Analysis

Portimao MotoGP Friday Round Up: Marc Marquez Returns At Full Force, And Some Riders With Hidden Pace

It was hardly ideal circumstances to make a return to the toughest class in motorcycle racing after more than eight months without riding a bike. Overnight rain left the track covered in damp patches, making the surface treacherous and unpredictable. But that didn't deter Marc Márquez: though he wasn't the first out of the pits in FP1, he was on track soon enough. And he was fast soon enough too, ending the morning session as third quickest, just a quarter of a second slower than Maverick Viñales.

Drawing conclusions from times which are 2.5 seconds off the race lap record and 3.5 seconds off the best pole time is a little premature. But Márquez was fast again in FP2, in much drier and consistent conditions. In the second session, Pecco Bagnaia's best lap was just a hundredth off Miguel Oliveira's race record, and Marc Márquez was within half a second of Bagnaia, ending his first day back on a MotoGP in sixth position, and having booked a provisional spot in Q2. Mission very much accomplished for the Repsol Honda rider.

Back to top

Portimao MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Normality, And Marc Marquez, Return To MotoGP

After a month in the desert, MotoGP returns to something more resembling normality. The Grand Prix paddock has left Qatar behind to fly to Europe, gathering at the Circuito do Algarve in Portimão, Portugal. The change is all-encompassing: from the wild temperature swings from day to night of Qatar to the temperate climes of Portugal's Algarve coast in balmy springtime; from dust and wind to mist and sunshine. From the bright artificial spotlights to being bathed in natural sunlight.

Above all, though, the change is from having a narrow window where everything resembled race conditions, that golden hour from 7pm to 8pm, to having usable conditions both morning and afternoon. From a track where Michelin couldn't bring a selection of tires which would allow a choice for the race at night, to a track where the teams should be able to find a tire that works for their bike, instead of having to bend their bikes to suit the only tire that will withstand the the weird conditions that prevail in the Qatari night.

Not that tires won't be an issue at Portimão. Last year's allocation has been tweaked, based on data collected at the track when MotoGP visited for the first time. And because we go there now in mid-April, rather than late November, when the sun is higher in the sky and radiating more heat into the ribbon of asphalt the riders have to traverse.

Known quantities

Back to top

Crunching The Numbers: How Likely Is Marc Marquez To Win The 2021 MotoGP Title?

Can Marc Márquez win the championship this year? Has he left his return too late to catch up? How fast will he be on his return to MotoGP at Portimão? The answer to all of these burning questions is "we don't know", but that doesn't stop us from asking them. And from trying to make our best guess at what might have happened by the end of the year.

The best place to start to answer these questions is the past. We don't know how Marc Márquez will perform in the future, but we do know what he has done in the past. And by examining his past results, we can extrapolate in the hope of getting a glimpse of the future.

You also need something to compare Márquez' performance against. So I have taken the points scored by Marc Márquez in every season he has competed in MotoGP – 2013-2019, as crashing out of one race in 2020 is not particularly instructive – and calculated the average points per race, and what that would work out to if he were to score that average over the 17 races which (provisionally, at least) remain of the 2021 season. Points have been averaged for each of his seven seasons in MotoGP, as well as over his entire career.

Comparisons

Back to top

Fixing Moto3 Penalties - Pedro Acosta Shows Pit Lane Starts Aren't Enough

The Moto3 race at the Doha round will live on in the collective memory of race fans for a very long time. The fact that Pedro Acosta won the Moto3 race in Qatar at the tender age of 16 years and 314 days, becoming the eleventh youngest Grand Prix winner of all time, was remarkable enough. The fact that it was just his second Grand Prix made it even more remarkable, especially after Acosta finished on the podium in his first race.

But what Acosta's victory in the Qatar 2 Moto3 race will be most remembered for is the fact that the Spanish youngster won the race after starting from pit lane. Acosta, along with six other riders – Romano Fenati, Dennis Foggia, Sergio Garcia, Stefano Nepa, Deniz Öncü, and Riccardo Rossi – was punished for dawdling on the racing line between Turns 15 and 16 in the final moments of FP2, as they jockeyed for position looking for a tow to help them get through to Q2.

