Doha Grand Prix 2021 MotoGP rider ratings - The Race
MotoGP

Doha Grand Prix 2021 MotoGP rider ratings

Apr 5 2021
By Simon Patterson

Another weekend at the Losail International Circuit, another stunning Yamaha victory, and more incredible MotoGP racing than you can shake a stick at.

With an unexpected Doha Grand Prix winner, controversial moments and a rookie on the podium in his second ever MotoGP race, there were surprises galore for the second week in a row.

There wasn’t just action at the front, either (not that the back was very far from the front!), so there’s plenty to talk about.

With that in mind, here’s the grid rated from one to 10 on their performances – and my reasoning for why they got the score they did.

Our MotoGP ranking system is simple: the riders who we believe performed the best are at the top, and the ones who underplayed are at the bottom.

It isn’t just about the end result though, with pre-race expectation and form heavily influencing their eventual score – not just the points they take home with them.

Jorge Martin – 10

Started 1st, finished 3rd

Jorge Martin

For a rookie lining up in only their second ever MotoGP race, the display that Martin put on at Losail should cement the opinion – if there was ever any doubt after his pole position – that he really is the series’ next rising star.

As he led from the lights then for most of the race, he managed to do what factory Ducati riders Pecco Bagnaia and Jack Miller haven’t mastered in two weekends at the Qatari track and managed his tyres to the very end to ensure he had the pace to hold on for a podium finish.

Sure, he didn’t win despite leading the most number of laps, but who cares? He’s got 10 years to win races, and the fact that he didn’t destroy his tyres trying to stay ahead of Fabio Quartararo or, worse, crash out in the process, shows his true ability. He is a future champion, and this is only the beginning.

Fabio Quartararo – 9.5

Started 5th, finished 1st

Fabio Quartararo

Just like we said about his Yamaha team-mate Maverick Vinales last week, this was possibly the best race of Quartararo’s (admittedly still quite short) MotoGP career.

Sure, he’s won before, but normally he’s done it in a ‘typical’ Yamaha fashion: leading from the front and picking off one or two other bikes.

So to see him launching a charge through the pack, keeping his calm in the first half of the race and then being ruthlessly calculating in the final 10 laps, was a thing of beauty.

It’s obvious that Quartararo went into battle with a plan and implemented it to perfection.

Brad Binder – 9

Started 18th, finished 8th

Brad Binder

A nice solid weekend for Binder after a bit of a disaster for the KTM rider in pretty much every other session at Losail over the previous month.

He admitted afterwards that he settled for playing safe in the end, but that’s no bad thing after the woeful start to KTM’s season.

It was always going to be a case of getting Qatar out of the way, so taking KTM’s best ever finish there is the best he could have hoped for.

Johann Zarco – 8.5

Started 2nd, finished 2nd

Johann Zarco

Watching Zarco has got to be tough if you’re a factory Ducati rider.

So far in 2021, the satellite Pramac rider has shown Miller and Bagnaia up at every possible opportunity, and Sunday was no different, as he once again managed his race to perfection to take another podium and the championship lead.

Much like his rookie team-mate Martin, Zarco’s got the innate understanding of tyre management that seems to be missing right now in the factory garage, and it served him well to the very end.

Throw in a bit of excellent teamwork in the early stages, essentially riding shotgun for Martin, and it was the sort of Zarco performance that would have been literally unimaginable two years ago.

His only flaw was being unable to hold off a Yamaha for the second week in a row, but sometimes knowing when to settle is the smartest strategy in the race, and the virtual red plate means he gets a pass.

Alex Rins – 7.5

Started 8th, finished 4th

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Perhaps not an exceptional race for Rins, but nonetheless a smart one.

Picking his way through the pack well in the early laps, the Suzuki rider admitted afterwards that he soon realised that he couldn’t challenge for the win – so changed strategy, saved his tyres and managed the pack behind him to the line.

Given the issues that Suzuki has had at Losail and given his sixth place at the opening round, the Doha GP was a satisfactory weekend for him and a good springboard for heading back to Europe and circuits that Suzuki will have an easier time at.

