It’s been a tough start to the 2021 MotoGP season for Ducati rider Jack Miller, and it’s been reflected in the scores he’s taken home in our post-race ratings so far.
But, the Australian was able to put that behind him with an excellent victory at the Spanish Grand Prix.
As Miller came out on top of a crazy race where favourites fell by the wayside and there were surprise results from unexpected corners, it was once again a dramatic MotoGP race weekend at Jerez.
With that in mind we have, as usual, ranked the whole grid based on their Sunday performances.
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, and scored appropriately.
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.
Jack Miller – 9
Started: 3rd Finished: 1st
Miller was, quite simply, sublime at Jerez. Looking absolutely perfect during 25 laps, with only a couple of small and easily correctable errors to count against him, he was wholly deserving of the win as he reestablished himself in the role he should always have been in this year, as Ducati’s number one rider.
Even more impressively, he didn’t do it when there was pressure, but instead got backed into a corner and came out swinging to end a disappointing run of form and to silence a lot of critics.
The only thing keeping him from scoring a perfect 10 is that he didn’t have to do all the hard work himself, thanks to Fabio Quartararo’s arm pump problems. But, the reality is, even without the Yamaha rider struggling, a top-three finish at a track not really suited to the Ducati would have still warranted a good score.
Takaaki Nakagami – 8.5
Started: 5th Finished: 4th
Takaaki Nakagami had absolutely no business being at the sharp end of a MotoGP race on the current iteration of Honda’s RC213V, let alone one in satellite spec and on a day when the factory were struggling. But to hear him admit that there were post-race tears of frustration at not being on the podium says everything you need to know about how competitive the Japanese rider was feeling.
True, he’s a bit of a Jerez specialist, but when MotoGP is as close as it is right now, you take your chances where you can get them, and that’s exactly what he did. An excellent ride and hopefully the start of a 2021 renaissance.
Pecco Bagnaia – 8
Started: 4th Finished: 2nd
Coming into this season, Pecco Bagnaia was a slightly inexperienced factory rider who had yet to realise his potential and who had been promoted perhaps a little too early thanks to Andrea Dovizioso’s unexpected departure from Ducati.
But he’s grasped the bull by the horns and become the master of consistency. Now leading the championship thanks to a low-risk, high-reward strategy, Bagnaia is very good at picking his time to strike in order to maximise his return, and that’s exactly what he did once again in Spain.
Fabio Quartararo – 8
Started: 1st Finished: 13th
Without a doubt the hardest man on the grid to rank after Jerez, Quartararo rode an absolutely superb race until arm pump reared and dropped him through the field.
He looked to be in total control early on, carving through the field with a look that continues to be eerily reminiscent of a young Jorge Lorenzo on the Yamaha M1.
And he does get extra points for keeping his head level when things started to go wrong. Arm pump might sound trivial but at 220mph it’s deeply debilitating, and to simply make it to the end of the race was no mean feat.
In fact, the main thing that does mark him down is that at the end of the day it is a condition that riders can seemingly circumvent with the right training, and Quartararo obviously isn’t doing that.
It’s telling that not one of the VR46 Academy, who train on motorbikes almost every day, suffer from the condition, and that’s where Quartararo should be looking next, not at surgical quick fixes.
Franco Morbidelli – 7.5
Started: 2nd Finished: 3rd
Let’s get one thing clear: Franco Morbidelli might be on a year-old Yamaha, but that doesn’t mean that a year-old Yamaha is a bad bike to have. He demonstrated that again on Sunday with a superb podium charge, and while he couldn’t quite hold off fellow VR46 Academy rider Bagnaia for second, he should be plenty happy with third.
In fact, the only thing that detracts slightly is the early performance of Quartararo on a similar (but not quite the same) machine.
A few more weekends like that and Morbidelli could be teaching Joan Mir a few tricks about how to put together a title charge through consistency.
Aleix Espargaro – 7
Started: 8th Finished: 6th
It’s hard to know where to rank Aleix Espargaro, after another weekend for the Aprilia rider where he was oh-so-close to the fairytale first podium – but in the end still well clear of making a trip upstairs to spray champagne off a balcony.
