2021 MotoGP round three Portimao
The initial escape from polesitter Quartararo was better than ever, but in the second phase of the start, Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) and Rins defeated the Yamaha man and it was the Suzuki that actually took the holeshot. Zarco struck back to take the lead in the early race and Marc Marquez made a scorching start to battle for third place against Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team). I got off to a typically good start and was in the top five, and in the first round it was Mir against Marquez again. It wasn’t long before the reigning world champion pushed his GSX-RR into the interior of the Repsol Honda at Turn 11 for P3.
Zarco led the first lap and at Turn 3 Marc Marquez and Mir came closer again – too close. The eight-time world champion marked the back of Mir, who luckily stayed with me, but Quartararo managed to wind his way back to fourth place after Marquez. Miller and then Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) also overtook Marquez as number 93 to P7, with Rins showing Zarco a wheel closer to the front at Turn 13.
On lap 3 Quartararo made a clean climb inside Mir at turn 1 for P3. The Frenchman made quick progress after getting a bit beaten up at the beginning. A train at turn 13 on Zarco got stuck the third time when he asked a lap later. On lap 5, Rins was now the race director, but Zarco shot back down the straight.
Quartararo, Me, Miller
Then suddenly there was the sound of a bicycle going onto the deck and as the cameras panned we saw Miller at the start of lap six at Turn 3 below. The Australian’s Portuguese GP was over after a little over four laps, a disaster for the Ducati Mann factory. On the same lap, Miguel Oliveira’s (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) hopes of another podium on the Traumheim lap were over when the Portuguese star retired at Turn 14. He got back in, but it was game over for Oliveira.
In the meantime, Quartararo Rins had followed Zarco and the Yamaha man had his radar set firmly to P1. Just like Mir’s other Suzuki, Quartararo dived down the hill from the inside at Turn 1 and El Diablo was now at the front of the race. Here Quartararo and Rins showed a certain superiority and a handful of laps later Mir was in third place one and a half seconds behind the leading duo. On lap 14 Quartararo drove a 1: 39.680 – the fastest lap. However, Rins matched the Yamaha at every turn for the time being, and the duo exchanged the fastest laps on numerous occasions. A colossal drama was about to unfold, however
Rins and Quartararo brake
First we saw Rins crash on Turn 5 on lap 19 of 25. The downhill, tricky left-hander caught the Spaniard who was standing directly behind Quartararo, and it was a race for number 42. This gave Quartararo a 4.2 second lead on Zarco, while Bagnaia took P3 from Mir at turn 5. A lap later at turn 11, the former world championship leader was on the ground. Zarco’s front washed away the top of the hill and the Frenchman slipped out of the competition shortly after Bagnaia picked him up at Turn 5.
And so the victory, apart from one disaster, was that of Quartararo. The podium fight, however, was still off to a good start. Bagnaia held P2 and looked good, with Mir having Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) in the mirror going into the final exchange. With two to go, the trios were banded together, but Pecco didn’t buckle and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was less than a second away from Morbidelli’s rear wheel. Bagnaia put pressure on me, but the Italian held on and on the final lap the Suzuki driver looked tempted …
Quartararo leads to Jerez by 15 points
Five seconds later, Quartararo drove across the line to claim his second win in 2021. An overwhelming win for the new Yamaha recruit, where he was 15 points ahead of Jerez – a track he was quite successful at last season. This is the first time since 2010 that it is three out of three for Yamaha. Behind, Bagnaia was able to keep it simple to take an impressive recovery from 11th to P2 after a qualifying heartbreak, and he’s ranked P2 overall with his first podium of the year. I couldn’t get past the Ducati, but he held Morbidelli’s Yamaha back by 0.179 seconds to take his first podium of 2021, an important result for the World Champion and another podium after starting from outside the top two rows. Somehow more of his podium places come from further down than none at all.
It was a return to form for fourth place Morbidelli as the Italian got back on the podium hopefully to dispel his ailments at Losail. Binder’s P5 proves once again that the South African is a Sunday rider through and through, and that’s a morally positive result for KTM and Binder ahead of Jerez – where the then rookie had some serious pace last year. Aleix Espargaro brings Aprilia an equivalent MotoGP result in P6, another great drive by the Spaniard who was 4.3 seconds ahead of the next man on the track …
That man is Marc Marquez. The eight-time world champion finished his first race since the 2019 Valencia GP final and the Spaniard showed emotion when he got back to his pits. And in his debriefing.
Marc Marquez was overwhelmed by emotions
Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) took his first Top 10 of the year in P8, while reigning Moto2 World Champion Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama) took his second Top 10 MotoGP result in P9. It was another brilliant ride from ‘The Beast’ and what a great performance from 10th place Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu). The battered and injured Japanese rider has been in significant pain all weekend since his big fall at Turn 1 on Friday, but a P10 sums up how tough the MotoGP riders are – physically and mentally.
Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha’s MotoGP) failed to recover from a horror start and ended up benefiting from a few falls to finish in 11th place. Luca Marini (Sky VR46 Avintia) slipped from a P8 start to P12, but it was still a promising weekend for the Italian and a good job after an incredible speed in practice. Injured Danilo Petrucci (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing), Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Iker Lecuona (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) completed the points, and Oliveira was the last finisher in P16 after his crash.
Valentino Rossi had another weekend to forget
Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) crashed at Turn 11, driver okay, and Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) entered the pit lane early with a technical problem.
And go on. Quartararo marches on in the title race in 2021 and two of three wins are the Frenchman’s record in the direction of Jerez. A free weekend will be followed by the Spanish GP at the end of April / beginning of May, and the title race is already turning.
2021 Portimao MotoGP podium
1 Fabio Quartararo – Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP – Yamaha – 41: 46.412
2 Francesco Bagnaia – Ducati Lenovo Team – Ducati – +4,809
3 Joan Mir – Team Suzuki Ecstar – Suzuki – +4,948