until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Who’s under most pressure to finish the MotoGP season well?

by Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

The final race of the 2021 MotoGP season is looming this weekend but the championship has already been wrapped up by Fabio Quartararo weeks ago at Misano.

So the Valencian Grand Prix is fair game for any one of a number of riders who still need to find something to celebrate from the season.

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There are plenty of Quartararo’s rivals in that category, too, after a season very much dominated so far by the new world champion.

In fact, chief among them might well be the man he stole that crown from: Suzuki rider Joan Mir.

Joan Mir Suzuki MotoGP

Still only a single-time MotoGP race winner despite becoming world champion at Valencia a year ago, Mir hasn’t won since his maiden success at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, which had come only seven days before he clinched the 2020 title at the same venue.

And after a lacklustre title defence in 2021 as Suzuki has struggled to keep up to date technically with its rivals’ rapidly-developing machinery, he’s well-aware that another win on Sunday would very much be the way to take something strong from the latter half of the season

“For sure I want a victory,” Mir said on Thursday. “If you had told me here in Valencia a year ago that I wouldn’t win the next season, I would have said you were crazy.

“But somehow this season was more difficult than we expected. We can’t say it was a bad season, but it’s true that it was more difficult.

“Maybe we can have a chance here to fight for the win, but let’s see. But the pressure is always there, for one reason or another, and we always enjoy the pressure!”

Joan Mir Suzuki MotoGP

The reality of the situation is that there’s a fair chance of that win happening should the weekend’s weather play into Suzuki’s favour by allowing Mir a clean weekend to get things right on the GSX-RR.

With Suzuki bringing some much-needed technical updates to the post-race Misano test and with last weekend’s outing at Portimao showing that the pace is there once things are set up right, another two days (plus warm-up) to prepare for Sunday’s race could well be all the time Mir needs with the revised bike to go one better than his second place in Portugal.

He’s not the only Suzuki rider who could do with some success to end the season, mind you. While Mir might at least have third in the championship to show for his year, team-mate Alex Rins has had a decidedly more difficult season, slumping down the standings to a rather dismal 11th place after being third in 2020.

Alex Rins Suzuki MotoGP

A podium at the British Grand Prix is Rins’ only top three finish of the year. He was strong at Valencia last year, though, second in one race and fourth in the other, meaning that he too should be looking for a happy ending to the year.

Beyond the Suzuki duo, there’s also a big prize still to play for for Pramac Ducati rider Johann Zarco.

Super strong in the opening races of 2021 but fading somewhat as the year has progressed, he’s now sixth in the standings – but a mere two points behind factory Ducati rider Jack Miller, a potentially huge scalp for the satellite rider to claim both in the standings and internally at Ducati.

Johann Zarco Pramac Ducati MotoGP

But there’s another target for Miller – ensuring that he and team-mate Pecco Bagnaia protect their lead in the teams’ championship.

It’s something of a consolation prize to go with the manufacturers’ award claimed by Ducati last weekend at Portimao – and a disastrous race there for Monster Energy Yamaha’s Quartararo and Morbidelli swung the fight towards Ducati’s factory duo in the teams’ standings as well.

With Ducati now 28 points clear with 45 left to play for, it’s far from decided – but given the low-key form of the still-recovering Morbidelli since his mid-season knee surgery, it would take nothing less than a double DNF from the factory Ducati duo to swing it back to Yamaha.

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