Enea Bastianini – 7

Started 19th, finished 11th

Enea Bastianini

Another solid rookie performance and another charge through the field.

Bastianini is learning fast in MotoGP, and results like this one are exactly what he needs, with tons of experience gained as he watches, follows and passes lots of different manufacturers and riders.

Aleix Espargaro – 6.5

Started 7th, finished 10th

Aleix Espargaro

You’ve got to feel more than a little sorry for Aleix Espargaro and Aprilia. Another best-ever performance when you measure their time from the leaders, the ultra-competitive nature of modern MotoGP means that a gap of five seconds that would have been good enough for a podium a few years ago left them in tenth.

But they’re still right there at the sharp end, managing to stay in touch with the leading group every weekend, and before too long that’s going to pay off.

Maverick Vinales – 6

Started 3rd, finished 5th

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Damage control at its finest for Vinales. He didn’t have the pace of the week before when he took a stellar win, so instead he settled for a solid finish and points that will stand him well in the title fight.

Much like Yamaha team-mate Quartararo the week earlier, and in something of a complete reversal of fates, it would have been easy to imagine Vinales flummoxed by a bad start and struggling to make any progress in the latter stages of the race.

His eventual performance hints that we’re still seeing the new and improved version of Vinales.

Francesco Bagnaia – 6

Started 6th, finished 6th

Francesco Bagnaia

On the podium last weekend, Bagnaia had another opportunity to score some important points second time out but instead didn’t get the start he needed, going backwards instead of forwards off the line.

Having to then pick his way through the field, he used up his tyres doing that rather than pushing too hard at the front like he did the week before.

Still though, it is valuable points, and better to score safely than to do something stupid.

He could have done with being ahead of a few more Ducatis, but finishing ahead of works team-mate Miller won’t have done him any harm internally.

Stefan Bradl – 5.5

Started 11th, finished 14th

Stefan Bradl

Still officially only Marc Marquez’s stand-in, Honda test rider Bradl continues to do a solid job quietly.

With Bradl not setting the world on fire, finishing the race, and taking home some points, the biggest takeaway is that he was only half a second from team-mate Pol Espargaro – a man who much more was expected of.

Joan Mir – 5

Started 9th, finished 7th

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Mir looked like someone else during Sunday’s race, as he made some very aggressive moves to try to hack his way through the pack.

Though normally not shy, he was borderline out of control at times – and while that’s no excuse for Miller’s own actions, it’s not a surprise that things got heated between the pair.

Given the aggressiveness of the race, seventh is probably an exercise in damage limitation for him.

It could have been a lot worse, it keeps his championship defence in check, and it means that it’ll be a little easier at Portimao to build up some steam again.

Miguel Oliveira – 5

Started 12th, finished 15th

Miguel Oliveira

The very definition of a race of two halves. Oliveira made an exceptional start after what has been an incredibly tough time for KTM.

Showing some really improved form, he made it as high as fifth at points after a rapid start – something even more impressive given he was having problems with his RC16 that left him with a blank dash.

That took its toll on his concentration as the race went on, and he faded back to a disappointing finish.

But he can take some solace from KTM finding its way. That’s even more important given that the next round is his home race in Portugal, where he is of course the defending winner.

Lorenzo Savadori – 5

Started 22nd, finished 20th

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It’s actually hard not to feel a bit sorry for Savadori.

The former Aprilia test rider is clearly out of his depth in MotoGP, and it’s reflected in his results, starting last and finishing last, once again further from second last than second last was from the leader.

Yet he’s consistent and he’s not crashing – so at the very least he’s gathering data for his team.

Franco Morbidelli – 4

Started 10th, finished 12th

Franco Morbidelli

A better race for Morbidelli than the week before, but at the same time, the poor race the week before was because of a technical problem with his Petronas SRT Yamaha and this week’s was all because he simply couldn’t get his bike dialled in correctly.

Reverting back to what we saw from him in 2019 and early 2020, he used too much tyre too quickly and was left with nothing more to give in the latter stages of the race.

It’s not the sort of result he can afford very often if he wants to repeat 2020’s championship fight.

