Hard Work Pays Off for Pecco Bagnaia Winning First MotoGP Race at MotorLand Aragon with Marc Marquez Battling him to Finish Second!
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Hard Work Pays Off for Pecco Bagnaia Winning First MotoGP Race at MotorLand Aragon with Marc Marquez Battling him to Finish Second!

By FORMULAMotoGPMag - 13 September 2021

The 2021 MotorLand Aragon MotoGP was sensational and a fun ride to watch on board with Pecco Bagnaia and Marc Marquez who were a step above the rest of the field. It was a brilliant battle between the two riders, swapping at least six times in and out of multiple corners with the speed set by the two of them quite incredible for two reasons. One, Ducati had not won at this circuit since 2010, the last to complete it was Australian rider and World Champion Casey Stoner and second, Honda have struggled this year to be fast and Marquez was literally on the limit pushing the bike to the extreme level almost crashing a few times in the last few moments of the race. It was a superhuman effort by both of the riders to swap positions and keep the battles on track and not impede one another to cause chaos. In addition to this, to see Bagnaia win his first MotoGP race in this way was superb because he earned the victory by working hard, remaining calm and focusing on his race. Mentor, Valentino Rossi, was extremely proud of Bagnaia as he watches the growth of his riders from the VR46 Academy shine. Bagnaia’s dominance started on Friday with strong feelings that enabled him to succeed even under immense pressure from a multi-World-Champion. Marquez was pushing him lap after lap trying to force an error. In comparison, both of their teammates tried to push although Jack Miller encountered a technical problem that upset his rhythm and Pol Espargaro did not have the confidence to be fast in order to be at the front. When you watch the race back and observe both first and second place finishers, you can see that they are on another level and those behind were not able to run the same pace. In no particular order, the riders who had a tough weekend included World Championship leader Fabio Quartararo, Johann Zarco and Alex Rins, all of whom were upset with their performances on race day. There will be a lot of questions that need answers from all aspects of the team in order to be competitive at Misano, although if you were Quartararo, all you need to do is protect that title lead by remaining consistent enough to last the remainder of the season to bag the title. 

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

To those who doubted the return of Marquez and if he was ever going to be the same, he never left. You have to understand the scope and scale of his injury to realise how hard he has been working to get back to the form he demonstrated on circuit this weekend. There was a high chance he would not be able to ride again. Therefore, it takes a certain type of individual to push past the pain, adversity and defy doctors predictions in order to ride a MotoGP bike on the limit. When Marquez is back to 100% fitness and ultimate comfort on board his Honda, the paddock must be ready because he is hungrier than ever to win a World Championship again. The battles have only just started! With so much change taking place, new rider goals, a retirement, a return of a rider and more, the stories of MotoGP will continue right up until the last race in 2021 because everything is to play for and even if the title is completed early, the wins and podiums still earn brownie points within the sport and in particular teams wanting to improve year upon year. This is how you stay relevant in the sport and ensuring your seat remains yours!

Credit - Ducati Corse Press (Pecco Bagnaia)

Francesco Bagnaia:

"Today's victory was really incredible. We knew we were strong, but also that Marc Márquez is particularly fast on this track. When I took the lead, I tried to push right away because I knew he was behind. The last four laps were tough, and I couldn't wait for the race to finish because he kept passing me. In the end, we did it, and it is an indescribable emotion. Today's win was not taken for granted: I came here with lots of questions, as I had never managed to be fast and finish the race in the points since 2019 until now at the MotorLand. Instead, this year, since FP1, everything has been perfect. I'm thrilled."

Credit - Ducati Corse Press (Jack Miller)

Jack Miller:

"Today didn't go exactly as we hoped. I would have liked to achieve something more, but we had a small technical problem in the second part of the race that led me to make a few mistakes. In the beginning, I felt really good on the bike and was able to push to try and stay with Pecco and Marc. But then, when I started to struggle, I made a mistake and let Mir and Espargaro pass me, and from there, all I could do was manage to keep the fifth place and save the tyres. Anyway, I am really happy for Pecco and all the guys in the team! He has always been fast this year and finally got his first win, so I congratulate him!"