It was a breathtaking progression. The green light went on for the riders in pit lane a couple of seconds after the last rider had passed the line marking pit lane exit. Acosta slotted in behind Garcia as they fired away, but soon took over the lead. Acosta passed the timing loop marking the end of the first sector some 12 seconds behind Gabriel Rodrigo, who led the race at that point. By the end of the lap, he had cut the deficit to just over 11 seconds.

Cream always rises

Back to top

Doha Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison On Pedro Acosta's Record-Breaking Charge To Victory

The New King?

If you haven't done so already, remember the name. It's testament to how good, how dramatic Sunday's action was that Moto3's mad, 18-rider dash didn't get top billing. But this may well be looked back on as the beginning of something very special in years to come. At just 16 years and 314 days of age, Pedro Acosta not only won his second ever grand prix; he did so by producing one of the great Moto3 rides in modern times.

It was a performance that showcased so many attributes. Self-belief. Fighting spirit. Raw speed. Maturity. Nerve. Acosta's riding to bridge the gap to the leading group was exceptional. But the manner in which he sliced through the pack of experienced names before holding off Darryn Binder's late response was another level altogether. Every once in a while, a teenager comes along and does something so remarkable the whole paddock is talking soon after. Marc Márquez at Estoril in 2010 comes to mind. As does Brad Binder's exploits at Jerez six years later. It's fair to say both have gone on to bigger and better things.

One of seven names penalised for brainless riding at the close of Friday evening's FP2, the reigning Red Bull Rookies Champion had every right to assume the chances of backing up his opening night podium were gone. "Yesterday I saw everything a bit dark," he said of accepting the punishment for his indiscretion.

Back to top

Qatar 2 MotoGP Subscriber Notes: The Fastest, Closest Race Ever, Factory vs Satelltie, Miller vs Mir, Remarkable Rookies, And Pointless Penalties

It has been a long, long stay for the MotoGP paddock in Qatar. The first group arrived in the first days of March, for the first MotoGP test starting on March 5th. Then another three-day test starting on March 10th. Then the Moto2 and Moto3 tests, from March 19th to 21st. A week later the first Grand Prix weekend, and the first races on March 28th. And finally, on Sunday, April 4th, the second round of the season at Qatar. The MotoGP riders have spent 11 days riding around the Losail International Circuit. The Moto2 and Moto3 riders a "mere" nine days.

Everyone is very, very over being in Qatar. There is nothing left to learn at the track, despite the incredibly fickle nature of the conditions created by the (media- and PR-driven) need to hold the race at night. For some teams and riders, there was very little to learn there in the first place. Was there anything KTM had learned that would be useful in Portimão and Jerez, I asked Miguel Oliveira. "Nothing. It was simple and clear," the Red Bull KTM rider responded, clearly interested only in going home after so many weeks away. He wasn't the only one.

Back to top

Qatar 2 MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Keeping Illustrious Company, Confusion In Qatar, And Whether The End Of An Era Is In Sight

"I'm so glad to hear that a lot of the riders are confused! Because I am too, I really am." Franco Morbidelli, like just about everyone in the MotoGP paddock in Qatar, has spent so long trying to get his head around the Losail International Circuit and the tricks it can play, with grip, with wind, with track temperatures, and so much more, that he is utterly lost. "I don't know what's going on. Something is going on, and I hope that whatever is going on, it will go away as soon as possible, because it is tricky to work like this."

"Consistency has been difficult this weekend because the track is different every time we exit the pits," Jack Miller agreed. "There's only one more day left here in Qatar and I'll try and make it a good one and get out of here in one piece." After nearly a month in the Gulf state, on and off, and ten days riding around the same track, everyone is very, very over being in Qatar.

