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.

With no MotoGP next weekend, we can afford to take a step back and take a longer look at the events of both race weekends in a wider context. I will do that in the coming week, and for tonight, just cover a few initial thoughts on the second MotoGP round in Qatar as briefly and succinctly as is possible for someone who finds writing anything under 4,000 words a challenge. But here goes.

So in this first batch of subscriber notes from Qatar:

  • Race was fast and close, why?
  • KTM's big step
  • A Yamaha or Ducati track?
  • Ducati's curious conundrum
  • Miller vs Mir
  • Winners and losers from the second round
  • Rookie sensations
  • Pit lane penalties

But first, the MotoGP race. It produced the closest MotoGP race through the field in history, and by a massive margin. The top ten were covered by just 5.382 seconds. The previous closest top 10 was Brno 2018, where 8.326 seconds separated Andrea Dovizioso in first from Andrea Iannone, then on the Suzuki, in tenth. The top 15 at Qatar 2 were separated by just 8.928 seconds, almost the same time that covered ten riders at Brno in 2018. The previous top 15 record was Qatar 2019, when 15.093 seconds covered Andrea Dovizioso through to Johann Zarco.

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Source: 
year: 
2021
round_number: 
2

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Comments

MotoGP had a little clip of interviews with Miller and Mir, and more footage of their contact. Coming out of 16, Mir was on the kerb. He was on the white line, and Miller vertu obviously ran it hard to the edge where Mir was. I don't think there's any real doubt that it was a bit intentional at the least, and I'm a bit surprised race direction didn't do anything for it. Hopefully Miller finds his firm after we return to Europe.

One of my favourite personalitlies in the paddock but from what we saw on the cameras he straight up rammied into Mir. Looked at him twice on the very outside of the track and rode straight into him. Very dissapointing behaviour. 

At least it didn't lead to kung fu, unlike some other combatants this sunday!

I prefer to think John knew one of the few places to inflict pain on a helmet wearing and suited racer! Thought it was quite clever.

Fabio... impressed. Mav too. Yamaha can now fight in a new way. Genuinely surprised. Hoping it translates to Europe and isn't a desert mirage

Miller- sorry mate, but looking over and then slamming into Mir looks pretty poor. We all saw it. Not a good time to be the least factory-looking GP21 when ur the most seasoned MotoGP rider on one by far.

Moto3 penalties- I hope Race Direction doesn't make them more servere. Forcing the Moto3 villains to bargain with their fellow cuthroats (and a mighty carrot dangled now that It Can Be Done) seems both appropriately humbling and an extra thrilling element for the fan. Moto3 Superpole would be super cool though. 

So many records were made and broken during this Qatari double header. Closest top 15 ever in Motogp and most likely all of Grand Prix. Two French riders on the podium since 1954. A satellite team rookie gets his first podium in only his second race and leads the race for 18 laps. A Yamaha was piloted to the win from as far back as 9th place (which may be a first since the Rossi era back when he had rear traction and possibly before Luca was even born). Aprilia’s closest margin to the race winner ever in Motogp (and Espargaro still finished 10th)! No factory Ducati rider has graced the top step at Qatar since Dovizioso in 2019 (which in recent history has been a Ducati playground). Pramac Ducati starts off the season with three podiums to the factory’s one. Both Yamaha riders had to fight their way through the packs to win the double header races. And Quartararo had a wardrobe malfunction and got arm pump while fiddling with the sleeve zipper on his leathers before the warmup. A team member had to help him get dressed! And what is even more shocking is that he recovered from this setback and went on to win the race in stellar fashion.

 

I never accounted for the wildcard known as Jorge Martin. I ass-u-me(d) that based on last week’s performance Bastianini might still pass Martin before the checkers. And yet, Martin looks to be a quick study. Chapeau.

