Fabulous Fabio Wins In Style In Portugal Whilst Marc Marquez Cries Tears Of Progress!
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Fabulous Fabio Wins In Style In Portugal Whilst Marc Marquez Cries Tears Of Progress!

By FORMULAMotoGPMag - 19 April 2021

Author: Myanna Wedes

French rider Fabio Quartararo has conquered Portugal and the MotoGP World with another sensational victory. The Yamaha rider has gone from strength to strength after a turbulent 2020 season where his mindset, emotional outbursts and pressure mounted causing poor results and mistakes. This year, it feels like a new rider has appeared from the shadows and one who is comfortable in his abilities once again. Quartararo had been dominant all weekend with stellar practice sessions, qualifying and a race that definitely cemented his ability to play mind games on track and put his machine in a position that sent shockwaves through the grid on how they could beat him. One rider who fell victim to the psychological challenges of pushing the limits was Alex Rins. At one stage, we thought Rins had the win in his sights until a common theme occurred, that of pushing too hard and forcing an error. Quartararo could hear the Suzuki rider behind him and knew that by making the pace faster, it would put enormous pressure onto the Spanish rider and determine whether or not he was able to go with him or end up crashing. Well, the latter took place and Rins crashed out in a drastic fashion and once again having to own a mistake that is very costly in a World Championship that is so close!

Team Suzuki Ecstar (Grid)
Team Suzuki Ecstar (Grid)

There were certainly glimpses of Yamaha getting back into the groove and their old ways. The riding style of Quartararo was smooth and like butter. Sound familiar? Well, that is exactly how things transpired when Jorge Lorenzo raced for the Japanese manufacturer and won with strength, a dominant force and certainly put it to his fellow rivals. Confidence is key in two wheel sport and the French rider must stay in line. There is a risk of Quartararo going backwards, so his team personnel must work hard with him to ensure a level head is achieve at every step of the long and challenging season.

Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team (Fabio Quartararo)
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team (Fabio Quartararo)

Fabio Quartararo:

“It’s good to be back in this mindset, I feel like I’m full of confidence. Because I brought the confidence of winning the Doha GP with me, I felt the same here. We now know what we need to do to be competitive. As long as I have a good feeling with the front, I’m going fast. In today’s race, I just focused on my riding – but what a pace! I didn’t expect it! I was about half a second off my qualifying lap, so that was amazing. I also felt the pressure from Rins coming up behind me. I wanted to make a gap, but then he made a mistake. I was riding well and easy, and I was still able to make a gap to Bagnaia, so I was so happy. We did an amazing job! Yesterday we were first in all the sessions, and today we won. So, thanks to the team. These are important points, and now we go to one of my favourite tracks, Jerez. I can’t wait to ride there. This is a great way to start the celebrations for my birthday in two days.”

In contrast, Maverick Vinales had a disastrous race and we were quite taken back by his lack of performance considering how he started the year with such precision. The “Top Gun” Vinales has slightly disappeared and we are definitely confused as to why this weekend in Portugal, he was slow, uneasy and at the back of the grid after the first two laps! As we have said in the past, if Vinales is not consistent, the title window opens a gap that he will struggle to close and if his teammate is going to outperform him, mentally speaking, Vinales has an uphill road to climb. The next race in Jerez is vital to ensure he sets himself up for a run of competitiveness. The time off in between events may be a very important ingredient to improve and stay on track. Last year, Joan Mir won as a result of consistency, a good Suzuki package, a quality mindset and managing pressure to the best of his ability with a support network that succeeded together as a team. Vinales must adapt, adjust and expect to be pushed by his younger teammate who is hungrier than ever for the title honour!

Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team (Maverick Vinales)
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team (Maverick Vinales)

Maverick Vinales:

“I don’t know what the issue is yet, but for sure there was something wrong. Our lap times were very slow. I couldn’t do anything, starting from the first lap. It’s a shame, because it was not the result I was expecting. It’s pretty strange that we went from winning in Qatar and starting this weekend in first position to not being able to be inside the top 10 in the race. But you always have ups and downs, that’s life. We now have time to analyse the situation. For sure, we need to change something to make our results more consistent. But after this we are going to Jerez, which is a good track for us, so I’m just going to focus on that and forget this race.”

As the race unfolded, we showed concern for Jack Miller’s performance. Yes, he had arm pump surgery two weeks ago, however, Ducati are a very strict business model and if you lack performance, do not bring home results and crash continuously, you are on the knifes edge of being flicked. Miller needs to pull his socks up and really focus on chasing teammate Pecco Bagnaia who is ahead of him already in the title and results tally. The Australian rider is more than capable as we have said time and time again. With that said, we need to see the results show and victories, podiums and consistency start to flourish. Right now, crashing and having your teammate finish on the podium should be the reminder to do better. Regardless of tyre wear, this is the premier class and we want Miller to be the “Thriller” and take on the rest of the grid for a title bid. As it stands, Ducati are doing well all things considering with the positive and negative points of their bike. Miller is on a one year contract and Bagnaia a two year contract. So, time to speak loudly “Jackass Miller”. Jerez is the time to really set up your boots and go for victory. Right now, Bagnaia is setting himself up for a title chase and could be the dark horse that swoops in and takes charge. Ducati are hunting for that title and the choice of their riders to win is certainly ideal.

