Qatar MotoGP Sunday Subscriber Notes: On Different Types Of Speed, The Transformation Of A Winner, And A Rich Crop Of Rookies

The first race of the 2021 MotoGP season produced much food for thought. Too much to fit into one foreshortened evening, so here are a few initial thoughts for subscribers after a fascinating season opener at Qatar:

  • Does winning in Qatar mean anything?
  • The two ways of going fast
  • Top speeds in practice don't mean as much as you might hope
  • The transformation of Maverick Viñales
  • Winners and losers
  • Franco Morbidelli: When holeshot devices go bad
  • A tale of two rookies – Bastianini vs Martin
  • Cameron Beaubier passes his first test in Moto2

Does winning in Qatar count?

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If somone got hold of pictures of him during the race it would be easy to see if the holeshot device was "on" all the time.  But honestly ( <--- se what I did there ) I am amazed if he only lost 1 sec per lap if it was in the low position....  Chassis experts have fooled us all the time in making us belive that only a mm or two can make a huge difference. Here is Morbidelli with the rear several cm lower and still faster than a superbike :)

Thanks for the write up David. 

Very happy for Maverick, he's always been a fast guy and he looked fast and in command. The worrying part is he reports not previously having that feeling with the front all weekend. Very familiar words from Mav, only this time the change was positive.

it's only Qatar. It's always been a strange place. 

I thought that was a VERY good result for Suzuki at a track that is by no means their strongest. Looks like Mir will be racking up the podiums and points again to put the more 'winning' riders under pressure. :D

I thought Vinales' race win was reminiscent of Jorge Lorenzo's of 2016. The other comparison to Lorenzo's last win at Qatar is the race time- both of them did it in 42' 28". Both of Dovizioso's wins in 2018 and 2019 were slower- 42' 34" and 42' 36" respectively, proving again that a) Ducati have always had trouble making the Michelin rear last around Losail and b) Dovizioso was/is a master at slowing up the pace to carve out race wins. I wonder if Gigi thought of him as he watched last night's events unfold!


... finish 7th in the morning Warm Up, I thought surely it was a fluke of the conditions no? But having watched him relentlessly work his way through the field during the race, he might've actually finished 7th with a better grid position! Impressive stuff.

First part of the race is always great as the field is so close but the fact that Suzuki is so much stronger than other manufacturers in the second part of the race makes it so that the race never really settles into fixed positions.

I don't believe it's what the Suzuki engineers were after but it makes it truly great to watch!

When I hear of stuff like Morbidelli's suspension preload malfunctioning I get annoyed. What is the justification for active suspensions being banned in MotoGP? There are $20K bikes with adaptive damping. A hydraulic preload adjuster is a relatively simple device. There are clearly road applications of said technology. And I don't buy the cost angle. Most of the grid is basically running a spec suspension via Ohlins, and if there's not one place to spend money those with deep pockets will spend it elsewhere (aero, data, bodies, whatever). What am I missing? [/rant]

On the road you don't usually get a large group of riders flying into hard braking at 300+ with the margins being quite fine as to how much the bike can vary from expectations before the rider is looking at the gaps ahead with an adjusted view on life.

In my opinion the current front/rear holeshot ride height gizmos add zero to the sporting side and some additional complexity to the suspension. I know, a 100 things could fail to cause an accident but on average it beats 101.

I'd guess there's two main factors against electronic suspension besides cost. The first would be racing's history with active suspension and electronics. F1 in the 90s created a generation of cars that couldn't be driven without the electronics, any kind of failure in the suspension or traction control and the driver was left a passenger in the ensuing massive crash. Moto GP ended up in a similar place between 2008-2015, if the TC/wheelie control failed someone usually went to hospital. Given electronic self adjusting dampers it wouldn't be long before Moto GP's engineers recreated that situation.

The second issue is the show. Electronics spread the field out, there's no way around it. They make the bike easier to ride at 100% every lap, reduce mistakes, reduce tyre wear, reduce decision making for riders. A bike that's 1% better is worth 25 seconds by the end of the race, not even Marc would be able overcome that. The rule makers have worked very hard to put every team on the same footing for tyres and electronics, aero-fiddling isn't nearly as overpowered as in 4 wheel racing and suspension has sort of taken care of itself with everyone buying Ohlins. Anything that might upset that balance must surely be viewed with great suspicion.

I know blood tends to run hot post race but a non-'works' rider p*ssing on Yamaha in public is never going to end well .

He made up 11 spots from his grid position and only one was from Vierge's crash. There was one camera shot of Cam passing another rider on the inside of a turn by sliding the rear to tighten the line. It looked sweet. 