First there's the weird schedule, which means the riders hit the track in the late afternoon and finish in the middle of the evening. By the time they are done, it is well past midnight before they can hit the sack. Then there's the track. The grip is too inconsistent, the conditions are too changeable, the window for race conditions is too narrow. If engineering is about changing one variable at a time, Qatar is like twisting every knob at random and hoping for the best. An idle hope in almost every case.

Back to top

Qatar 2 MotoGP Friday Round Up: Changing Conditions, Reusing Tires, And Why Morbidelli's Engine Issue May Be Fine

Plus ça change... if you put the top four from FP2 of Qatar 1 from a week ago next to the top four of FP2 from today, what difference would you see? The same four names, with only the names of Johann Zarco and Fabio Quartararo swapped around, the Yamaha rider now fourth instead of third, as he was last week, the lone M1 amid an army of Ducatis.

Even the times are virtually identical: the time difference between Pecco Bagnaia's second place last week and this is just 0.036. The time difference between the third-place times is 0.038. And the difference between the fourth-place times was 0.003, a mere three thousandths of a second.

Only Jack Miller really improved his time. In fact, Miller set a blistering lap, improving his time from last week by nearly a quarter of a second. That was faster than he had been in qualifying last week, though he still would have started from fifth on the grid.

The factory Ducati rider was satisfied with his days work. As well he might be: he set his fast lap after having a huge moment in Turn 15 on his previous run, when he was thrown out of the seat and forced to come straight back in again. He was not phased, banging out his quickest lap on his first flying lap out of the pits.

Different conditions

Back to top

Qatar 2 MotoGP Preview: How To Win At Qatar On A Ducati, And Why Tires Do And Don't Make The Difference

One week later, MotoGP is back at the same race track, with the same riders, and likely racing in pretty much the same conditions. Does this mean we are going to see exactly the same result in the Doha Grand Prix as we did for the Qatar Grand Prix?

That will depend. And it will perhaps depend on how well the MotoGP riders learn the lessons of last week, as well as the lessons of the past. If Maverick Viñales maintains the form he showed last Sunday, he will be very difficult to beat.

Difficult, but not impossible. Sure, Viñales' pace was astounding: he beat Jorge Lorenzo's race lap record from 2016 by three tenths of a second, and the race was the second fastest in history, just two tenths slower than Lorenzo's race win from 2016. And it could have been even faster than the 2016 race if Viñales hadn't backed off during the last three laps, his pace dropping from mid 1'55s to low 1'56s. Viñales' advantage over second-place finisher Johann Zarco dropped from 1.7 seconds on lap 20 to just over 1 second at the end of the race.

Back to top

Qatar Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison On Aki Ajo's Nose For Talent, Sam Lowes' Title Charge, And Diggia Winning For Fausto

As always, Moto2/3 delivered plenty of talking points at the Qatar Grand Prix. Sunday’s results threw up a host of surprises and some fine racing. Here, we take a look through some of the big talking points from both classes.

Aki Chose Well

Viñales and Lowes were the winners in the top two classes. But the man with arguably the most to celebrate on Sunday was Aki Ajo. Of his four riders in 2021, two finished second and fifth in the Moto2 race. The other two: first and second in Moto3. Not a bad return when two of those names – Raul Fernandez in Moto2 and Pedro Acosta in Moto3 – were rookies in their respective classes.

As a highly successful team boss and known talent spotter, not every one of Ajo’s past gambles has paid off. For every Marc Márquez, Johann Zarco and Brad Binder, there has been a Nico Antonelli, Can Öncü or Tetsuta Nagashima, names that never quite lived up to the initial billing.

And the latter is worth mentioning. When he was ruthlessly cut from Ajo’s Moto2 squad late last year, it was not only cut-throat in the extreme (Nagashima remains without a ride in 2021); it was a risk. At that time, Fernandez had yet to win a grand prix and still seemed a work in progress. Promoting him to Moto2 alongside Remy Gardner seemed a touch premature, especially when he had yet to master the race craft necessary in a Moto3 brawl.

Back to top

Pages