Ducati Corse Press (Pecco Bagnaia)
Ducati Corse Press (Pecco Bagnaia)

Francesco Bagnaia:

"I'm delighted with the result in today's race! As I was starting eleventh, my goal was to finish in the top five, but instead, I managed to get on the podium! Moreover, this was a track where I struggled a lot last season, but this year, my feeling with the bike was incredible and allowed me to make this great comeback. In the last laps, I was suffering a lot, but in the end, I was able to defend second place from Mir's attacks, and now we are also second in the Championship. I want to thank my team for the great work we have done together this weekend! Now we'll go to Jerez, another track that I really like."

Ducati Corse Press (Jack Miller)
Ducati Corse Press (Jack Miller)

Jack Miller:

"Definitely, this is not the way we had hoped to end the weekend. I felt strong today, and after a good start, I knew I had to start pushing. Unfortunately, I got very close to Aleix Espargaro and braked late, asking too much of the front tyre. The crash was completely my fault. The last three weekends have been quite difficult, but I have been through much more complicated times in my career. Now, we have to keep doing our job well, trying to stay focused to get better results already in the next race."

Over the past two years, Suzuki have delivered a brilliant bike and one that is getting stronger each and every race. Sure, they lack straight line speed. They are aware of this, with that said, their pace, tyre conservation and corner speed entry and exit is beautiful to watch. One rider this weekend succumbed to pressure and the other utilised his consistency to bag some vital points. Mir and Rins are a dynamic duo and we love their banter, sportsmanship and quality riding skills. There is a theme appearing though with the riders, Mir is strong staying on board whilst Rins makes mistakes. The crash was strange especially coming down the hill and into the corner. Regardless of data, it is a crash that should not have theoretically occurred as his performance from race start was stellar. Rins is such a talent and we are excited to see him line up in Jerez wanting to recover and reward his team with the victory or podium they are certainly wanting to celebrate.

Team Suzuki Ecstar (Joan Mir)
Team Suzuki Ecstar (Joan Mir)

Joan Mir:

“I expected that I could have good race pace, because in Warm-Up this morning I felt very strong, but I didn’t expect to have trouble in the middle of the race. I’m not sure why, but I started to struggle with the front of the bike, which is something we have to check and learn from. But overall I’m happy because we put together a strong weekend and I managed a podium at a track which isn’t the best for me. I’m looking forward to Jerez and hopefully getting another good result there, although it will be a very competitive race for sure.”

Alex Rins:

“Of course I'm a bit disappointed. I was behind Fabio and I was pushing and going to the limit, but it felt like a good limit and I didn’t feel like I was over the limit at any point. I was managing it all well; the tyres, the breathing, the pace, everything. We checked the data after the crash and I had done everything the same, so it was strange to crash. But anyway, I had a good feeling all weekend and although it’s a shame that I couldn’t finish with a trophy, at least I know I have very good pace and the bike works well. My team and I know that if we can keep the same way of working into Jerez, we can have a very nice result.”

In the MotoGP race, there is always a rider of the day. For us, that is Marc Marquez. Here is something to put into perspective:

- 9 months of no competitive MotoGP racing.
- Almost a career ending injury at a young age.
- Lack of fitness riding a MotoGP bike for 20+ laps.
- Emotional scarring of the accident and watching others crash in Portugal.
- Jorge Martin having a major accident and breaking bones requiring surgery.
- Expectation to finish in the top ten by the world.
- Honda relying on Marquez to be the number one top finisher for the manufacturer.
- Ability not to crash whilst finding the limit and adjusting.
- Mindset of all eyes watching you and qualifying in the top six.
- Dreaming of returning to a MotoGP race and that actually taking place.
- Lack of muscle and arm strength causing psychological pain.
- Accepting to be overtaken by other riders as a Multi-World Champion.
- Pushing the limits even when your body is aching and saying “no”.
- Finishing the race and allowing emotions to be expressed.

These are just some of the points that apply to a truly superhuman athlete. It was so important for Honda to have their main rider back in action on track and with eyes glued to the circuit watching him ride and race. To finish in the top ten outperforming other riders who are 100% fit is outstanding and an achievement in its own right. The explosion of emotions after the race was clear and the team was thankful to see him return into the garage healthy, happy and emotionally exhausted. Naturally, Marquez is the reserved type when it comes to emotions except for those of winning a race. To see him cry, reminded us of when Jorge Lorenzo rode after breaking his collarbone in Assen. Moments like this in sport are incredible and career defining because it showcases the power of the mind intermixed with the body to defy limits, answer questions and stand up to the critics.

