Qatar 1 MotoGP Test Subscriber Notes: Where The Six MotoGP Factories Stand After Two Days Of Testing

Far from being a day of rest, on Sunday, the real work of testing began at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar. After a day to wrap their collective heads around the mind-bending speeds which riding a MotoGP bike involves, the riders got down to the work of sifting through the collection of parts the factories have brought in their quest for victory. And in racing, victory only comes through speed.

Questions were raised, and some were answered, though only partially in most cases. That doesn't matter as much as it might at a normal test, of course, because the riders and teams will only be heading back to their hotels for two days, to relax a little, to recover (for the riders), or to dive as deeply as possible into the data to try to learn as many lessons as possible ahead of the next test, which starts on Wednesday.

So what did we learn? A quick run through MotoGP's six manufacturers.


The big question for Yamaha was whether the 2021 chassis was the step forward that the riders had been hoping for. The 2021 chassis is not so much a step forward as half a step back a compromise between last year's frame and the 2019 chassis which Franco Morbidelli used to such good effect in 2020.

As you can see in the photos below, the 2021 chassis is very similar indeed to the 2019 frame.

The photo above is Fabio Quartararo's bike from Qatar; the 2020 engine in a chassis similar to the 2019 M1.

Compare the 2021 frame with Valentino Rossi's machine from the Sepang test in 2019. The two frames share the bracing tube between the two sections of the frame side beams.

That bracing tube is conspicuously missing from the 2020 frame, which used a reworked upper section of the frame beam. This is one of the test bikes from the Sepang test in February 2020.

Is the new frame as good as the 2019 example? Not if you are Valentino Rossi. "Today we continued to use both chassis, but my impression at the end of the two days is that it's very similar to last year's bike," the Italian veteran said. "No, not very similar to the 2019 chassis. It's something between. But when I ride I feel very, very similar to the 2020." That would explain why Rossi ended the day in twentieth spot, 1.7 seconds behind the fastest man Fabio Quartararo, and unable to improve his time from yesterday.

Quartararo was more cautiously optimistic, but he also hadn't found as much improvement as he had hoped. "It's not yet the same feeling as the 2019 chassis," the factory Yamaha rider told us. "I hope it will come, but we are working on it. I think it's really important, because the chassis of the 2019 bike was just unbelievable. And we are on the way. We want to take that direction, because it's clear that was the best compromise. So we are going in that way. Feeling wise it's not the same, but we still have three days to improve our feeling, and try to be as close as possible to the 2019 chassis."

Sunday had been a much better day than Saturday for Quartararo, however. "Today the feeling was much better. It's still difficult to evaluate because we don't stay with the same package as yesterday, we are still trying many things, also a swingarm. So it was not easy to say clear comments about the 2021 chassis. Swingarm we still need to see but the feeling was not the best today. But we need to try it better, and in all conditions. So for sure in three days we will try it again."

Quartararo had been fast, and that had left him optimistic, at least. "Of course the feedback is good, we make great lap time, great pace," the Frenchman said. But he also sounded a note of caution. "For sure the bike is great, but we need to see, because also last year with the 2020 bike, we were fast here. We need to evaluate these two days, it will be great to see the data with the team, and to see the direction."

Self improvement

Monster Energy Yamaha teammate Maverick Viñales had not spent much time working with the 2021 bike, preferring to work on himself. "Well, actually we didn't work yet with the new chassis," Viñales said. "We just had the old package and a few general things in the second bike. And I concentrated a lot on riding style, I concentrated a lot on hitting a good lap time, don't get too stressed on the bike, trying to get the flow. We worked with the electronics quite a lot."

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Great stuff, as always, David, and more midnight oil burnt, I see :-)

I'm confused by Pol's reference to doing 2:05s, when his best time was a 1:54. Is this a typo, or something else?

I guess 2019 wasn't such a bad year for Yamaha. 

For what seems like a 1000 years now we've heard 'not much different' so it would be no suprise that by trying to make a 2021 tribute to a 2019 chassis there would be...not much different.

Maybe they are on the right track and it's giving the riders that all important feeling which will allow them to do what is needed on the bike. What was it they said in 2019 about feeling ? Or was that 2018 ? I've completely lost track of the years suddenly or....

It's only testing but I have a feeling Franco will end up top Yammy again no matter what vintage his chassis belongs to.

It's just great to drink this level of detail in again and clearly there's a lot going on! I really can't help myself believing (ok, hoping..!), that we'll have another season that sparks and crackles throughout every team. We really only need Aprilia to prove their changes are more than relative to the rest and the roulette table will be in full spin! 

"... because the chassis of the 2019 bike was just unbelievable." I can't help but see that for what it is - a blatant jab at Franco and the amazing work he and Ramon did last year. I think Fabio had better get ready to be raced extremely hard by his former teammate this year ;)

I don't think it is a jab at anyone. I think it is a memory of a more happy time. However, maybe the happy memory comes with happy feelings from the bike and that is the key which allows Fabio to shine. I like Mavericks approach more this time.

The Yamaha guys are all chasing front end feel.  Give a rider a hardcore solid front end with great feel and they'll get everything they can out of the motor and the chassis.  Don't, and you will not be chasing podiums.  The up/down nature of the M1 is just crazy.  I can remember when they'd find the base setting by race 3, 4 or 5, and it was smooth sailing the rest of the year with perhaps a new chassis mid year.  Not anymore.  Jekyl and Hyde bike.

David, I know Qatar is strict on quarantine.  I'm curious, did the riders have to come in 2 weeks prior to the first day of testing to quarantine?  Also, are they all staying in Qatar until the end of the month after the race is over, or going home in between the final test and the race weekend? I would imagine if they have to stay there all month they will go a bit nuts.