 

If it is true that the factory Ducati team uses computer modeling to determine what the bike is capable of doing on the track and therefore the rider should be able replicate that, the heads at Ducati might give serious consideration to changing their philosophy that machine intelligence is of greater import than the rider’s talent, mindset and natural ability. Post race pressers are filled with intelligent and mature comments laced with “being in control”, “having a great feeling” and “the feeling gave me the confidence to push.” When a rider intuits that the bike is more important than them, their confidence and sense of control takes a hit. They are already on the back foot before the racing has even started and believe they have to produce results generated by machine artificial intelligence. And this dynamic can work on the mind unconsciously. Especially during peak experiences…like during a Motogp race. Then incidents like missing the braking marker for turn one and the Miller/Mir clash rear their ugly heads. A rider needs an open mind during the race to be able to understand what is happening at warp speed in the moment. Then a Motogp rider with an open mind can express himself to the best of his natural ability on a two-wheeled motorocket. Our presence and natural intelligence adjusts to changing conditions in the now and will always trump artificial machine intelligence in the end. There is already enough pressure. The last thing a manufacturer needs to do is force a rider to race around in the dark [the long shadow of a towering supercomputer or even a certain Mr. Stoner for that matter (super talent)].

 

Yamaha told Quartararo that all the maps were programmed into the bike to be changed at specific times of the race. And yet, they left him in control and told him to go with his feeling. Quartararo said the best part of the race was they had a strategy, but he went with the feeling and he won the race. And his feeling provided a mapping strategy that ended up being completely different than what had been planned by the team. It’s true that these guys do well when they are all alone out there figuring out life at blistering speeds while doing battle with like minded individuals.

 

 

Interesting Peter. I can only see such modeling to be an advantage. I'd be surprised if there is a manufacturer on the grid that isn't using some kind of modeling. I guess the question is weight, as in how much weight you give to the resulting data.

It's not impossible that for a given context the nasty computers will produce perfection but it is not guaranteed either. What it will produce is a theoretical baseline. Useful for the purpose of comparison especially when considering the complexity of the bikes. Take 10 switches, each switch has 10 possible positions...ahh but ok of the possible combinations we can safely say only 0.00001% of them are maybe useful...how much time do you have to go through the remaining thousand ? Silly numbers game i know but it's a similar problem.

Does it replace Morbidelli Forcada ? No. Can it be a useful tool to Morbidelli Forcada. Possibly. You know, if they only sold one type and brand of cereal, supermarket shopping would be so much easier. Does make me wonder when riders/teams get 'lost' and are trying many many things. However, if these many many things are generated via computer modeling that in itself is not necessarily the problem but the ability to navigate the many might be.

Also brings to mind Bagnaia's comments around Misano last year and changing his riding of the bike to how the engineers said the bike needed to be ridden. Last year the two future factory boys were definitely talking 'with the program' as opposed to Dovi's comments about the situation. If a rider cannot do what the computer says can be done it changes little in the grand scheme of things. Ok, we replace the rider. Who with ? A rider who does as the computer says but slower ? That doesn't work, has to do as computer says and be faster. What if he does not do as the computer says and is faster still ? In the end it's only the faster that matters, no matter how it's achieved.

I wouldn't read too much into most 'using AI' statements, the definition of AI has grown exponentially in recent years. Seems these days setting any criteria may equate to machine learning and if an algorithm changes Kblah then surely it must have intelligence. All about fitting the magic two letters somewhere in the description because it's the future.

Watching the impact on Miller in turn 10. I was surprised he didn't lose he front. I would be annoyed. The commentators then said all's fair in love and war.... and then turn 16....

I think Mir ran wide. Jack saw that and decided to hold his line as Amir had done in Turn 10. He knew that Mir would come back onto the track and braced for impact. Racing. Mir has raced hard and well for his career but he knows the game. It's a shame as I think I wrecked both their races. but nothing wrong. Hard racing

Amazing racing in every class. 
 

I still remember the Biaggi "magic elbow" at Suzuka on the front straight pushing Rossi onto the dirt approaching maximum acceleration. So we are still a long way from that type of craziness!
 