Luca Marini – 4

Started 13th, finished 18th

Luca Marini

Marini’s current problem isn’t that he’s taking time to get up to speed in MotoGP – it’s that his fellow rookies are so rapid that they’re making him look distinctly average when he’s definitely not.

We’ve called him a slow learner before and he’s slowly getting there, but it would have been nice to see him at least take home a few points.

Iker Lecuona – 3.5

Started 20th, finished DNF

Iker Lecuona

It’s hard to read too much into Lecuona’s performance on Sunday because he didn’t make it to the chequered flag thanks to a crash.

The reality for the Tech3 rider is that arm pump has been a consistent problem for him, and surgery in the coming days should alleviate it.

But the positive is that at least he crashed out while ahead of Tech3 team-mate Danilo Petrucci.

Jack Miller – 3

Started 4th, finished 9th

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It’s maybe almost a relief for Miller that his frankly reckless (yet unpunished) actions from the Doha Grand Prix are drawing most of the attention being directed his way, because it’s helping to deflect from what was once again a disappointing weekend from the factory Ducati rider.

Let’s address his actions with Mir first. Race control decided that no further action was needed for the contact that almost drove the world champion off the track at the last corner.

But another strange call from the officials doesn’t take away from the fact that it very much looked like Miller knew exactly what he was doing. Maybe not illegal, but definitely unsporting.

Then, his race performance. Once again the fourth Ducati, once again barely ahead of rookie Bastianini and, this time, behind another rookie riding his old Pramac bike.

This week the issue wasn’t tyre management but arm pump, and surgery this week should at least alleviate that problem for the future.

Pol Espargaro – 3

Started 15th, finished 13th

Pol Espargaro

Without being too harsh on Repsol Honda new boy Pol Espargaro, he wasn’t hired by the team to finish barely inside the points and only half a second clear of its test rider.

He was hired to win races and, in the absence of Marc Marquez, to challenge for the title. After playing it somewhat safe in the opening race he really should have done better than 13th this time.

Sure, Losail isn’t a Honda track and sure, it was a difficult weekend for the manufacturer.

But it’s a track where Hondas have both won and been on the podium in recent years, and it’s a track where he finished inside the top 10 only a week earlier.

Danilo Petrucci – 2.5

Started 17th, finished 19th

Danilo Petrucci

For the first time in his KTM career, Petrucci went into the race full of reserved optimism – and it backfired spectacularly on him as he once again slumped.

While he would have got something of a free pass on that last week (had he not crashed after two corners), the improvement shown by factory pair Binder and Oliveira shades his result this week.

Valentino Rossi – 2

Started 21st, finished 16th

Valentino Rossi

Perhaps the less said about Rossi’s weekend the better. While some of his fellow Yamaha riders (riders on the same bike spec as him) were enjoying race wins we’re heralding as their best ever, Rossi had maybe his most anonymous weekend ever in MotoGP, starting from second last and finishing outside the points.

Not being able to get the tyres to work is something of a weak excuse given that they worked just fine for Quartararo, and saying the track isn’t one that suits him falls short when you look at Rossi’s win record at Losail.

The stark reality is he needs to get back to Europe and he needs to find form at more traditional circuits soon.

There’s lots of talk about whether he wants to continue with Petronas Yamaha in 2022 – but if he doesn’t shape up soon, that might not be his decision to make.

Takaaki Nakagami – 2

Started 16th, finished 17th

Takaaki Nakagami

Obviously Honda has been in difficulty at Losail, but that’s still really no excuse for what was in reality a woeful performance for 2020’s Mr Consistency.

Simply put, a rider with factory Honda kit shouldn’t be finishing outside the points, and he definitely shouldn’t be 10 seconds off not just the first Honda but also the firm’s test rider.

Alex Marquez – 1

Started 14th, finished DNF

Alex Marquez

Beyond disappointing for the two-time world champion. Alex Marquez needs to stop crashing, because two weekends in a row for someone who’s supposedly deserving of a bike that was on the podium here two years ago (in the hands of Cal Crutchlow) simply isn’t good enough.

If he was crashing out of the leading group, you could maybe forgive him, but crashing out of 16th is hard to excuse.

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