Maverick Vinales cruised to victory in the opening race of the 2020 MotoGP season, converting pole position into the Qatar Grand Prix lead thanks to Yamaha’s new holeshot device and never looking back.
He led a Yamaha 1-2 across the line and it was satellite Petronas SRT rider Fabio Quartararo in second, holding off the Suzuki of Alex Rins in a last-lap battle for the spot.
Rins’ team-mate Joan Mir was fourth in an impressive showing for the sophomore rider, while SRT’s second rider Franco Morbidelli once again came home in fifth to make it three Yamahas in the top five.
Danilo Petrucci and Andrea Dovizioso made the most of a less-than-ideal situation in sixth and seventh, with Ducati still adapting to Michelin’s new 2020 spec rear tyre.
But it was a poor start to the season for reigning champion Marc Marquez, still recovering from shoulder surgery and battling with a 2020 Honda still needing considerable work. He was only able to scrape eighth at the chequered flag.
Of course, that’s all speculative, because we’re never going to know how the 2020 Qatar GP would have panned out thanks to MotoGP’s calendar being thrown into turmoil by the coronavirus.
Unable to race as many in the paddock (including Dovizioso and Valentino Rossi) faced mandatory quarantine should they have travelled to the Middle Eastern country, we’ve been left awaiting the opening round of the premier class – and still don’t know when it might take place.
The ‘result’ reflects the incredible race pace of both Yamaha and Suzuki at Losail
But while we might still be waiting to see what’s going to happen when bikes head out on track in anger for the first time (whenever that might be), three days of testing at the Losail International Circuit just before coronavirus travel bans kicked into effect means that we’ve got plenty of evidence to consider.
Vinales looked like the man to beat throughout those three days, with the factory Yamaha rider ultra-fast on race pace as well as topping the overall timesheets with his fast lap too.
Compiling the top 22 laps for each rider (22 laps being this year’s scheduled race distance) and working out the gaps between them gives us an idea of just how the race might have played out. We’ve put a speculative race ‘result’ table at the bottom of this article.
That result reflects the incredible race pace of both Yamaha and Suzuki at Losail, and it might also hint at an interesting time ahead for the MotoGP championship as Michelin’s new rear tyre and its increased edge grip tilts the favour back a little towards the championship’s inline-four machines.
The times also hint at what we might have missed out on, with only 45 seconds separating the entire grid after 22 laps.
Qatar already produced the closest-ever top 15 last year with only 15s covering the top 15, and our simulation suggests that 2020 wouldn’t have been much different – with the points-scoring places blanketed by only 17.701s and the entire field only 45s apart.
However, while this is an interesting thought experiment, it’s also worth noting that it fails to take into consideration many factors.
It’s unlikely that we would have seen Marquez finish so far down the order, for example, with a breakthrough on the final day of testing meaning that many of his previous times aren’t truly reflective of his pace.
It’s also unlikely we’d have seen an entire race without a crash, and potential race incidents aren’t factored into our calculations.
But, unfortunately, this is the closest we’ll get to a 2020 Qatar GP.