 

I was disappointed with that move by Jack, I'm sure it was deliberate retaliation for Mir's admiddedly hard pass. I'm sure the guy is very upset with his results, but that's no reason to take it out on another rider. Of course, he has all that well-known love, compassion, and understanding from the Ducati management to buck him up ...

You had a nap between the rumble in the jungle, I mean, desert, and the main show?

On paper, Moto2 *should* procude the closest racing, but I guess if one rider extracts the most out of the package, and all the packages are near identical, that rider will prevail, and the second best will be second, and so on, down through the field.

Anyone attempting to ride "out of order" falls off, it seems.

Early days for sure, but at what point if Zarco is still leading the championship does Ducati remove the test mule duties and go all in with him for the championship?  

If it was any other rider than Mir wide on the exit does anyone think contact would have been made by Miller?

Great write up, I look forward to the deeper dive later in the week.  

Zarco is a double WC, back to back.  I think there is another level of champion when you have the cajones to win the WC and then do it again next year.  Zarco has the maturity and experience that none of the other riders do - I hope Ducati realize this and plan accordingly. 

I think Miller was asking why should he worry where other riders are on the track when apparently other 'riders' do not worry themselves too much about where he is. I've always found the use of the word accidental to be quite strange when concerning contacts such as Rossi-Gibernau, Marquez-Lorenzo etc and ponder the differences between these and 'the move that shall not be named' or Miller-Mir. Accidental -> 'I didn't intend to make contact but entered the corner with no hope of making the apex.' Or is it, 'I obviously didn't want contact but unfortunately the other rider didn't get out of the way.'

I think Jack was bad, bad bad boy, naughty Jack, wrong thing to do...but i completely agree with him.

Either Jack was wrong or you agree with him.... can't have it both ways. Those kinds of disputes are for Race Direction to parse out.

I think all this excitement has taken its toll on me. Why? Well at last week's race I was amazed to see the 'normal' 2-300 crowd opposite the start line, all seemingly ex-pats and-from what I could see-all wearing face masks. Knowing that Qatar is on red alert accepting people from many countries I was amazed (unless they were the only ones left alive from the football stadium labour force?). Anyway, this week, the 'crowd' were, err, not there at all! Did I imagine all this, and if so, what time is the last train to Clarksville?

There's always international troop deployments locally, that's where many of those fans come from in years past.

David, if you include the 500's (Rossi as a rookie), you surely had to mention the most outstanding rookie-race ever (imho) by a man who has been given not enough credit for his abilities : Max Biaggi outclassed them all  by winning his first race, on a viscious 2-stroke !

With the MotoGP now so close, and ex-Moto3 riders now racing in MotoGP it looks like they might be resuming their old riding habits pushing the limits and barging through to overtake rather than being able to do the clean overtaking that we've grown used to with some riders having superior bikes.

While Mir is generally a class act, he's not exactly immune from the odd hair brained manouver.  I recall his insane weaving down the back straight at Aragon in his Moto3 championship year, if anyone had slipstreamed past (as you do) they'd have been hit with a tremendous horizonal velocity.  Last race last year he actually dislocated Bagnaia's shoulder by barging into him (possibly knocked someone else off too??) in a rush to overcome a typical poor grid position.  Jack's retalliation was pretty sketchy, but Mir taking the butter-wouldn't-melt line is a bit rich.

Not much to say other than the racing these days is a far cry from the 800 and early 1000 era.  The same four or five riders dominating for basically a decade or (much) more.  What we're seeing now with the likes of Bagnaia, Martin, et al is more like what I remember of watching in the 80's.  Riders had a short window of opportunity - more often than not exiting the sport through injury - but none the less a constant stream of new guys riding at the front and winning.  Thanfully riders now are less likely to be exiting due to injury, rather just dropped after not showing more or less immediate results.  The re-invention of Avintia since Zarco arrived seems to have exorcised the last really average team/bikes/riders from the field, leaving only the second slot at Aprilia the perennial turd.  If they can bolt together two RSGP's as good as Aleix's bike, and coax Dovi to take over Savadori's ride we will have a true 22 more or less competitive (or potentially competitive) combinations on the grid.

