By Sajith B Warrier
Defending MotoGP world champion Joan Mir missed out on a podium finish as Maverick Vinales won the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix. Maverick Vinales got his 2021 FIM MotoGP World Championship campaign up and running with a season-opening victory as he charged up from fifth at the Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar. Under the lights, at the Losail International Circuit, pole-setter Francesco Bagnaia could not get away from the chasing pack, which included Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) and his Ducati team-mate Jack Miller.
With defending world champion Joan Mir – starting in 10th – and fellow Suzuki rider Alex Rins struggling to keep pace initially, it was Monster Yamaha’s Vinales who made his move. Qatar GP: Bagnaia grabs maiden pole Finding himself in fifth with 15 laps remaining, Vinales closed the gap on Bagnaia by the time the final seven came around. After threatening once but being held off, Vinales spotted a gap and dived through to take a lead he would not relinquish. Bagnaia’s race looked set to go from bad to worse when he dropped out of the top three altogether.
It left Zarco and Mir tussling for second, and last year’s champion had the edge on the last lap yet, in a remarkable twist, he fell short on the final corner. Mir appeared to run wide, with his exit speed dropping and allowing Zarco to clinch second – Bagnaia, who had blitzed the Losail lap record in qualifying, battling back to mark his first race for Ducati with a podium finish. Fabio Quartararo completed the top five, with Mir’s team-mate Rins finishing sixth.
There was misery for Takaaki Nakagami, who crashed out on turn nine midway through the race, with Danilo Petrucci’s Tech3 KTM debut also coming to a premature end. 2021 FIM MotoGP World Championship round 1 is now in the history books, and round 2 is just around the corner at Losail. The second race of the season — the Tissot Grand Prix of Doha — will be held on April 4 at the same venue.
1. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP)
2. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) + 1.092
3. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 1.129
4. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 1.222
5. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 3.030
6. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 3.357
7. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) + 5.934
8. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) + 5.990
9. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 7.058 10. Enea Bastianini (Esponsorama Racing) + 9.288 (With Omnisport/MotoGP.com inputs)