Fabulous Fabio Victorious in Assen as Maverick Vinales Quits Yamaha at the End of the Season!
Author: Myanna Wedes
The 2021 Assen Grand Prix was special with spills, thrills and battles to which some riders ended up losing out and others capitalising on their gamble to push their rivals to the limit. It was considered the hardest race for one rider Pecco Bagnia whilst a career defining moment for Fabio Quartararo who has been unstoppable. The race for the French rider was faultless, leading the title by 34 points and into the summer break for five weeks of rest, recovery and for some soul searching moments to reignite their charge for the title, in particular Maverick Vinales who has mutually ended his contract with Yamaha at the end of the 2021 season. We knew there was bad blood between the two, though to the extent of leaving and showcasing sadness on his face after finishing second in the race yesterday. It was an awkward press interview and podium to say the least! Vinales denied rumours of leaving and then within 24 hours, his departure announced with the rumour swirling that he will join Aprilia. In moments like this, riders can become their worst enemy and it appears Vinales needs to get out from the toxic environment after five years with Yamaha and focus on new goals. He is a very talented rider, probably one of the most versatile, so watching him struggle has been tough for any fan of the Spanish rider and our team as motor racing specialists. With the progression Aprilia has shown, it could be a good bet for Vinales, with Aleix Espargaro pushing for the Spaniard to sign and join him. Espargaro wants a younger rider with style, precision, and vision to help push along the Aprilia project that he loves dearly and has worked so hard to improve.
As the Yamaha team back the French rider of Quartararo, it is going to be interesting to see how the remaining half of the season unfolds and if there will be equal treatment to Vinales as he departs. Will Yamaha cut him off from all technology like they did to Rossi and will Quartararo’s fitness be in question or is the time off a perfect opportunity to heal. During the race and mainly towards the end, Quartararo began to struggle with pain in his forearm. The tactics whether they are physical or mental will be on between the two riders under the same Yamaha umbrella because a rider that is leaving will either check out mentally and look to the following year or try to win as many races as possible to ensure his teammate feels the pressure. With the relationship between Vinales and Yamaha broken, this soap opera will unfold in front of our very eyes.
“I'm really happy, especially because during the weekend I did only bad starts, and I mean really bad, and I was actually a bit worried. But with the team we always get the job done and save the best for the race. Today it was like this, so I am so happy. It was a really good race. It was a tough one, but we did it. I think today is the perfect day to go on holiday after a victory. I will go see my family straight away to enjoy this moment and spend some time with them.”
“For me this was a great Sunday too! It’s been a long time since I was last on the podium. It was good. Honestly, I’m very happy. Actually, the second part of the race was fast. I was able to do fast laps, but I just expected a bit more from the beginning. I knew immediately when I was behind Nakagami for ten laps that I lost the race, because also the tyres suffered. Zarco was attacking me, and I was controlling the gap between me and Nakagami to make sure I wasn’t overheating the tyres, so it was a very complicated race, but in the end, it finished in a good way. This partnership has been very significant to me over the last five years, and it proved a difficult decision to part ways. In these seasons together, we experienced both great achievements and tough times. However, the underlying feeling is of mutual respect and appreciation. I am fully committed and will strive to achieve the best results for the rest of the season.”
Disappointment is a key word for Jack Miller and Valentino Rossi who both crashed after showcasing a promising start to the race. The Australian rider received zero points, knew the crash was his own mistake and will have to play this over in his mind for the next five weeks. An error like this does put a dent in the title race for Miller, though he can certainly recover and with the upcoming races at the Red Bull Ring, it is clear the Ducati manufacturer favours this circuit and will be hard to beat. For Miller’s teammate, Bagnaia, it was one of the hardest races of his career and he did a wonderful job even after receiving a long lap penalty for exceeding track limits. He had a target on his back throughout the entire race and handed the pressure well, especially when it comes down to vital title points and bringing home the Ducati in one piece. As we know in two wheel racing, one error or injury for a title leader can all of a sudden bring the title back to a realistic place. Regardless of Quartararo’s lead, there is still plenty of time for Miller and Bagnaia to take it to the French rider for the Championship.