His own reminder after the race that the most important thing is not where his team is going to but where they’ve come from is a valid point, but now that Aprilia has clearly built an excellent bike it’s eventually going to be time for him to shine.
Marc Marquez – 7
Started: 14th Finished: 9th
It’s pretty obvious that while he might be medically recovered from the huge injury he suffered at Jerez last July, Marc Marquez is far from fully back to race fitness. On top of that, he endured not one but two punishing crashes during the weekend – more than enough to trigger some emotional trauma and confidence issues in even the toughest person.
So to come out swinging in Sunday’s race and finish ninth, he’s absolutely completed the next step in his rehab. Sure, he’s not the Marquez we love and his rivals fear, but he was never going to come back as that guy, instead building towards it – and ninth is another step on the road.
Tito Rabat – 6
Started: 23rd Finished: 18th
Jumping into the dog-eat-dog world of modern MotoGP with zero testing is no mean feat, especially well into a season and after a winter of riding on Pirellis and production bikes not Michelins and prototypes.
So while it might not have been points on the board for Tito Rabat as he replaced the injured Jorge Martin it’s still a result that’ll let him hold his head high when he returns to the World Superbike paddock later this month.
Luca Marini – 6
Started: 18th Finished: 16th
The best rookie of the two to start Sunday’s race, Marini might have won his honour by dint of being the only one to finish – but that in itself is testament to how the Italian goes about his business.
A slow learner who’s not rushing to put a foot wrong, he did all he needed to do at Jerez to continue his MotoGP development at his own pace.
Stefan Bradl – 6
Started: 12th Finished: 12th
Brought along, as usual, to test but not to race, Bradl spent this weekend preparing for Monday’s post-race test not trying to win anything.
So in reality scoring solid points on his R&D mule of an RC213V is probably more than he was expected to do, meaning he can count Sunday as a job well done.
Lorenzo Savadori – 5.5
Started: 22nd Finished: 19th
It’s worth remembering before we rate Aprilia rider Lorenzo Savadori that while he might not quite be a pure rookie, he’s got a fraction of the grand prix starts of his rivals – and it was never going to be an instantaneous process to adapt to the stiffness of a prototype MotoGP machine.
Yet he’s slowly but steadily getting on with the job in hand, and he’s closing the gap to his rivals even as he continues to be a racing tester for the Italian firm.
Iker Lecuona – 5
Started: 21st Finished: 15th
It’s clearly not easy being a KTM rider in 2021, and Iker Lecuona is in the unfortunate position of being the least experienced of their quartet on a bike that’s hard to set up.
Which means that, in reality, Sunday’s result of 15th, only six seconds from factory rider Miguel Oliveira and less than two tenths from highly-experienced team-mate Danilo Petrucci, is actually something to celebrate for the young Spaniard.
Joan Mir – 5
Started: 10th Finished: 5th
Another average race for the world champion, with solid points on the board but nothing to write home about – which, given the excellent pace he demonstrated throughout the weekend, makes it a disappointment.
The reality is, Mir won the championship last year by being ultra consistent and knowing when to take risks in return for big rewards, but there are too many fast guys in 2021 for that strategy to work again. Instead, he’s going to have to take those risks more often, and Sunday was the sort of day where he should have been in podium contention.
Enea Bastianini – 4.5
Started: 15th Finished: DNF
Sunday looked set to be a good day for rookie Bastianini after a decent qualifying performance, but his crash out of 12th ended any hopes.
But let’s not forget that finding the limit is all part of learning MotoGP, and while he might have left Jerez disappointed, he’ll understand how far to push it a little better for next time.
Johann Zarco – 4.5
Started: 6th Finished: 8th
A bit of an invisible race for previous championship leader Johann Zarco, as he never really had much in the way of pace at Jerez.
That’s not really anything unexpected given Ducati’s historic run of form there, but he was kind of overshadowed in the end by factory success for Miller and Bagnaia, when he’s been able to match them elsewhere.
Danilo Petrucci – 4
Started: 19th Finished: 14th
KTM is in trouble, there’s no question about that. But a rider of Danilo Petrucci’s experience shouldn’t be finishing two tenths of a second ahead of his team-mate when said team-mate is one of the least experienced grand prix riders ever to make it to MotoGP.
