The opening MotoGP race of 2021 saw Factory Yamaha rider, Maverick Viñales come out on top, followed by Johann Zarco and Francesco Bagnaia who poached Joan Mir of 2nd place on the final stint to the finish.
From start to finish, the Top Gun of Maverick Viñales unravelled a smart performance, slowly progressing through the leading bunch of riders to enter the lead and take the win by a short margin.
Behind him, it was all to play for. In the end, it came down to a nail-biting finish. The World Champion, Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) lost out on a second place, getting outran to the line by Johan Zarco (Pramac Racing) and Francesco Bagnaia (Team Lenovo Racing).
As the lights dropped to kick off the first race of the season, fans watched in amazement as Ducati completely dominated the rest of the field, mugging Yamaha riders, Fabio Quartararo and Viñales off the line. Francesco Bagnaia made a flawless start from pole position to remain the frontman, followed by Jack Miller, Zarco, and Jorge Martin, who propelled himself from 14th on the grid to join his fellow Ducati riders inside the top 4.
Quartararo and Viñales slowly began progressing through the field after being flogged at the start. It didn’t take long for the Yamaha riders to regroup with the leading bunch, overtaking Jorge Martin who slipped back to 6th position on lap 3. After starting from 2nd, Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) found himself dropping back, jostling for position with Alex Rins and Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar). The factory Suzuki riders managed to outperform The Doctor, beginning to close the gap to Martin.
Back at the sharp end of the field, Quartararo and Viñales began to re-establish their dominance on their Ducati rivals, making their way past Miller. In his debut Factory Ducati race, the Australian began to drop his pace and was eventually closed down by Alex Rins. Joan Mir found himself over two seconds behind the leading bunch in seventh place. As the race went on, Viñales began edging his way towards the podium positions, finding himself in third place with 12 laps to go. The following lap, the Yamaha rider divided the red missiles, diving up the inside of Zarco, finding himself hot on the heels of race leader, Bagnaia.
Following the leading bunch, Rins managed to outperform Quartararo with Mir and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) engaged in an entertaining battle while stalking the Frenchman and reducing the gap. At this point in the race, the Yamaha’s strength in corner speed became clear, on lap 15, Viñales overtook Bagnaia and entered P1. The field became closely packed together, with the top 8 riders covered by 2.3 seconds. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) sat in 9th place, only 3.5 seconds from the front.
Meanwhile, Viñales went on to pull a small lead at the front. With six laps remaining, Zarco Fought his way past Bagnaia into Turn 1 while Mir got past Miller into 5th place. Back at the front, Viñales and Zarco began to pull away with the Frenchman holding a 1-second gap to Bagnaia in third. The Yamaha rider in P1 then checked out, digging in to pull a 1.6 second lead.
The following riders were engaged in a heated battle for the remaining podium positions. Mir on the Suzuki worked hard to overtake Bagnaia on the Factory Ducati and before long, Zarco found himself under threat from the 2020 World Champion. With Viñales running at a great pace and over a second away from his closes rivals with two laps to go, it was his race to lose. P2, P3, and P4 were occupied by Zarco, struggling to keep Mir at bay, with Bagnaia closely trailing the pair in the fourth position.
On the last lap, it was all or nothing, with the Suzuki rider trying desperately to secure second place for the majority of the lap. It all came down to turn 15, where Mir lined himself up perfectly to overtake Zarco, with only one corner to go, he looked set to achieve a great podium finish.
The race, however, didn’t end there. The Ducati missiles were about to showcase just how powerful they are. While Viñales went on to take the win, Mir found himself wide around the final turn and was left in a vulnerable position, heading full throttle towards the line. With nothing else he could do, Zarco and Bagnaia came flying past the Suzuki man to take second and third place, leaving Mir in the dust to take a disappointing fourth place after pushing hard to get in front; a thrilling end to what was an incredible last-lap battle for the podium.
Fabio Quartararo brought it home 3 seconds behind his teammate in P5, beating Rins by three-tenths of a second. Following him was Aleix Espargaro in P7, proving the Aprilia has made a huge step forward for 2021. His brother Pol came past the line only by 0.056 seconds after on the Factory Honda machine.
Jack Miller had a disappointing debut race in factory Ducati colours, coming across the line P9. After the first few laps, his pace wasn’t enough to remain towards the front end of the field. The rookie of Enea Bastianini (Esponsorama Racing) ran a great debut race finishing in the top 10, just 9 seconds from the race win, an outstanding performance by the Italian.
Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) stepped in for Marc Marquez and finished in a solid P11, while it was a race to forget for the Petronas Yamaha STR riders. Franco Morbidelli found himself dropping back to 20th position after only 5 laps of the race, he managed to fight through two positions to finish in a troublesome P18. The 9x World Champion, Valentino Rossi also began dropping down the order, dictating a slow pace and coming across the line in P12.
The final point scorers were Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) being the leading KTM on track. Following him in P13 was teammate Brad Binder in P14 while Martin eventually fell back down to P15.
It was an incredible season opener at the Losail International Circuit. Maverick ‘Top Gun’ Viñales proved to be unstoppable come raceway while the Ducati boys in red have given their teams something to be proud of. With Round 1 now out of the way, we can look forward to the second race of the season being held again at Losail next weekend- we can only hope for more of the same.