Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP made it back-to-back wins in Doha after Fabio Quartararo produced a stunning comeback under the Qatari floodlights to take victory at the Losail International Circuit.
Starting round two from fifth on the grid, Quartararo fell victim to the typical opening lap battle, dropping to eighth, just ahead of team-mate Maverick Viñales, who also dropped positions on the first lap.
As the race settled and the pace picked up, the factory Yamaha duo kept their cool and bided their time. They both knew it would be a race of two halves, with tyre management playing a big role in the second visit to Qatar. With the soft compound the favoured tyre, Quartararo and Viñales managed their pace comfortably as they maintained their positions in the leading group.
The Monster Energy Yamaha duo were line astern at the half-way point of the race and as the Grand Prix entered its second phase, Quartararo showed his hand. The Frenchman climbed his way up to sixth after benefiting from a mid-race tangle for two of his rivals and immediately set after Alex Rins in a hunt for a podium finish. The hard-charging former CEV champion was quick to dispatch Rins, moving clear of the Suzuki rider at turn four, securing fifth place.
Likewise, team-mate Viñales was also making progress aboard his YZR-M1. The Spaniard dropped to ninth in the early stages of the Grand Prix but used his race-winning experience from the opening round to get the most out of his tyres. By lap 16, the 26-year-old was up to sixth place after mistakes from Joan Mir, Aleix Espargaro and Francesco Bagnaia gave him the perfect opportunity to pounce. With the podium positions in sight, it was time for both factory Yamaha riders to give it all they had.
The factory duo then pulled off a double overtake at turn ten, as Quartararo moved past Johann Zarco with an inch perfect pass for third, whilst Viñales pulled off a carbon copy manoeuvre to that of his team-mate as he passed Jack Miller. Just four corners later and it was Quartararo’s turn to lead. The fast French rider had a perfect run through turn 14 and positioned himself for a brave pass at turn 15, taking the lead with four laps to go.
However, it wasn’t an easy task for Quartararo, who slipped back to second on the front straight, but that didn’t stop the number-20 rider, who regained the advantage with a pass at turn four. While the rider from Nice hit the front, Viñales had put himself in podium contention after passing Johann Zarco, but a mistake from the Qatar Grand Prix victor saw him slip back to fourth place with work to do in the closing stages.
Back at the front, Quartararo had opened his lead to just under half a second to Jorge Martin and continued to break away from the chasing pack, eventually crossing the line to take victory by 1.4 seconds. Viñales continued to put pressure on the two Pramac Racing bikes in what was a stunning final few laps charge, but a small mistake at turn one saw him slip back behind Rins. The Spanish rider gave it everything on the final lap of the 3.34-mile-long Qatari circuit, but just fell short, wrapping up the Doha Grand Prix in a strong fifth place.
PETRONAS Yamaha SRT’s Franco Morbidelli and Valentino Rossi had a difficult race, with the pair finishing in 12th and 16th places respectively. From tenth on the grid, Morbidelli found himself in a race-long battle for the top ten. The former Moto2 Champion was battling hard throughout the early stages of the race, but unfortunately could not make any further progress after using his soft rear tyre too early on, resulting in a P12 finish for the Italian, just 5.787s off the race winner.
Team-mate Valentino Rossi had an uphill battle on his hands after starting from 21st, but as always, The Doctor looked to make the most of a tough situation. Having found something in Warm-Up, Rossi launched from 21st on the grid, making up places on the run into turn one – but slipped back as the field jostled for position.
Rossi sat comfortably in the pack and matched the lap times of the leaders before making his way passed Danilo Petrucci at the midway stage. The 42-year-old Italian then had a late burst, using the last bit of grip from his soft tyres to move up into P16, but sadly for the nine-time World Champion, the gap to 15th was just too big, and he had to settle for 16th position as the flag dropped.
With Quartararo’s victory, the factory Yamaha duo see themselves head to Portimao joint second in the standings, with the pair sitting on 36 points. Yamaha also head the charge in the constructor’s championship with 50 points, while Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP maintain their advantage in the teams’ championship.
The MotoGP World Championship will return to action in Portugal as the riders return to the roller-coaster that is Portimao across the weekend of 16-18 April.
Tissot Grand Prix of Doha Results:
1. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP)
2. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) +1.457
3. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) +1.500
4. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki ECSTAR) +2.088
5. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) +2.110
6. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) +2.642
7. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki ECSTAR) +4.868
8. Brad Binder (Red Bull Factory KTM Racing) +4.979
9. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) +5.365
10. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) +5.382
11. Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama) +5.550
12. Franco Morbidelli (PETRONAS Yamaha SRT) +5.787
13. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) +6.063
14. Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) +6.453
15. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull Factory KTM Racing) +8.928
16. Valentino Rossi (PETRONAS Yamaha SRT) +14.246
17. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU) +16.241
18. Luca Marini (SKY VR46 Avintia) +16.472
19. Danilo Petrucci (Tech 3 KTM Factory Racing) +16.779
20. Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) +38.775
NC. Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL) +10 Laps
NC. Iker Lecuona (Tech 3 KTM Factory Racing) +10 Laps
2021 MotoGP World Championship Standings:
1. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) 40 points
2. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) 36 points
3. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) 36 points
4. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) 26 points
5. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki ECSTAR) 23 points
6. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki ECSTAR) 22 points
7. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) 17 points
8. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) 15 points
9. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) 14 points
10. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) 11 points
11. Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama) 11 points
12. Brad Binder (Red Bull Factory KTM Racing) 10 points
13. Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) 7 points
14. Valentino Rossi (PETRONAS Yamaha SRT) 4 points
15. Franco Morbidelli (PETRONAS Yamaha SRT) 4 points
16. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull Factory KTM Racing) 4 points