MotoGP Styria: Race weekend preview

MotoGP returns this weekend to the Red Bull Ring in Austria after five weeks break.

MotoGP will finally return to our television screens with fans being allowed trackside in Austria to enjoy the spectacle that is MotoGP, the greatest sport in the world. What can we expect from MotoGP after five weeks off?

Well firstly, we welcome back two greats of the sport namely Dani Pedrosa and Cal Crutchlow. Pedrosa has finally agreed to do a wildcard for the KTM team and will race alongside Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira at the home circuit of the Austrian manufacturer, Pedrosa’s job will be to gather important data which can only be gathered in a race situation with Austria being the most obvious choice given how many thousands of laps the MotoGP Legend will have completed here during testing.

Cal Crutchlow makes his return on the Petronas Yamaha replacing the injured Franco Morbidelli for three rounds including Silverstone, unfortunately for Crutchlow this does mean that he will be riding the 2019 model of the Yamaha M1 with 2019 parts, despite this we have seen Morbidelli on the podium already this year and Cal isn’t exactly a slow rider, it will be interesting to see how he will perform after racing for Honda since 2015, both riders are at a calibre where points are absolutely expected to be scored.

Cal Crutchlow will make his MotoGP return this weekend.

Moving to the full-time riders, we can of course expect Ducati and KTM to be fast. Ducati have won five of the six races here with KTM’s Miguel Oliveira beating Jack Miller out of the final corner last year to take victory, this podium was solely occupied by Ducati and KTM riders with KTM achieving a double podium thanks to Pol Espargaro’s 3rd place finish, as previously mentioned KTM have bucket loads of knowledge of the track and Oliveira and Binder have both benefitted greatly from the recent chassis updates meaning both are surely in podium contention.

Currently there are three Ducati’s in the top five of the championship and they have arguably been the best bike to be on this year unless your name is Fabio Quartararo, Ducati have shown to be strong even on tracks they normally do not perform on like at Jerez when they scored a historic 1-2 finish. Johann Zarco is chasing down his first MotoGP victory and the slow corners and long straights play directly into the strengths of the Bologna Bullet which is why they have such a strong record at the track, being able to use their superior top speed and acceleration to escape their competitors.

One man we cannot forget about is Fabio Quartararo, the fast Frenchman currently leads the championship by 34 points to his name meaning he can afford a DNF/a disaster, the issue is 34 points sounds great but as we have seen in F1 recently it only takes two bad races for this to be cut down to zero. The track is not a track favoured by Yamaha with Quartararo not expected to be incredibly strong here however the youngster continues to impress and supersede all expectations so the likelihood here is that he will win.

Fabio Quartararo has been fairly unstoppable this year. 

Looking over to the other side of the garage in Yamaha we have the recently divorced Maverick Vinales, don’t worry, he is still married, just not to Yamaha. Austria will be his first race following the announcement of his split from Yamaha at Assen, there is no doubt tensions are going to be running high and Vinales will be doing his best to perform well. This can go one of two ways, he may race knowing he is free from Yamaha and win the race racing carefree, or the other will happen and he will struggle mentally once again and crumble during the weekend, there’s no way of telling until we see the chequered flag come Sunday.

Eyeing up where Vinales is expected to race in 2022, Aprilia, they are a team aiming for their first podium, we have seen some incredibly strong and consistent performances from Aleix Espargaro in the first half of the season taking a multitude of P6 finishes for the Noale brand, unable to push through the barrier of their best result of P6, the package has been proven to be quick enough to battle for the podium, Aleix just needs to put it there.

Now, the big question, maybe the biggest of them all. Will we see Marc Marquez back to form? He is a rider expecting to improve this weekend, it’s been noted by many that he is looking more and more like his former self with team manager Alberto Puig confirming that he was much more like the Marc Marquez we know in Assen. If you follow his social media accounts you will have seen he is now training on a Honda CBR600 at the small karting track at Aragon and has began doing Motocross once again. It is clear to see he has gotten much stronger recently and it’s definitely a good sign for the future, he has battled for the win in Austria many times previously with the circuit being one of two on the calendar he is yet to win on, the other being Portimao. If it’s true and Marquez is indeed back to his former self, there’s no doubt he will be battling for gold.

We can’t forget Suzuki either, Joan Mir took his first MotoGP podium at the circuit last year before very nearly winning the race a week later before a red flag ruined his chances due to a lack of tyres available to him to be able to go out and continue, forcing him to race on used tyres and relegating him off the podium from a sure race win. Mir has shown a solid run of form recently with a podium in Assen and aims to get his title defence back on track, it’ll be a tough job with 55 points to make-up but his consistency in 2020 was unrivalled. In the second half of the season MotoGP going to many of the tracks he impressed at last year, if there is anyone who can claw back the points gap it’s Joan Mir. Suzuki will also rock up to Austria with a new ride height adjuster which they expect to gain them a massive 0.400 seconds a lap, if this is the case then there’s absolutely no doubt both riders can battle for victory, Alex Rins also briefly led at the track last year before a crash out of the lead, watch out, Suzuki are coming!

Rossi narrowly escaped with his life last year. 

Finally, we hope and pray that the safety of the track has been improved. We had a major accident here last year with both Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales emerging without injury somehow. Many have commented on the dangers of the track saying MotoGP should not race there, this includes Casey Stoner on multiple occasions with the lack of a run-off area at turn two, the right precautions must be in place to ensure the riders race fairly, cleanly and most importantly, safely. Of course accidents happen and freak accidents occur but it’s better to be proactive rather than reactive.

Featured images – Dorna Sports