2021 Qatar MotoGP, Losail Circuit - Full Qualifying Results
2021 Qatar MotoGP, Losail - Live Saturday Updates!
Qatar MotoGP: Bagnaia takes maiden pole for Ducati
Francesco Bagnaia demolished the Losail lap record to claim his maiden MotoGP pole at the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix as world champion Joan Mir was only 10th.
Bagnaia identified his weakness over the winter months: generating heat in the front tire. He struggled mainly in tracks with low temperatures and took too long to generate heat in Michelin’s fickle front.
But having studied the technique of team-mate Jack Miller—a master at quickly getting his front tire temperature up to speed—Bagnaia appears to have cured this previous weakness and has showed immediate speed in qualifying settings.
“I’m feeling good,” he said of the change. “We worked a lot this winter to improve where last year I was losing too much. With my trainer and training of academy, I did a big step in front.”
Suzuki qualifying issues remain
Reigning World Champions Suzuki still appears to be in strong shape as the factory begins its first title defense in 20 years. But the clear weakness of the GSX-RR in 2020 – its ability over a single flying lap—still remains, much to the frustration of reigning champion Joan Mir.
“I was on the limit with the front,” rued the Majorcan after qualifying a lowly 10th. “First we have to fix that. And then if you look at the lap times of everybody, I think I was not really consistent on my lap times, because was making 1 sector good, 1 not, I was over-trying, I was too aggressive probably. That made everything much worse.” Team-mate Alex Rins qualified just one place ahead, in ninth.
Covid dramas impacting paddock life
Mass testing to detect Covid-19 is still the norm in the MotoGP paddock. But that hasn’t stopped Covid-19 disrupting the start of the season for certain teams. Maverick Vinales’ crew chief Esteban Garcia and Christophe Bourguignon, Alex Marquez’s crew chief, were missing from the track on Friday due to ‘reactive’ test results.
Both were forced to quarantine in their hotel rooms upon arrival in Qatar and directed Friday’s sessions via Zoom calls. “He was always in contact and on the computer,” said the younger Marquez brother of the absence in his garage. “He wasn’t on track but it was like he was here.”
But the two technicians received the all-clear to return to the track on Saturday after testing negative tice. “It means everyone is not doing an extra job and everything under control and this is good,” said Marquez.
Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) has taken his maiden MotoGP pole position in style at the 2021 Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar, the Italian slamming in a 1:52.772—the fastest-ever two-wheel lap of Losail International Circuit—to take the honor.
Bagnaia beats second place Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) by 0.266s, with Quartararo’s fellow Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP rider Maverick Vinales. Fourth? Top Independent Team rider Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) as the Doctor made it a Yamaha armada just behind Bagnaia.
Nakagami and Mir joined Q2 after graduating through Q1. And in said session, it took Bagnaia just one lap to break the all-time lap record, a 1:53.273 coming in from the Italian to set us up for a phenomenal first pole shootout of 2021. Still, despite the P1 time being an all-time lap record, the timing screens were lit up with red sector times.
Bagnaia didn’t improve on his next lap, but teammate Jack Miller did and the Aussie took over at the top. Next was Quartararo and the Frenchman was an astonishing four tenths under at Sector 3, losing a little in the final sector but still talking over at the top, homing in on the 52s with a 1:53.038—another all-time lap record.
After the first couple of flying laps, it was a Yamaha and Ducati fest at the top, with Aleix Espargaro placing his Aprilia Racing Team Gresini machine next up in P6 ahead of Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing). Ahead of those two sat Quartararo, Miller, Vinales, Bagnaia and Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) as the grid rumbled back into pitlane and prepared for a final push.
This was it. Vinales was the leader on the road and the first to show us what he had left in his locker, the Spaniard making it a factory Yamaha 1-2. Attention then turned back to Bagnaia though, and he had Valentino Rossi in tow to boot. Pecco unleashed a mind-blowing lap to return to P1 by 0.266s, impervious and seemingly unbeatable, and Rossi’s effort put him P3 for the time being as The Doctor demoted former teammate Vinales off the front row. Top Gun then returned the favor though, taking third back and pushing Rossi down to fourth.
The front row would go unchallenged for the remaining seconds. Bagnaia said on Friday, “we will beat the record in Q2”, and he stuck to his word as the Italian to claimed his first premier class pole position in style with the fastest-ever two-wheel lap of Losail International Circuit. Quartararo and Vinales lock out the front row as The Doctor joins two of his three Yamaha counterparts inside the top four; a 1:53.114 by far the fastest Rossi has lapped Losail.
Joining the veteran Italian on the second row are Miller and Zarco. The two Bologna bullets will have been hoping for more in Q2 but the second row is a solid place from which to unleash Ducati’s holeshot device. Zarco is also the new MotoGP™ top speed record holder at 362.4km/h after FP4, and his last flying lap in Q2 was his best to knock Morbidelli onto the third row.