"This is definitely not the easiest track for us, but I was hoping for a different ending to this weekend. Unfortunately, at turn five, there was a bit of confusion with Nakagami and Mir, and in an attempt to avoid a possible contact, I braked too early and lost control of the front, which caused me to crash. At that moment, I was maybe more focused on what was happening in front of me and not on my riding, and obviously, I am annoyed about this mistake. It's a pity because it was important to get some points today, but it is what it is. We are not far behind in the Championship, so now we have to move on and try to get back to winning ways in the next two races scheduled in Austria after the summer break".
"Today has probably been one of the most difficult races I've ever had in MotoGP. I tried hard to defend myself from Fabio, but it was clear I couldn't stay with him when he passed me. In the first part of the circuit, I made up some ground, but I lost a lot from him in the last sector. It was hard fighting with Nakagami too. In my attempt to defend myself, I exceeded the track limits twice and had to serve a long lap penalty. At that point, it wasn't easy to make up positions. I apologise to my team for this mistake, which I could have avoided, but today I really gave it all to try and bring home as many points as possible".
As you look at other manufacturers, Team Suzuki Ecstar are doing a superb job to stay within the title hunt even with a lack of acceleration with their bike. It is frustrating for Joan Mir and Alex Rins at times, though Mir regardless of his poor qualifying results managed to pick up another podium and remind critics, fans, and teams that he means business as the reigning World Champion. New parts and finding an answer to their speed problems will be crucial and without a doubt a reason for Suzuki to be working around the clock! The bad luck continues for Rins which is unfortunate, and we hope the summer break can help to change this around as he is so fast and a quality rider. He was a passenger to another rider’s ambitious entry to a corner and as a result the winglet clipped him, and he was forced to sit the bike up to avoid crashing. It is way more beneficial to finish a race as opposed to another DNF.
“I did everything I could to get a good result for the team and for myself ahead of the summer break; this podium is really important and we couldn’t ask for much more today. It wasn’t easy to get up to third, especially against the Ducatis, but I made a good start and tried to make clean passes. I had one or two moments that were a bit close to the limit and I’m sorry if I was too close sometimes. We’ve struggled more than we expected in the first half of the season, and it’s crucial to go into the break as close to the top guys as possible so I’m satisfied and today has given us a boost. There is still plenty of time to go this year, and we’re aiming to becoming more competitive, bring new parts, and be even closer to the top. Overall, we’re happy with how the season has been going, and this result brings a nice feeling to all of us.”
“I was very unlucky today because I made an incredible start and I felt able to fight for the Top three or four, I was with the lead group. Then in Turn 10 I went in like normal, when another rider arrived very fast and his winglet hit my arm, so the only thing I could do was pick up the bike to avoid crashing. If I hadn’t been there he would have run off for sure, but instead he hit me. But this situation was out of my hands, so I just had to try and do my best after that. My race pace was good and it allowed me to climb up to 11th. It’s a shame to have another race with unlucky circumstances, I’ve been fast in a lot of races but I’ve had crashes and incidents that have prevented me getting good results, but now we’ll go into the break and come back stronger and more ready for part two.”
Ride of the day goes to Marc Marquez, you have to cheer and clap for the multiple World Champion after his race pace and dedication to the valuable points for his Honda team. Starting 20th and finishing 7th is an incredible achievement considering his fitness, the high side he endured at the Assen circuit on day one and pushing mentally to show up for the race and go all out. The summer break will be a gift to Marquez because healing time is necessary and he will use this wisely. The Honda bike is a hard one to master and with the minimal time on bord, Marquez is showing why he is a Champion in varying ways. In comparison, Pol Espargaro has been a harsh critic of his own efforts and has not seen the first half of the season unfold as he would have liked. If anything, he has witnessed the growth of Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder at his old team which would be causing him some internal grief. The transition to the Honda has been troubling, challenging and a reality check if anything for the Spanish rider who can be at times an emotional rider and reactive as opposed to thinking of his moves on track with clarity. To see Marquez return and win has to be a reason for Espargaro to want success with the Honda outfit. Of course, patience is required, although Honda are not the best at sticking to this part of the deal when it comes to wanting results.
