MotoGP Qatar Preview: Can Vinales Make It Two In A Row?

Maverick Vinales Monster Energy Yamaha ( Image: Yamaha)

Well round one of the 2021 MotoGP season is done and dusted and surprise, surprise, it was not Ducati on the top step of the podium as all had expected based on pre-season testing. It was all about the almost forgotten Mr Maverick Vinales on the factory Yamaha finding the perfect blend of cornering speed and tire management to win in Qatar.

He also had a lot of help from a seasoned vet in the form of Mr. Cal Crutchlow – Yamaha’s new test rider, who essentially set the bike up for Vinales in pre-season testing and Vinales loved Cal’s set-up so much that he turned it into a winner on race day with an impressive performance.

The Suzuki’s were there too, as they usually are in the later stages of the race, and so close to a podium for defending champ Joan Mir, but those pesky Ducatis have so much grunt out of the corners and such a top speed advantage, that they were able to claw back some podium spots out of the last corner in a nail-biting drag race to the finish line.

The factory Ducatis showed promise early on, but tire management became an issue later in the race and they faded, with the exception of the brilliant Johann Zarco who finished second on his debut for the satellite Pramac Ducati team. Yamaha and Suzuki marched forward from mid-race on, thanks to their cornering agility and better tire durability.

Overall it was a very entertaining race, no Marc Marquez return yet, but lots of passing back and forth. The KTM boys Binder and Oliveira were nowhere near the front, suffering with front tire issues and corner turn-in, and the SRT Yamahas of Rossi and Morbidelli too failed to perform too after a promising qualifying for Rossi. Again, tire issues the problem.

So this weekend its back to the same track for round two under the lights again. If the weather warms up, it could be a very different race from last weekend’s as the frigid ambient temps last week affected many of the machines and riders as they were forced to all run softer tire compounds, which didn’t suit teams like KTM, Ducati and SRT Yamaha.

It’s going to be interesting to see how teams change things up to adapt to the same track again in an effort to overcome their shortcomings of round one last weekend. The Yamahas and Suzukis will not doubt be up at there near the end again, but how do they prevent the godzilla-like power of the Ducatis from stealing their thunder at the end. Suzuki need to be able to gap the Ducatis to ensure there is no repeat of last weekend, when the 226 mph (fastest top speed in MotoGP history) red machines blasted past Joan Mir in the final run to the line. It was like watching a rabbit vs turtle drag race!