Maverick Viñales Wins Opening Round of 2021 MotoGP Season at the GP of Qatar
The ENEOS-sponsored Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP rider Maverick Viñales rode an incredible race at the Losail International Circuit. The Yamaha man started the 2021 MotoGP season with a perfect victory at the Grand Prix of Qatar. New teammate Fabio Quartararo also put up a strong fight after dropping back from Viñales but regrouped to finish a strong fifth.
Viñales and Quartararo put in some real teamwork at the 2021 MotoGP season opener. After a difficult start where the Ducati riders were catapulted away from the grid, the duo stormed towards the front of the pack as a tag team. With Quartararo initially hunting down their opponents, he was eventually passed by Viñales, who proceeded to take on the frontrunners and record an exciting win.
Viñales found incredible pace and was ready to chase hard for his first podium of the 2021 season. The Spaniard passed his teammate with 12 laps to go, assuming the role of ’lead Factory Yamaha‘ in third position overall. He then closed the gap to Johann Zarco in a matter of a few corners. Once in second place, he reeled in race leader, Francesco Bagnaia on the Factory Ducati. Viñales found a way past on lap 15 and took off. Having brilliantly managed his tires, Viñales extended his lead all the way to the checkered flag with a 1.092sec lead gap to second.
“The race was especially good because I had the opportunity to fight with other riders, which is always important – it‘s been a while since I passed so many riders in one race!” said Viñales after the podium celebrations. “In FP4 when we did a race simulation I felt fantastic and it continued into qualifying. I‘m very grateful, because winning is not easy, so we’re going to enjoy it.
“For the next race we’ll try to improve again, because we know our competitors will also improve’” he continued. “I just want to congratulate the team, because we did a good job this winter.”
Quartararo started from second place on the grid and slotted into sixth after the opening corners. He soon led a ‘Yamaha train’ consisting of himself, teammate Viñales, and Valentino Rossi to track down the leading group. By the end of the first lap, he was in fifth place. He would then pass Jorge Martin before setting his sights on the top three riders.
With 17 laps to go, the Frenchman started to put serious pressure on Jack Miller and made a smooth pass in Turn 15. He then closed a 0.9sec gap to second place, but his tires were feeling the pace and he was unable to defend his position from Viñales. With eight laps to go, Quartararo found himself in seventh place but made a final sprint to take fifth place across the finish line, with a 3.03sec margin to first.
“I was feeling so strong at the beginning of the race. As soon as I overtook Jack [Miller], I was able to catch Joan [Mir] so fast,” said Quartararo. “But then I noticed a big drop in the rear tire, which I hadn‘t experienced in testing or practice. I decided to adjust my riding a little, but Maverick still overtook me. He was in a different league and had much more grip than I did. In the end, I could overtake Rins and Miller because I was riding in a different way, so that‘s something positive. Last year, on difficult days we made mistakes and finished in P14 or crashed. Today we are P5 and scored 11 points, which is good on a tough day like this.”
The Round One results put Viñales and Quartararo in first and fifth place in the championship standings, with 25 and 11 points respectively. Yamaha and the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP team are also in first place with 25 and 36 points.
The MotoGP paddock remains in Qatar for Round 2, the Grand Prix of Doha, which will again be held at the Losail International Circuit.