He's no dummy. Hoping for steady progress.

As I posted on the moto2 wrap-up, didn't I read that american racing poached bezz's title winning crew chief? 

Any info, David?

Moto2 rubber, is it enough traction decrease at Losail with which to judge Yamaha chassis unfooking? I don't think so. But a nudge in the right direction eh?

Honda front end crashes? Yes, there were some. Pol looks good on it!

Aprilia and Aleix ran great. Promising. Not going to sugar coat it, being a backmarker off the back of Iker etc is not good enough Savadori. You aren't looking like Test potential either, really. Sorry, but so it is. Fingers crossed re getting to see Dovi race it. 

Interesting to watch Quartararo and Vinales in formation. A bit similar for the two Suzuki riders. What a start for Ducati! Wow. Fantastic seeing Bagnaia doing the business. He says he is happy with handling and corner speed. Just wants more drive out in 2nd and 3rd. Electronics may help, but of course this is about tire wear late in the race, he saw Vinales walking away driving out in the closing stage. Brilliant strategy Maverick! I had guessed the dynamic of the race correctly but not the riders...had the same thing happening but for the other two Factory guys. Felt badly for Mir, but not for long. Very well earned points! He looked great. Any shifting of the expectations for folks that tipped Rins over him for the season after yesterday? 

Maverick Vinales is displaying a very different mindset and approach. Especially re struggling with his bike, fiddling with it. His comments re Cal were very interesting and if the chassis is back close to 2019 performance he may be a consistent threat. 

Not much particular to go over, just really enjoying the racing. We made it! There are still 8 bikes that might win next weekend. And the rookies look great at this track. It is really difficult to get on a Ducati MotoGP bike and first race put it mid pack. Or start like Martin did. Incredible.

Isn't this what most satellite riders say is a bonus of being a satellite rider? Not having to test, test, test new stuff on race weekends. Just getting on with using what you have to the best of your ability?

(see franco's last year run)

I see same old Mav. He won a race now let's see what his brain says next week.

Rins will be fine, he's matured and if he just takes the points he can get without any unforced errors he'll be right there till the end. Suzuki looking great, Mir is amazing. maybe he should start his charge a couple laps earlier. These first 2 races are indicative of not-very-much tho. Gonna be an incredible season.

Missile Martin from the back row! What a start outta JM89. He'll learn about tire management soon enough, right now let 'er rip, Jorge! Basta smarter race, looks good in the Red Rocket's glare.


FP4 painted a clearer picture of the race results than all the testing, pre-race hype and qualifying. Viñales clocked 6 laps in the 54s in a metronomic style reminiscent of Lorenzo. And Miller either wasn't showing his cards or was in trouble. Rossi did not have much to show either. Quartararo only logged one mid 54 lap and it was at the end of the session. Bastinini is said to be very skilled on worn tires. As much as I have chastised Zarco in the past for taking out other riders, Mr. Smooth knows how to nurse the Ducati rear tire to the end of a race. And he put in as many 54s as Viñales. A. Espargaro put in four laps in the 54s which would translate to podium potential, but was warned against taking risks by Rivola. Aprilia really needs Dovizioso on the other bike. How that guy hasn't been riding in motogp yet this year is mind boggling. Morbidelli had three laps in the high 54s and without the shapeshifter malfunction may have been in the podium mix. Agreed that Viñales is showing a different mindset. He was thankful towards the journos for the congrats in the post race presser and expressed himself more evenmindedly. Hope that continues if or when the results are less than expected. It's much more helpful to be a team member and work on the problems than to react to the problem personally.

And dreaming about a potential test rider for Aprilia, who is out there unemployed and knows how to go around a motogp track very quickly? If Aprilia were really serious, they could bag both Dovizioso as a rider and maybe coerce Lorenzo into the test rider role. With Pedrosa at KTM, Guintoli at Suzuki, Pirro at Ducati, Crutchlow at Yamaha and Bradl at HRC...Aprilia is thinking Savadori?

Piaggio have access to or could lean on endless sponsors.. 

I think with the great race showing, we will see their desire or belief. 

Fabulous write up by Mr Emmett and all interesting comments from the community. My question is whether the Pramac is using a different aero solution, (e.g.) preferring top speed over downforce? My comment is that there were simply too many great performances to mention over the weekend- and what I admire about the MotoGP community is that we don't only appreciate what we see on a winner takes all basis. And that's no more than these amazing athletes deserve.

Honda was in that race?

OK, being flippant and it's a fair question, but I think we all know that Honda is simply paying the price of years of MM93 hubris. As Ducati did when Casey departed...