2020 runner up Morbidelli spearheads Row 3 and he’s joined by Aleix Espargaro in eighth place, an impressive feat given the top eight were all under Marc Marquez’s old lap record. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) is the final member on Row 3 in P9, with Mir being forced to settle for P10 – 0.910s back from pole position. Work to do on a Sunday for both Suzukis again, but if there’s one thing we learned in 2020, it’s to never discount the GSX-RR duo in race trim. Nakagami is the leading Honda ahead of the opening race of 2021 just behind them, he and Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) will fire off the line in P11 and P12.
Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) was once again in superior form at the Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar as the British rider set a 1:58.726 to take the first honors of the season. The Brit beat rookie sensation Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) to pole position by 0.140s, with Bo Bendsneyder’s (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team) awesome early season form seeing the Dutchman claim just his third Grand Prix front row start in P3, 0.233s from Lowes’.
Joe Roberts will start from fifth while Cameron Beaubier’s debut Moto2 GP will see the MotoAmerica champion start from 22nd.
From Q1 to pole, 2021 is off to a good start for Darryn Binder. The Petronas Sprinta Racing rider topped the first qualifying session to make it through to the pole position shootout at the Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar, then setting a 2:04.075—a new lap record—to take the first pole of the year, despite also dicing it out with a few rivals on the way round. Reigning FIM Moto3™ Junior World Champion Izan Guevara (GASGAS Gaviota Aspar) claimed a wonderful debut Grand Prix front row, and also progressed from Q1, with the rookie set to line up in second. Veteran campaigner and former Qatar podium finisher John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) completes the front row.
Jack Miller (Ducati Team) made a perfect start to his life as a Ducati factory rider by setting the fastest time during Friday practice for the 2021 Qatar MotoGP.
The Australian’s 1:53.387 was just 0.007s away from the all-time lap record held by the absent Marc Marquez, and teammate Francesco Bagnaia made it a Borgo Panigale factory 1-2, his time just 0.035s off Miller. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) completed the top three after ending the day 0.188 off Miller.
Johann Zarco (Pramac Ducati) finished Friday in P4, with Suzuki’s Alex Rins going well on the soft tires—something that bodes well for Suzuki to shrug off their sometimes Achilles’ heel of one-lap pace—to claim P5.
Quartararo’s teammate Maverick Vinales and Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Sprinta Yamaha) were close in sixth and seventh, respectively, finishing within three-tenths of Miller as Aleix Espargaro (Gresini Aprilia Racing) slipped to P8 at the end of play. Valentino Rossi (Petronas Sprinta Yamaha) finished inside the top 10 for the second session in a row, the nine-time World Champion taking ninth, and Pol Espargaro grabbed a vital P10 despite a late tumble.
Reigning World Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) missed out on the top 10 and an automatic spot in Q2 by just 0.013s in 11th.
2021 Qatar MotoGP Results—Friday
Two familiar names ended the opening Moto2 Free Practice Friday at the top of the timesheets: Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) and Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46). Thanks to a 1:58.959, Lowes takes charge of proceedings at the Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar, his FP2 best beating 2020 title rival Bezzecchi to the honor by 0.104s. New Italtrans Racing Team recruit Joe Roberts claims P3 at the end of Day 1, the American 0.313s shy of Lowes’ time.
Kaito Toba (CIP Green Power) headed the timesheets after an impressive day’s work from the 2019 Qatar GP winner. It was close at the top, however, with Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo) 0.042 back, followed by Gabriel Rodrigo (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) 0.068 off, Sergio Garcia (GASGAS Gaviota Aspar Team) within 0.096 and Jason Dupasquier (CarXpert PrüstelGP) impressing to end the day just 0.099 off the top. Even the man in sixth, Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse), was only three thousandths further back.
2021 Qatar MotoGP Friday News
Dovizioso poised for a racing return?
Upon announcing Andrea Dovizioso would try Aprilia’s RS-GP at a private test at Jerez from 12th to 14th April, paddock speculation went into overdrive at the Qatar GP regarding a potential future relationship between the Italian rider and factory.Should the 35-year old be impressed by the potential of the much-improved RS-GP in Andalusia, it is believed Aprilia would be keen to make him the second rider in its race team in place of Lorenzo Savadori, who has so far failed to impress.
“For Aprilia it’s amazing to sign a rider like Dovi to test the bike,” said Aleix Espargaro. “But let’s give him some space. I’m interested to see his reaction to the bike.” Pressed on whether he’d like to see Dovizioso as his team-mate, the Catalan made his feelings clear: “Which team in this paddock don’t want Andrea Dovizioso as a 2nd rider? Maybe as a first rider if I am not fast enough! But let’s wait and see how he enjoys the bike.”
There can be no doubting Ducati’s top speed superiority in 2021. The Losail International Circuit’s 0.6-mile front straight has always been a chance for the Desmosedici machines to use their full potential. The results on Friday were spectacular: Pramac’s Jorge Martin posted a new top speed record for this track of 219mph in FP1, with Johann Zarco matching that in FP2.