MotoGP heads to Portimao for the third race of the season, here is what we can expect.
MotoGP is MotoGP, just like the sky is blue, the only thing is that MotoGP is one of the most unpredictable sports the world has ever seen, so MotoGP is MotoGP the same way the sky could be yellow, pink, red, or green… Honestly even trying to write what we can expect from the sport this weekend is a job in itself and I don’t really know where I am going with this analogy but I have committed to it.
If you haven’t realised yet, Marc Marquez is returning this weekend at Portimao after 9 long months away from the race track, it will be incredibly interesting to see how the eight-time World Champion gets on and adapts back to the MotoGP way of life after watching the races from a TV screen for the last few months, there is no doubt he will want to come back and dominate as he has done previously but he is also aware that he needs to take it carefully with his injured arm and not cause himself any irreparable damage. We have gone into depth on how we think he will do which can be read here.
Looking towards the front of the grid there is one man everyone is expecting to dominate, Miguel Oliveira, the Portuguese rider will be racing his home round at a track he has completed thousands of laps on. In 2020 we saw how impressive he was knowing every inch of the place and blasting off into the distance leaving his competitors to fight over second place, he actually won three races at the circuit last year as he did the double at the start of the year riding in the Portuguese Superbike Championship on a Yamaha R1 winning both races.
Miguel Oliveira dominated in 2020.
He will return in full factory colours this year following a tough few weeks at Qatar where the KTM struggled to be competitive due to a high grip track which was eating up tyres, Portimao will be much different as it has less grip despite its recent resurfacing which is positive for KTM, he is a rider many will be hoping can do well.
In a sad tale of dissapointment, we must turn our attention to a team that are underperforming, the Petronas Yamaha team. The team are struggling to replicate the dizzying heights they reached in 2020 and are instead suffering many issues with Valentino Rossi qualifying in P21 and finishing in P16 in the Doha GP whilst Franco Morbidelli has been left to struggle with a dodgy holeshot device, a missing knee slider and general bad luck. Morbidelli finished in P3 at the track last year and has positive data which he will be able to take advantage of to get him back where he belongs at the front of the grid. As for Rossi, we will have to see, was it just a case of two bad races at Qatar or is the Doctor genuinely struggling?
Another rider who is underperforming, especially compared to his counterparts, is Ducati’s Jack Miller, the Australian signed for the factory team very early on into the 2020 season replacing Danilo Petrucci and went on to have one of his best seasons in the class amassing 4 podiums with his worst result of the season being P9 which is pretty impressive, sadly in 2021 things aren’t going too well for him and I feel he is starting to hate that number 9, he finished both races at Qatar in P9 whilst both Pramac Ducati boys including rookie Jorge Martin stood on the podium along with Francesco Bagnaia. Portimao is a track he did well at last year and fought off Morbidelli to take third place, so we could start to see the Jack Miller we know so well on Portuguese soil.
The Pramac Ducati boys have started the season on a high with Johann Zarco leading the championship. The Frenchman has enjoyed Qatar more than most and his top speed advantage of the Ducati GP21 definitely helped the Frenchman to secure some extra positions especially in the first race when he out dragged 2020 champion Joan Mir to the line bringing Francesco Bagnaia with him to deny Mir a rostrum finish at the season opener. Zarco is desperately chasing his first-ever MotoGP win after finishing in 2nd place 6 times in the class and crashing out of first place more than once, the double Moto2 champion has been teasing us all with his backflip celebration for 4 seasons now and it’s about time we saw it in action once again. Portimao could be the place he does it, the Ducati is once again strong at the rollercoaster circuit with 3 of the Bologna machines in the top 10 last time MotoGP arrived there. Now equipped with the title lead and current machinery Zarco will be chasing gold.
Pramac Ducati will be looking for another result.
Another rider chasing a medal will be his teammate Jorge Martin who stunned everyone at the Doha GP to not only take pole position but also to lead 18 laps of the race and take his first MotoGP podium in just his second race. He has tasted MotoGP glory already and this is only going to be the start for the young Spaniard who will be chasing that feeling again this weekend.
LCR Honda are going to be praying for some sort of miracle following from a dismal two races in Qatar which saw both riders crash out of race one and Marquez bin it in the second as Nakagami finished outside of the points, it wasn’t necessarily an issue with the team but more so the Honda which wasn’t a happy RC213V in the desert not enjoying the track conditions or the fact that it was the wrong Marquez riding it.
Last but not least we arrive with Aprilia who will be fresh from their best result in the class, not necessarily position-wise but timewise 100%, they were able to finish the closest they ever have from a MotoGP race winner in the class with Aleix Espargaro taking P10 in the DohaGP just 5.382 seconds from P1, not only will they be motivated and happy with what they have achieved, they will also have feedback from Andrea Dovizioso who has tested their RS-GP this week and given them vital information which they can use to improve their bike. Armed with this information and high morale they may be a shocker in the mix.
But, this is MotoGP, so you can probably disregard all of this as Iker Lecuona is going to win the race and Savadori will get a podium because this is MotoGP and absolutely anything can happen!
Featured images – KTM Media / Polarity Photo – Oliveira + Featured image
Pramac riders – MotoGP.com