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

Marc Marquez:

“I pushed hard all race but on the last three laps I really tried everything. Sometimes when you try like this you make a mistake, you crash and the result isn’t good. But I still tried and I think everyone watching it enjoyed a lot! I knew it would be really difficult, fighting against the Ducati is hard because they brake very late and accelerate very well plus today, Pecco was riding in a perfect way. It was a great battle with him, I enjoyed it a lot. After two crashes in a row, it’s not easy to give everything and put it on the line like in this race. In Turn 1 on the last lap I couldn’t stop well and I couldn’t make it happen at Turn 5 either. My last chance was Turn 12 but as soon as I went to the dirty part of the track, I knew it would be impossible and I ran wide. I’m happy because we were able to fight and our race pace was fast and also because this race provides extra motivation to me, to HRC and everyone in the box. Thanks to everyone for their hard work.”

Pol Espargaro:

“I wasn’t fast today, I did not have a good feeling with the bike in the hotter conditions and I struggled from the start. I was unable to ride as I wanted and I lost too many places at the start, there were points in the race where I felt better and I was able to make up some ground, but the group ahead had been lost. With just a little more grip I can really ride the bike with my style as I want, but when the conditions are like this I can’t ride the bike like I want to. Now we get ready for Misano where probably the conditions will be similar, so we have to keep working to see what’s possible and how to improve. Marc shows that the bike can be strong in these conditions, I just need more time on the bike to understand what to do.”

Third place finisher Joan Mir was not satisfied with the overall performance for the weekend and was quite disappointed with the podium. He did not celebrate with a smile when speaking during his post-race interview and was frustrated at the lack of performance, plus qualifying mid pack which did not help. Mir knows that errors in qualifying can be so costly for race day and he is not hiding behind this as a reason for not winning more races. When you listen back to the comments of Shinichi Sahara, the Project Leader and Team Director, he was also not so happy with the team results and wanted more which is only natural. They are looking forward to Misano to see how the bike will perform especially since the new squatting device is becoming part and parcel of their normal day to day racing set up. The title is now out of reach for Mir, so he will not be defending the title in the way he had hoped. We certainly feel that Suzuki have a gap to fill within the main team personnel in order to further their development. To improve, they need to have all of their team across the tasks and not spread thin, meaning one staff member managing multiple roles at once. This is something that Aprilia have been mastering within their team set up and it is showing with Aleix Espargaro super competitive, developing the bike continuously, finishing fourth at MotorLand Aragon and Maverick Vinales having a successful debut race. We thoroughly enjoyed watching the development of Vinales over the course of the weekend, keeping in mind that he has only spent one entire weekend on board the new machine. During qualifying, he was putting elements of his lap together though is still finding the confidence in order to keep a consistent pace, which is to be expected as he adapts from a Yamaha to an Aprilia. Not many riders have been able to accomplish such a rapid change. Jorge Lorenzo managed to do this with Ducati though across two seasons. The talent is there with Vinales, it is just how he adapts and at what pace in order to be side by side with teammate Espargaro who is doing a fabulous job to finally be competitive enough to push the top manufactures at their own games and strategies.

Joan Mir:

“I’m a bit disappointed, despite the podium, because I wasn’t able to be as fast as I wanted. But the important thing was that I managed to be really consistent and feel comfortable on the bike. The team and I put in a lot of effort and that resulted in a third place finish, which was good, but I was hoping to have winning pace. The track was very hot and all weekend it was hard to get optimal grip and feeling, but I kept fighting and this podium brings us positivity and some nice points. We’ll keep pushing to improve for the remaining rounds. I’m not thinking of the title, I just want to get the best possible result at every race.”

Alex Rins:

“It was a very, very difficult race. In the first part I overtook a lot of riders, but then when I went onto the long straight I was fast but I was also keen to maintain the condition of the tyre. I got up to 12th and then I started to feel quite strange with not much grip or feeling in general. I wanted to do the best job possible, but in the end I couldn’t gain any more places. I don’t feel so bad because I gained a lot of places compared with my grid position and I’m ready to move on to Misano and try again.”

Credit - Aprilia MotoGP Team (Aleix Espargaro)

Aleix Espargaro:

"In the race today, the pace was out of this world, especially at the front, and even physically I can’t remember too many Sundays that have been this demanding. I’m pleased with the position, but more than anything, with the consistency we’re demonstrating, which is still my primary goal for this season. Considering the fact that in the finale, since overtaking Mir for third was impossible and I had a good gap ahead of Miller, I increased the pace a bit, I was still able to keep up with the riders who were making the difference over the rest of the grid. This means that we can battle with anyone and on any track, which is a huge step forward for me and for Aprilia."