“I am very happy today, sure if you check the result and see seventh it’s not too impressive but when you start from 20th on the grid, it’s not too bad. I was pushing a lot in the opening lap and I was up to 12th. Then I made a mistake in the middle of the race and lost contact with the front group. From then I just focused on coming back and I was able to ride well until the end with a nice battle with Aleix Espargaro in the last laps as well. I was destroyed physically so could not challenge Pecco more. When I came back to the box I said thanks to the team and Honda because after Friday’s crash, they gave me the confidence again by changing some parameters with the TC and I was able to ride well. The potential of the bike was a podium if we had started in the front. Now for the summer break, time to rest and recover and come back stronger for the second half of the season.”
“I knew it would be a difficult race, I am still unable to overtake at the start of the race with a full tank of fuel. If I am alone, I can run with a good pace, like in Warm Up, but as soon as I am in trouble with other riders around – I am too defensive and I stop riding how I want to and I make mistakes. Again, we need to improve our Saturday to be in a better position for Sunday so we are not starting behind. The job for after the summer break is to improve Qualifying, but now we head to the break. The start of the season hasn’t been how I wanted so I am looking forward to this time to rest and reset.”
Finally, Johann Zarco had a great race even with difficult circumstances and not being able to push. He is proving to be a real threat to the title and an all-rounder on board the Pramac Ducati MotoGP machine. We like Zarco and his way of being on and off track. He lets the racing do the talking most of the time and is a hard worker, all respect is due especially since his career highlights include a broken relationship with KTM. It was an unfortunate weekend for Jorge Martin, who is not at 100% fitness, to a point where he had to retire as he was not able to continue.
In contrast, Rossi had a disaster weekend. Besides announcing the launch of his own team in 2022, “The Doctor” had a massive crash in the race and is consistently at the back of the grid when it comes to race day. He is not shining in the way we know is possible and his success straw being cut by the day as to if he will retire or jump on board his own team bike next year which will be a Ducati. Now, we all remember what happened with Rossi and Ducati! As we watched Rossi tumble, Garrett Gerloff filling in for Franco Morbidelli was a success, he managed to finish the race and obtain some relevant data for the team. To jump on board this machine from World Superbike and learn on the job is a credit to his talent and the confidence he has to step up to the plate.
“I am very satisfied. It was an extremely difficult race and we were able to handle it the best we could. At one point I even thought I could make the podium. All this makes me feel very confident and has given me greater certainty for the second part of the championship.”
“Unfortunately, for two races in a row, I have been restrained by my physical condition. I had a good race pace and could have made the top ten but I still haven’t completely recovered. The break we now have will help a great deal; I will be back in Austria in perfect health.”
“The result today is a shame because my pace this weekend was not too bad and I could have had a decent race. Unfortunately I had a bad start and we had changed something in the strategy, which meant I did not feel at 100%. When you are behind it is hard because it creates problems with the front tyre, you lose some grip. I managed some overtakes and then pushed to join the group but I lost the front. I’m lucky though because it was a high-speed crash but I am fine. In this first half of the season we expected to be more competitive, have a bit more speed and be able to fight for better positions but there have been some races where I am not too bad.”
“It had its difficulties for sure, like trying to remember the start procedure on the bike and understanding what the cold brakes would be like going into the first corner. I’m happy that I made it to the finish line, but I am a little disappointed with how far back I was. I was able to stay with Luca [Marini] at the start of the race, although I wish I could have passed him a little earlier as the others were just ahead and maybe I could have latched onto them. I am happy with today though and being able to finish my first MotoGP race. I just want to thank PETRONAS Yamaha SRT for the opportunity to ride their bike, to be here this weekend and I wish all the best to Franco in his recovery.”
Time to enjoy the summer break. If you are in Sydney, we wish you all the best during this lockdown period. It is a perfect time to watch some of the races back and if elsewhere in Australia as well as the globe, please stay safe and well.Protect your Motorcycle. Call Shannons Insurance on 13 46 46 to get a quote today.