With four race weekends behind us, and eight different riders on the podium, the MotoGP championship fight is hotting up. With championship favourites crashing out and terrible luck for many riders, here’s a run-through of the 2021 season so far and who to watch out for throughout the rest of the season.

Qatar (Losail International Circuit) – 28 March

Qualifying:

Bagnaia (Ducati)

Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha)

Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha)

Race Result:

Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha)

Zarco (Pramac)

Bagnaia (Ducati)

The season opened with a thrilling race around the Losail International Circuit in Doha, Qatar. Maverick Viñales came through to win an outstanding performance to take the win against a very competitive field. The Qatar GP also showcased the Ducatis as a bike to watch this year, with Zarco and Bagnaia in second and third respectively. 2020 champion Mir came in 4th after a mistake at the last corner, and Quartararo finished up the top 5 on the Monster Energy Yamaha. Morbidelli, a championship favourite at the start of the season, rode poorly, finishing in 18th place.

Doha (Losail International Circuit) – 4 April

Qualifying:

Martín (Pramac)

Zarco (Pramac)

Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha)

Race Result:

Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha)

Zarco (Pramac)

Martín (Pramac)

Race weekend two in Doha saw Quartararo beginning his bid for the championship, outsmarting the other riders to win. It was also a good weekend for the Pramac Ducati riders, who both qualified and finished the race in the top three. Rins finished in 4th for Suzuki with Viñales in 5th. It was another poor week for the Petronas Yamaha riders, with Morbidelli in 12th and Rossi out of the points in 16th. The rider with the most disastrous start to the season was clearly Alex Marquez, who crashed out for the second weekend running. Already at this stage, it was clear that this season would not be easily called, with so many riders in the mix.

Portugal (Algarve International Circuit) – 18 April

Qualifying:

Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha)

Rins (Suzuki)

Zarco (Pramac)

Race Result:

Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha)

Bagnaia (Ducati)

Mir (Suzuki)

The reign of Quartararo continued in Portugal, where he qualified first and then went on to win the race, completely outpacing his rivals. Bagnaia was able to take the second step on the podium, with 2020 champion Joan Mir in third after a dramatic race that saw Zarco crashing out from second place, ultimately finishing 13th. Morbidelli finally got some good points on the board after a tough start to the season, finishing 4th, with Binder in 5th for the Red Bull KTM team. This was not the biggest story of the weekend, of course, with Marc Marquez returning and finishing an impressive 7th in his first race back after a 9-month injury break. This race was plagued by crashes, with Zarco, Rins, Rossi, Miller and Espargaro unable to finish the race. This affected Jack Miller hugely as he needed a good result following a reasonably poor start to the season.

Spain (Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto) – 2 May

Qualifying:

Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha)

Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha)

Miller (Ducati)

Race Result:

Miller (Ducati)

Bagnaia (Ducati)

Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha)

The Spanish Grand Prix was the race that Miller needed. The Australian rider took his first dry race win after championship leader Quartararo, who led for a lot of the race, had to back off with arm pump issues. An unfortunate end to a stellar start to the season for the Frenchman, who only picked up a few points, finishing 13th. Bagnaia made it a one-two finish for the Ducati team, a result they were not expecting in Jerez, with Petronas Yamaha rider Morbidelli improving one place on his Portugal finish to take the final step on the podium. Takaaki Nakagami finished an impressive 4th after flying through the field towards the end of the race, with Mir taking 5th, another good set of points for last year’s champion.

Who to watch this season:

Fabio Quartararo:

Throughout the course of the 2021 season, Quartararo has been the most consistently impressive rider. Without the issues surrounding his arm in Jerez, he would likely have been on the podium for the third time, possibly even taking a third win in four races. He has become a favourite for this year’s title with such impressive form, but will his injury stop that? Fabio had surgery on his arm on Monday 4th May and hopes to recover in time for his home race at Le Mans next weekend. If his recovery takes longer, questions will begin to emerge over whether he can fight to take the championship, having lost points while recovering.

Francesco Bagnaia:

Bagnaia is another rider who has shown the importance of consistency this season. Despite not winning a race yet this year, he has been on the podium three times, finishing the other race in a still-impressive 4th. The 2018 Moto2 champion has shown impressive skill throughout this year, and if this continues, he will continue to play an important role in the battle for the title.

While these two riders are the most consistently impressive so far this year, many have a good chance of battling for the championship win. 2020 champion Joan Mir is also not out of the running, having finished between 3rd and 7th in every race so far this year, leaving him 4th in the standings. Maverick Viñales is also thoroughly impressive this year, winning the first race out and recording the fastest time at testing on Monday 4th May. With so many strong riders competing closely this year, in addition to a likelihood for even more surprising crashes throughout the field, the championship is still very much up for grabs. With such thrilling racing this early in the season, MotoGP will continue to be one to watch throughout the year as the championship fight gets closer and more dramatic.

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