Longtime MotoGP fans knew that the 2021 season opener at the Losail Circuit in Quatar would be a good one, but it’s safe to say that no one was expecting Maverick Viñales to show off one of his most impressive rides in years. It was a well-earned victory for the Spanish rider.
Polesitter Francesco Bagnaia held an early lead over the rest of the grid, but it was obvious that he wouldn’t be able to keep the pace; as a competitive field seethed behind him, Bagnaia was focused on preserving his tires.
Several riders that started near the rear of the field, like Viñales, Joan Mir, and Fabio Quartararo, went on a tear as they pushed their way up the field. But it was truly Viñales who caught everyone’s eyes; after losing two places on the start, the rider sliced his way back up through the field with precision. On lap 13, after several attempts, he took the lead.
Bagnaia dropped back to fourth place as Johann Zarco and Joan Mir both passed by him. Viñales, meanwhile, pulled away from the rest of the field by almost a second.
But a podium wasn’t meant to be for 2020 Champion Mir. After nabbing second place from Zarco, he ran wide, letting both Zarco and Bagnaia past in what must have been a heartbreaking move for the reigning champion. It was an action-packed race from start to finish, one that seems to predict a fascinating season ahead.
Three riders failed to finish the race: Danilo Petrucci, who crashed before the end of the first lap, followed by Alex Marquez on lap 9 and Takaaki Nakagami on lap lap 16. Despite his strong qualifying position, Valentino Rossi finished the event in 12th place.