Valencia 2021 was never going to be just any other season finale, with all its goodbyes and a true changing of the guard, but beyond the rapturous celebrations of Valentino Rossi, Ducati had the most reasons to celebrate as they got their first all-Ducati podium. Victory always looked like it was going to go to a red-coloured machine and it ultimately went to Pecco Bagnaia, the dominating force of the second half of the season, who promptly dedicated his achievement to his iconic mentor. Jorge Martin kept Bagnaia honest until the final lap and secured Rookie of the Year with second position, while Jack Miller completed the overwhelmingly red podium.
Martin was a rocket ship heading into turn 1 at the start, leading the way from Miller and Joan Mir, while Bagnaia dropped to fourth. Brad Binder also made a solid start to jump into 5th but ran wide on the opening lap and allowed Alex Rins and Fabio Quartararo past. Martin started lap 2 still in the lead and quickly retaliated when Miller attacked at turn 1, Mir also taking advantage of Miller at turn 4. The Australian was soon under attack from teammate Bagnaia and his early struggles with keeping a tight line lost him another position to Rins.
Martin continued to lead but Bagnaia became his main threat by lap 4, while Rins got the better of teammate Mir for third and Miller dropped behind Quartararo, the five-man leading group starting to stretch a little bit of gap over the pursuers. Aleix Espargaro, Binder, Johann Zarco and Rossi were all hanging onto the top 10 early on, but Enea Bastianini had other ideas, already up to 11th after starting 18th.
After some early exchanges, Martin kept Bagnaia at bay towards the halfway point of the race, while Rins and Mir were struggling to find a way past the Ducatis. Mir was soon left to figure that one out on his own, as Rins joined the gravel trap once more with 17 laps remaining, leaving Mir to fend off Miller, who had ditched Quartararo. A fading Frenchman seemed to drop into the clutches of Espargaro, Binder and Zarco, with a resurgent Bastianini trying to bridge a one second gap.
After sniffing around for much of the race, Bagnaia pulled off a move on Martin at turn 14, to lead with 12 laps remaining, and the Italian immediately put in a half second gap but the rookie pushed hard to keep up with the sister Ducati. While the duo stretched one second ahead of the chasers, Miller added another Ducati to the provisional podium after overtaking Mir at turn 2 with 9 laps remaining. The Australian quickly dropped the Spaniard and was left with a one second gap to close to the leaders.
If the final half of the race looked like the calm before the storm, the clouds started to disperse with the last handful of laps, Martin letting Bagnaia go and switching his focus to defending second from a feisty Miller. The two started the final lap only half a second behind Bagnaia, the Italian slowing down a bit but not enough to allow them to become a threat and took the chequered flag as the victor. Martin held Miller off until the end, with Mir best of the rest in fourth. Quartararo caught up with the former world champion in the closing stages but it was too late had to settle for fifth, ahead of Zarco and Binder. Bastianini climbed as high as 8th, ahead of Aleix Espargaro and with Valentino Rossi taking his final chequered flag in MotoGP inside the top 10.
|42||Alex Rins||Suzuki||17 Laps|
|30||Takaaki Nakagami||Honda||23 Laps|