Some riders live or die by the front end , Biaggi was one  and if they don't get that "feel" they are screw*d as it's not a problem they can ride around .

The M1 has always been prone to be a bit circuit and tyre sensative but that the bike ( in both 2020 and 2019 iterations ) won more races than any other make last year suggests that the problems may be more rider issues than bike issues .

Agreed that there are a few continuums of rider characteristics to consider here as always. Some adapt a great deal to just ride what they have, while others must have a bike that gives them a certain feel or handling property. Then we also have our front end "250 style" riders (dated!) vs rear end blasters. A few others could further the discussion? 

It is always difficult to determine JUST what is rider vs bike, but we can get somewhere minimizing misteps. We see a rider on varying bikes in different conditions and gather enough reference points. We also can get enough points of reference about a particular bike. It can be surprising what more subtle/elusive information can be...comments from crew, obscuring language from brass indicating their awareness, etc. There are a LOT of misinterpretations folks make. Basic axioms always apply. It is difficult to argue "Consensus Reality." NO OFFENSE or bitterness meant, really kind tone here, but we see it around here all the time. Interpreting Quartararo as attacking Morbidelli via praising the 2019 is one, personalizing and neurotic reactivity. We all have to recognize and minimize ours, humans have some egoic narrative and neurotic preoccupations, particularly when upset/off put/rubbed wrong. My cognitive skewing can be wishful, I can recognize it and correct for it some. But it is there. I enjoy it as a wee flavor.

So many riders and staff say and show the same things here regarding the grave misstep of the 2020 Yamaha chassis. What they did wrong and how. Below a rather high level of grip offered at some tracks, the bike both didn't get the power down driving out with traction, and offered little cornering stability. Riders blew corners when they tried riding on the pace. Others were visibly uncomfortable and slow, taking great pains to just be mid pack. Should we say it was THEM? A lot of what was said of Vinales' temperament I have seen as skewed away from attributing bike deficits and his struggling with them. People do this all the time. The other way too, how many times did you read what looked like a 50/50 debate re whether it was Stoner or "It Is The Bike" when he put the Ducati on top on Bridgestones? History seems to say it was Casey, and an unusual great fit with ability to exploit the bike strengths. Horrible debates, I know, as that is the point. But how did Vale get on at Ducati? Look at the rabbit holes of crap these discussions can plop into? We gladly don't do them much. Just an aside color comment for intrigue.

Yamaha has several outstanding riders Ducati money couldn't sign. They are fortunate in their lineup. Rossi of course is at sunset, but he has always had very good read on what is going on re a bike, especially the M1. He can go through EVERY year/iteration and articulate it spot on. Morbidelli? Really really good rider, who has lucked out to just be on the 2018-2019 Yamaha. 

It is NOT a good sign that the riders who have put the 2021 bike on the pace have said it is not very different from the 2020. They better have another chassis option to test asap. Quartararo was FAST. But at Qatar. And shall we trust him that he is seeing the bike as it is? I think Yamaha had better! They look to have some work to do now. They can do it and may yet before long. Lots of pieces are in place and more look to be in progress. They have just had a lot on their development plate. 

I think Quartararo is their top rider, but will start inconsistly again. This will be a clear situation of struggling at lower grip tracks. Morbidelli will start very strong and more consistently, beaten by Quartararo at higher grip tracks. Very interesting move on Maverick's part, leaving the new bike for others to sort for now in favor of fixing on himself. Opposite of his previous tendency. How do you think Quartararo will show up as a bike developer? We know Cal is strong as a test mule. He was fast already on the Yam! I have hope for their program, hedged by a bit of concern right now about the chassis. 

Interesting days. Question marks abound across the whole grid. Perhaps the least about Suzuki. Then most of us re The Marc when he is back, watch out. These TWO years will be seen as "the weird seasons." 2022 should return more to script. 

And lets also mention Forcada's vast knowledge of the M1 and pedigree in motogp. Luck? I believe it's more likely that Morbidelli's experiences in life have allowed him to discover the power of creating consciously. His post race comments in parc ferme after the Teruel race point to this.

Morbidelli's measured approach when speaking in English may be more due to his understanding of the power of the spoken word rather than difficulty expressing himself in a foreign tongue. Lorenzo is a fellow that would say, "I am proud" when speaking of his achievments. I recall Morbidelli saying, "I am filled with pride" when speaking about a race result. There's a big difference. One statement feeds the ego and the other does not.

Just my two cents...

I see that Ducati continues on their unending quest to make the ugliest MotoGP bike. At least they're consistent.

Love the level of video coverage we are getting this year, the first test usually isn't like that (for obvious reasons). After the Flag has been fantastic each day. And it's great to read what each factory is working towards, thank you for the detailed analysis as always. You continue to prove that a motomatters subscription is worth every cent and then some!

With all due respect to David and our expert commentators, when will we hear the answers to the following?!

1. Seems all the riders have fancy sunglass sponsors. When was the last time a motogp rider wore glasses in a race?

2. When will Dorna sack Neil Morrison from After the Flag? His voice is such a low bass I can't hear it over the treadmill! Helium maybe?

3. I am always impressed with the ease with which the gp crew members move the bikes around in the paddock. Have they ever had one of those slow-motion tipovers? On camera?

4. Lorenzo Savadori is a factory motogp racer? He had a few nice moments in WSBK, but hell, Aprilia didn't even call me first despite my stellar B minus track day career.

5. Do teams get an unlimited supply of Michelins during the tests?

6. Remove every trace of electronics from every bike, then send the grid out on the track. Which three riders would end up on the podium?