Spain’s Maverick Viñales delivered a masterclass in the opening round of the 2021 MotoGP World Championship in Qatar, taking victory after a mid-race charge saw him finish +1.092s clear of runner-up Johann Zarco.
The season opener got going at a blustery Losail International Circuit, with Yamaha’s Viñales claiming his first win at the Qatari venue since 2017.
From the front row, Viñales slipped to fifth after the start, but quickly found his rhythm as he began his attack.
With the podium positions in sight, Viñales upped the pace, setting the fastest lap of the Grand Prix on lap four. Tag-teaming with his French team-mate Fabio Quartararo, the pair set after Australian Ducati rider Jack Miller, who was the next target in third place. The pair wasted no time in dispatching the Australian as they continued their charge towards the front of the field.
It wasn’t long until the leading Yamahas swapped places, as the experienced Spaniard got the better of 21-year-old Quartararo at turn 11 and immediately set off after the leading Ducatis, pole-winner Francesco ‘Pecco’ Bagnaia, from Italy, and Frenchman Zarco, a quest he completed by lap 15 as he hit the front of the race.
From there, it was a masterclass from Viñales, who controlled the pace with the softer Michelin rear tyre, opening a comfortable one-second advantage over the chasing pack. The nine-time premier class race-winner didn’t look back, taking an emphatic victory under the lights.
Meanwhile, Quartararo had slipped to fifth place as he battled with Suzuki’s Alex Rins throughout the closing stages of the race. The Frenchman held on to complete his factory debut rounding out the top five.
Viñales’ victory awards him 25 World Championship points and puts him at the top of the standings.
The MotoGP paddock will have a few days’ rest before roaring back into action for the second visit to the Losail International Circuit for round two of the championship.
“The race was especially good because I had the opportunity to fight with other riders, which is always important,” said Viñales afterwards.
“It’s been a while since I last overtook so many riders in one race. Early on in the race, I felt this special feeling with the bike. Also in FP4 when we did the race simulation I felt fantastic and also in qualifying. I’m very grateful, because winning is not easy, so we are going to enjoy today. For the coming race we will work and try to improve again, because we know our competitors will also improve.
“We still have some things to work on, especially on the race starts. But, overall, I think we can do a good job this season.”
Find BikesportNZ.com on FACEBOOK here
Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar Results:
- Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP)
- Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) +1.092
- Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) +1.129
- Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) +1.222
- Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) +3.030
- Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) +3.357
- Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) +5.934
- Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) +5.990
- Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) +7.058
- Enea Bastianini (Esponsorama Racing) +9.288
- Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) +10.299
- Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) +10.742
- Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) +11.457
- Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) +14.100
- Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) +16.422
- Luca Marini (SKY VR46 Esponsorama) +20.916
- Iker Lecuona (Tech 3 KTM Factory Racing) +21.026
- Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) +23.892
- Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) +46.346
- Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) +9 Laps
- Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) +16 laps
- Danilo Petrucci (Tech 3 KTM Factory Racing) +0 Laps