Credit - Aprilia MotoGP Team (Maverick Vinales)

Maverick Vinales:

"I’m satisfied with the weekend overall. We knew that the position wouldn’t be our primary objective. In fact, I used a slightly different setup in order to continue experimenting with this new bike and gather information. I started well – that’s the first positive note – and in terms of tyre management, I must also admit that the situation is good. Maybe if we had started a bit farther forward, we’d be talking about a different race, but the flying lap in practice is a question of confidence and that will come with time and miles. We are at a point that requires great effort and work, but I know that we’ll be successful in the end."

In terms of the Yamaha factory, they had a challenging weekend with Quartararo baffled by lack of pace and Cal Crutchlow suffering a setback as a result of Alex Marquez crashing on lap one. We thought during the race that Quartararo was suffering another front tyre pressure issue as he went backwards very quickly, however, he has not been clear on what happened entirely so we have to assume the confidence was not there in order to go flat out. MotorLand Aragon is a tough circuit for the French rider and he was happy with his qualifying performance, just not the race overall. The data provided by teammate Crutchlow is sure to enhance the overall Yamaha set up because he is a quality rider, with testing the main focus now as Franco Morbidelli returns for the Misano Grand Prix to take his seat. Whilst we are excited to see how this plays out, we cannot wait to see Andrea Dovizioso back on track and in action with the PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team. With that said, it will not be easy considering Valentino Rossi finished the Aragon Grand Prix in nineteenth position and although it is not one of his ideal tracks, the strategy did not result in the points he was aiming for and as a result, he already looking forward to the home Grand Prix at Misano where fans are sure to go wild with Rossi Mania! There is every chance that Quartararo could be a World Champion with a few races to go and we are eager to see how he approaches those events. The sports psychologist he has been working with has certainly provided the golden ticket to maturing on and off circuit. Quartararo is becoming a fan favourite and it is nice to see as it connects up more people from across the globe.

Credit - Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team (Fabio Quartararo)

Fabio Quartararo:

“I’m not happy, because it was strange today. I improved my pace this morning, but something strange happened during the race. These things can happen sometimes. It’s a bit sad that this time it was during the race, but it’s not a total disaster. We will work hard to analyse what happened, and next week we will be riding in Misano. That’s a track that I really like, so we just need to turn over the page. I still think we did a great job. It’s just a shame about the result at the end of this weekend.”

Credit - Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team (Cal Crutchlow, Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi)

Cal Crutchlow:

“I did enjoy it, and that’s the main thing. Enjoying the race and getting the information for Yamaha was our aim for this weekend. I’m disappointed with my position, but my position was severely hampered after the first lap contact with I think it was Alex Marquez. I had made a great start to eleventh already. I had the pace for a top 10 today I believe, but I ran off track, ran across the grass, came back on track, and then I hit another rider. I was back in 20th or something. I had to make up some positions, that was okay. I got held up by Marini after this, then I came across a 2s gap to the group in front of me. We struggled today, but it was good for information. I was pleased with my pace when I was not battling or something like that, which is positive. This means we can keep testing in a good way, because I will be testing here in two weeks’ time again.”

A standout ride this weekend for us was Enea Bastianini, who finished in sixth place and on a two-year-old Ducati! Credit is due because he is putting the bike in places no one thought was possible, especially when you look at his teammate Luca Marini who finished twentieth. Every weekend, Bastianini finds a way to improve, showcase his talent and is certainly one to watch for the future. Although, all the key leading Ducati spots are filled, the Italian rider is setting himself up for the upcoming years by racing on a bike that is older and still super competitive. His attitude with regard to his work is an asset as he focuses on what he is there to do and the quiet persona a real loud one on circuit going up against fellow rivals on what are considered stronger race packages.

Credit - Avintia Esponsorama (Enea Bastianini)

Enea Bastianini:

“It was a very enjoyable race. At the beginning I struggled in the corners, but from the middle of the race onwards I improved and from then on I started my comeback. It’s a pity that I lost a bit of time fighting with Quartararo and Nakagami, because maybe I could have caught Miller as well. Anyway, it was a race that exceeded my expectations. I think we showed great pace throughout the weekend and we’ll go to Misano in really motivated.”

Up next is Misano, a home race for many and mainly Rossi. This will be one to watch as the crowds pack the circuit and streets. It will be a treat for Rossi fans to enjoy watching on the big screen.

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