MotoGP Portimao II: preview of the race weekend
MotoGP staff |
Image: GeeBee Images
MotoGP returns to Portugal for its second visit in 2021 to the Algarve roller coaster, but one key player is missing – Marc Marquez of Repsol Honda.
The 2021 FIM MotoGP World Champion may already be decided, but there is still a lot to do this season. There are two Grands Prix remaining, and there are also the Team and Constructor crowns to contend with.
Next stop is a round trip ticket to the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve as the paddock prepares for the Grande Premio Brembo do Algarve, so there is already a point of comparison this season to get a taste of what expect. That won’t include the added presence of a stronger Marquez, however, as the eight-time world champion is sidelined as a precaution, having suffered a mild concussion in training on Saturday.
An exact replay of the Portuguese GP would probably suit new champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) very well. The Frenchman dominated on our first visit and placed in the top three on the podium which exactly mirrors the 2021 standings. If there hasn’t been a scramble since, that’s not a problem at all. for El Diablo, especially since the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP team arrives 13 points ahead of the Team standings. But Quartararo was already in its tracks at the start of the season, which, arguably, Ducati Lenovo’s Francesco Bagnaia hit a bit later.
The other obstacle for Bagnaia’s charge to stay with Quartararo in the first victory in Portugal was a roller coaster qualifying which saw one lap scored for the track limits and another for a yellow flag. This caused him to drop 10 places behind Quartararo on the grid, but Bagnaia and Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) moved from 11th and ninth to second and third respectively. Now, Bagnaia arrives with the last four pole positions in his pocket… the sensible bet is therefore against the Italian who must repeat his comeback on the second take.
Mir and Suzuki, meanwhile, arrive hoping to repeat this podium but still looking for some Saturday secrets. The 2020 champion has never had a front row in MotoGP and despite five podiums this season he has a better 2021 with a fifth place and this is – at the Styrian GP – the only time he has started on both. front lines this season. It’s a lot of extra work to do on Sunday and he also arrives on the back foot after falling to Misano from 18th place on the grid. His performance in Portugal last time around was impressive, and that will be a bright spot en route – as will Valencia’s reappearance on the horizon, the scene of their first MotoGP victory.
Another bright spot as the Hamamatsu factory aims to push forward will be the pace displayed by Mir’s teammate Alex Rins on the first Portuguese visit. The Spaniard eventually crashed, but he had been able to stay with Quartararo until then. Can Suzuki get out of the momentum and challenge again in the Algarve GP?
Ducati and Yamaha do not hope that Suzuki is not in contention for the Team and Manufacturer standings but could complicate the life of the leading duo. The aforementioned 13 point lead for Monster Energy Yamaha in the team standings is a lead over Ducati Lenovo Team, and Ducati has a 12 point lead in manufacturers over… that’s right, Yamaha. Suzuki is third in both. So there could be a lot of key players: Jack Miller from Ducati, Johann Zarco and Jorge Martin from Pramac Racing, Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama), Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), Valentino Rossi from Petronas Yamaha SRT and Andrea Dovizioso…
The fight for Rookie of the Year is also intensifying. After Martin quickly took the lead, Bastianini is now the driver in the hot seat after another superb podium won at the GP of Emilia Romagna. The Italian is five points ahead of the Spaniard with just two races to go, so it could potentially be completed this weekend, although he looks likely to roll to the final. Who will emerge victorious in Portugal?
The best driver of the independent team is another up for grabs this weekend, but it’s a bigger gap and the advantage falls in Zarco’s favor. He’s back in fourth place after retiring for Miller last time as well, and the Pramac rider has 39 points over Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini). Zarco has to leave the Algarve GP 26 free to wrap up the title, so he has to lose less than 13 to the Aprilia rider.
Espargaro could also lose touch with Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) this weekend in the fight for seventh place and above in the overall standings, so the number 41 will want to maximize his potential in Portugal. Binder and KTM are also behind Marc Marquez and Honda, Suzuki being mathematically still within reach of the Austrian factory. With Marquez also sidelined, Honda’s hopes rest more on Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team), fresh off the podium, as well as Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) and Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol).
Back at KTM, the Algarve GP will also be a big weekend for Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing). The Portuguese rider has had some incredible races this year, including this impressive victory in Catalonia, but after a more difficult race he will want to end the season on a high. He is a former winner in Portimão after that demolition job in 2020, although he will more likely aim for a good harvest of points and a return to the front this time around. The number 88 was also back at Misano, fighting for the podium before his charge ended in a crash. What can he bring home?
The championship is settled, but there is still plenty of spectacle to be seen in 2021 as the roller coaster returns to deliver another stunner!