MotoGP: This is what Qatar 1 might've been without the strong headwind: i.e. Ducati's annihilating of the opposition down the straights at will - which makes Fabio's win all the more impressive. KTM's progress is promising, despite Olivera riding the entire race with a blank dash! Petronas need a massive turnaround lest the morale completely crumble. 

Moto2: As an American fan it was painful to see both Joe and Cameron throw it away. I literally cheered when it looked like Beaubier had settled into 13th around lap 10 - hoped his late-race pace would give him a solid top-10. Moments later, he binned it.

Moto3: I only watched this yesterday, and it was easily amongst the best races I've seen, perhaps ever. Acosta stunned the racing world with that win, and every moment throughout the race was breathtaking.

I've always been a Miller fan but I think the way he came together with Mir exiting that turn was wrong and at least a little intentional.  Didn't Zarco get a penalty last year for not "making way" for an offline rider in front of him trying to re-enter the racing line?  (I think it was Pol.) This seems like a very similar situation.

The pressure of having the #1 seat at Ducati may be getting to Jack.  After his bad start, I thought he might be desperate and was half-way expecting him to crash while trying to get near the front.  He is on a one year contract and Ducati seems to expect their top rider to win no matter what.  Anything less than a championship is the rider's fault in Gigi's mind.

Enough has probably been said already on Miller and Mir's coming together. I thought some of the shenanigans from the Moto 3 boys were pretty astonishing along the front straight- in particular Kaito Toba repeatedly running Masia and others onto the astro turf next to pit wall and Darryn Binder and Rodrigo deliberately hitting each other on the run into turn 1! It's interesting how severely Race Direction are punishing infractions in practice/ qualifying, yet racing has been a total free for all for the most part.

One last point- did anyone notice Joan Mir's very near jump start at Qatar 1? On his onboard he definitely rolls forward before the lights go out, but I'm guessing he stopped completely as he wasn't served with a penalty. You can actually see it from the TV feed if you watch him carefully.

I'll leave the debate about the shenanigans to everyone else; for me, the story of the weekend was Acosta's win. What an incredible feat. For sure we've seen similar things before - Marquez's final season in Moto2, didn't he start at the back at Mugello and slice his way through to win? By a country mile of course, as usual - and Rossi at PI (I think), in around 1807 or '08, so quick he finished before some of the competition were even born. It does make you wonder - did we all get to see the birth of a star?

 

Can we have a consideration of Martin's riding style and skill on this Ducati?! On the brakes he is getting it really right. He is turning it in hard and sharp. He adjusts his lines well. He hangs WAY off and in on the bike, quite athletically. It seems to take sweepers quite well with his style. Comparing it to the others riding the Duc lately he seems more dynamic. Reminds me a bit of The You Know Who. Did you see it too? What do you think? 

Smart on his part to give Zarco some room at the closing corners. He had a move! And did not take it. Measured, wise. The kid is doing the business in stunning style ALREADY on a bike that doesn't support that. 

Ready for Portimao. Isn't that a fantastic track?! We are going to see a very interesting and informative round in a couple weeks. 

P.S. are you counting Honda crashes? Did you notice Taka's comments re the front end trying to toss him? Bike is NOT "all fixed." Yamaha looked good at Losail, but even w Moto2 rubber and some sand we have yet to get measure of it at a low grip track. But, the 2021 kicked the crap out of the 2019 there Round 2 when Morbidelli didn't have rear suspension issues. So, there is that. Stay posted.

The Aprilia had a fastest race lap a quarter of the way in last round. Where it lost out was end of the big straight via it's ambitious aero. Perhaps in Portugal we get to see more. And isn't some Italian guy supposed to give it a spin too?

KTM has two riders coming to impress you next round. The bike will present well. So will the track. Don't underestimate Binder! He is coming into his powerband. 

;)