As the world was turned upside down by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the MotoGP World Championship experienced the magic of the Algarve International Circuit, making it the 72nd different circuit to host a Grand Prix, and the 29th different circuit to host a MotoGP race since the introduction of the class in 2002.
In the thrilling finale of the 2020 season, Portugal’s own Miguel Oliveira lived his fairytale weekend. Oliveira qualified on pole position and went on to win his home Grand Prix, making him the first Portuguese rider to win their home Grand Prix in any class. Joining Oliveira on the podium were Jack Miller and Franco Morbidelli, an all independent team podium for the first time since Qatar 2004.
The opening 2 Grand Prix of the year were held at the Losail International Circuit. Monster Energy Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales won the #QatarGP, as his teammate Fabio Quartararo secured his first win outside of Spain, in the #DohaGP. This is only the 3rd time that 2 different Yamaha riders have won the opening 2 Grand Prix of the year, with Giacomo Agostini and Hideo Kanaya winning in 1975 and Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo winning in 2010.
Oliveira crossed the line in 15th place at the #DohaGP just 8.928s behind race winner Quartararo, making this the closest top 15 of all time. The top 15 closest point scoring finishes have all occurred since 2018. Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro crossed the line in 10th place at the #DohaGP just 5.382s off the race win, the smallest margin to the win for Aprilia in the MotoGP era, and the closest Top 10 of all time.
As Quartararo won the #DohaGP, Pramac Racing’s Johann Zarco finished 2nd, securing the first French 1-2 in premier class Grand Prix racing. In achieving his 9th premier class podium this meant Zarco became the first Frenchman to achieve 50 podiums overall in Grand Prix racing; his next closest rival would be Christian Sarron who holds 37 podiums. Zarco also equalled Raymond Roche as 3rd most successful Frenchman in terms of podiums (9) in the premier class, behind Sarron with 18 podiums and Quartararo with 11.
Pramac Racing’s Jorge Martín shocked the world at the Losail International Circuit, with his rocket-ship start at the #QatarGP and his pole position to maiden podium at the #DohaGP. Martín is only the 4th rider to podium on their second (or better) premier class Grand Prix, joining Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa.
Brad Binder secured KTM’s best finish at the Losail International Circuit, finishing 8th aboard his Red Bull KTM Factory Racing machine. Petronas Yamaha SRT’s Valentino Rossi finished the #DohaGP in 16th, the 4th time in his long and illustrious premier class career that he has failed to score points across the line. In the absence of Marc Marquez, it’s no great secret that Honda have struggled; however, it has now been 16 successive MotoGP races with no Honda wins. The last time Honda experienced a drought like this it was between the 2008 and 2009 season.
The MotoGP Rookies this season will be aiming to infiltrate the top 10 once again at the #PortugueseGP. Luca Marini finished last year’s Moto2 race in 2nd, as Enea Bastianini finished 5th ahead of Martín to clinch the Moto2 World Championship.
Perhaps the most anticipated return of the MotoGP era will be that of Repsol Honda Racing’s Marquez, who returns after an arm injury sustained at the 2020 #SpanishGP. March 31st marked 500 days since Marquez last finished a race (Valencia 2019).
We look forward to the return of Marquez at the #PortugueseGP: can he return to winning form? Will Ducati claim redemption from the opening Grand Prix? Can Yamaha continue their dominant streak?