CormacGP & Repsol Honda MotoGP Team (Marc Marquez)
CormacGP & Repsol Honda MotoGP Team (Marc Marquez)

Marc Marquez:

“There were a lot of emotions this weekend and when I arrived in the box I just exploded, not for the pain but there was something inside that needed to come out. I felt so much support from everyone and especially my family and friends. To feel like a MotoGP rider again was the most important thing and it was a great feeling. I didn’t enjoy today’s race, I suffered a lot, but it was the most important step in my recovery so far. We were able to finish the race, that was our main goal – the position didn’t matter but to finish 13 seconds behind first was an impossible dream. I think I felt best when I was riding alone in the middle of the race, the start of the race was a bit of a shock after so long! The last laps were just about finishing. Now we look to Jerez.”

CormacGP & Repsol Honda MotoGP Team (Marc Marquez)
CormacGP & Repsol Honda MotoGP Team (Marc Marquez)

Emotions will still be running wild for Pramac Ducati rider Johann Zarco who threw away his title lead after crashing in the closing stages of the race. The French rider is still learning the Pramac machine and also where the limit exists. It will be a hard loss to stomach as he wears his heart and emotions on his sleeves. Zarco is sure to recover as the team puts their energy into him only as a result of Martin being sidelined with two injuries and surgery required to put him back together. It will be a road to recovery before the Martinator is back to 100% fitness. We wish him all the best in the recovery whilst waiting to see Zarco work to recover those points he lost. No matter what technical issues arise, even if a gearbox problem surfaces during a race, it is the riders duty to bring the bike home in one piece. Zarco is aware of the expectation within the Ducati outfit and no doubt has his eyes set on Miller’s job considering his desire to be a top class rider.

Pramac MotoGP Team (Johann Zarco)
Pramac MotoGP Team (Johann Zarco)

Johann Zarco:

“It’s a shame, but this is also a part of the game, I was doing well all weekend and I had gotten off to a great start in the race. Unfortunately, I made a mistake towards the very end of the race which caused me to lose the grip on the front. I am very disappointed but like I said earlier, these are things that can happen in this sport. We will re-start with even more energy at Jerez.”

As we look at various other manufacturers, KTM are improving and Brad Binder is still a stand out talent. His race was superb and another key reminder on why they promoted the South African rider to be in the main line up. He is cool, calm, collected, strong and fast. His performances on track speak loudly whilst teammate Miguel Oliveira hit the tarmac at his home Grand Prix and was the complete opposite of 2020 where he won the race. KTM have a lot of work ahead of them in order to be competitive and the same can be said for the PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang MotoGP Racing Team who virtually had one rider on television with Valentino Rossi almost like a spectator in the stalls. A race to forget for Oliveira and Rossi. We are yet to see either rider at their strongest and wonder when this will be as their teammates outperform them and are putting their hands in the air as the main challenger to take it to the rest of the grid.

KTM Images / Polarity Photo (Brad Binder)

Brad Binder:

“Happy to get our first top five of the season. I really wanted to be on the podium today and thought we had the potential to be there with about five laps to go. I pushed as hard as I could but I couldn’t put the key clean laps together at the end as much as I wanted. Overall, I gave my absolute best today and didn’t leave anything on the table. A massive thanks to the team because we did a great job getting the bike ready for the race and we’ll go again in Jerez.”

KTM Images / Polarity Photo (Miguel Oliveira)
KTM Images / Polarity Photo (Miguel Oliveira)

Miguel Oliveira:

“Finally it was a very disappointing day for us. My start was not so good and I struggled in the beginning to stop the bike. I could feel the front tire moving a lot on the braking points and it made it even harder for me to overtake. Eventually I lost the front into Turn 14 but I picked-up to try and finish the race out of respect for the team and everyone watching and the Portuguese fans. It was not the show I wanted to put on. We have to put this behind us and focus on the future.”

PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team (Franco Morbidelli)
PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team (Franco Morbidelli)

Franco Morbidelli:

“I’m very happy to be fourth today and it’s been a great weekend for us. The race was really good and I was able to fight my way through at the beginning. Then my rhythm and pace was good enough to stay there and battle for a podium place. I was a little surprised about that and I’m proud that we were able to do so. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough potential to attack fully, but I’m really pleased with this result anyway. It’s a good injection of energy after the two races in Qatar, the feeling with the bike is back and now we just need to enjoy this moment. Let’s see what happens in Jerez!”

PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team (Valentino Rossi)
PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team (Valentino Rossi)

Valentino Rossi:

“Today things were better because we improved some settings on the bike and we used the hard rear tyre, which gave me a better feeling. My pace was a lot better than yesterday, but unfortunately when you start from behind it is always difficult. I lost a bit of time on the first corner but after that I was thinking that I could make it into the top-ten. Unfortunately I lost the front in Turn 11, it’s quite a demanding corner on the front tyre, and my race was over. It’s a shame because we could have taken some good points today, but we know that we have made improvements.”

We said the European leg would be a key indicator of performance and Jerez is another race where strengths will dominate at the front and weaknesses put the ultimate sense of pressure onto a riders shoulders. With the break in between events, we are very excited to see Quartararo be pushed by the rest of the grid and Marquez stronger than ever to shake up the results! It is game on between the manufacturers. At this present moment, there is a slight sense of déjà vu with Quartararo, so we are observing closely to witness the growth of a World Champion or the downfall of a rider progressing too fast in his own mind. The choice is Quartararo’s on how he plays this title race out in 2021.

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