The Italian has never even come close to looking fast at Tech3, and he’s in real danger of not having a seat for 2022 unless he can find some speed.
Miguel Oliveira – 4
Started: 16th Finished: 11th
We know by now that KTM is having problems, but that’s not a reason for a rider of Miguel Oliveira’s talent and experience to be just so far off the pace.
It’s been a disappointing start to the year and he needs to start finding a way to turn it around before it’s too late to salvage the season.
Brad Binder – 3.5
Started: 11th Finished: DNF
In much the same boat as team-mate Oliveira with a difficult RC16, what makes Sunday’s result doubly bitter for the South African is that he clearly had found something special and looked to be on track for a decent result. Instead, it ended with not one fall but two and no points to show for his trip to Spain.
There’s perhaps even more pressure on him than Oliveira despite the Portuguese rider being theoretically the team’s number one, because it’s Binder who has the pace but can’t capitalise on it. If he can do a Jack Miller and get his ducks in a row, though, there is so much potential there.
Pol Espargaro – 3
Started: 13th Finished: 10th
There was so much hope for Pol Espargaro in pre-season testing, as he made a rapid adaptation to the Repsol Honda and looked set to start the season strongly.
Things have been nothing short of a disaster since then, though, and Sunday’s race was no exception.
It would have been a bad day for someone who was declared a pre-season title contender to come home in 10th at a circuit where the Honda should work well – but to come home in 10th as the third machine, behind satellite rider Nakagami and the still-recuperating Marquez, is not what he was hired to do.
Valentino Rossi – 2.5
Started: 17th Finished: 17th
Watching Valentino Rossi remain anonymous outside the points during a MotoGP race was sad at the start of the year – but on Sunday it just kind of seemed to be what was expected, after another poor weekend at the track where he used to dominate.
It’s hard to keep making excuses for the nine-time world champion and perhaps just time to admit the truth – time waits for no man. Ten years older than the rest of the grid and racing in an age where a tenth of a second can mean first or fifth, Rossi just doesn’t have the edge to remain at the front.
Maverick Viñales – 2
Started: 7th Finished: 7th
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about Maverick Vinales’ race on Sunday wasn’t that he barely registered as he started badly, went backwards and had to push through the pack – it’s that it’s become so incredibly common that it’s just another bad day for the factory Yamaha rider.
Vinales showed us in Qatar that he can be blisteringly fast when things are right, but simply put – being inconsistent wins you nothing in the long run. Once billed as a title contender, until he can be more consistent, he’s going to be nothing more than dead weight at Yamaha.
Alex Marquez – 1
Started: 20th Finished: DNF
When 2021 got off to such a rough start for Alex Marquez in Qatar, with a series of punishing crashes in testing and the opening race weekends, those around him urged restraint, promising that things would get better when the series arrived in Europe.
Well, we’re now two races into that European trip, and the younger Marquez has one finish and another DNF to show for it – this time aided by a coming together with Lecuona, but capping off a weekend in which he hadn’t really looked rapid at any point.
Scoring a mere eight points in Portugal and none anywhere else, he has somehow become the rider everyone feared he would be last year until excellent performance on the Repsol Honda shut up his detractors.
Alex Rins – 1
Started: 9th Finished: 20th
Alex Rins wants to be a regular MotoGP race winner and a title contender. Yet seemingly every time that he gets a chance to do that, the Suzuki rider repeats the same mistake – he gets flustered, he gets pressured, and he makes a mistake.
He did it twice last year while leading, he’s already done it once this year, and at Jerez it was the mere prospect of Quartararo getting himself into a position to escape at the front that seemingly did it for Rins. Running wide and tipping in on the dirty outside line, his fall was a rookie error and one that a factory rider of his experience shouldn’t be making.
What makes Sunday’s performance at Jerez even more frustrating, though, is that he had everything he needed to launch himself right back into title contention. Substitute the lap on which he crashed out of the race for the next lap after the fall (minus a winglet), and his total race time was fractionally faster than race winner Miller’s.