It proved to be a difficult and disappointing opening round of the year at Losail International Circuit for the PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team, with Valentino Rossi and Franco Morbidelli, who experienced mechanical issues, ending the Grand Prix of Qatar 12th and 18th respectively.
Rossi’s first race as a PETRONAS Yamaha SRT rider got off to a steady start, with the Italian dropping three places on the start to end the opening lap in seventh. As action unfolded in the first half of the encounter Valentino found himself in 12th and struggling with rear type grip, before dropping further to 16th on lap 12. Rossi was able to steadily claw back positions in the remaining time, eventually recovering to cross the line 12th.
It was a nightmare start for Morbidelli, who experienced a problem with his bike on the grid. The decision was made to complete the race, despite the issue, in order to gather data to help in finding a solution. The Italian found himself in 16th place on the opening lap and 19th on lap two. Franco, who starts his third year with the Malaysian squad, resigned himself to a fairly quiet race and at the end of the 22 laps, took the chequered flag in 18th.
There is only a short wait until the second round of the 2021 MotoGP season, with Rossi and Morbidelli due back on track in only a few days’ time for the Grand Prix of Doha (2-4 April).