) +5.787
  13. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) +6.063
  14. Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) +6.453
  15. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull Factory KTM Racing) +8.928
  16. Valentino Rossi (PETRONAS Yamaha SRT) +14.246
  17. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU) +16.241
  18. Luca Marini (SKY VR46 Avintia) +16.472
  19. Danilo Petrucci (Tech 3 KTM Factory Racing) +16.779
  20. Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) +38.775
  21. Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL) +10 Laps
  22. Iker Lecuona (Tech 3 KTM Factory Racing) +10 Laps

 

2021 MotoGP World Championship Standings:

  1. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) 40 points
  2. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) 36 points
  3. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) 36 points
  4. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) 26 points
  5. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki ECSTAR) 23 points
  6. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki ECSTAR) 22 points
  7. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) 17 points
  8. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) 15 points
  9. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) 14 points
  10. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) 11 points
  11. Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama) 11 points
  12. Brad Binder (Red Bull Factory KTM Racing) 10 points
  13. Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) 7 points
  14. Valentino Rossi (PETRONAS Yamaha SRT) 4 points
  15. Franco Morbidelli (PETRONAS Yamaha SRT) 4 points

16. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull Factory KTM Racing) 4 points

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