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Has 2020 sprung several new title contenders for 2021?

We saw underdogs turn into regular frontrunners and with some stepping up to factory teams, how many title contenders do we have?

Tags MotoGP, 2020

We’ll never get tired of milking how sensational the racing was in 2020. Nine winners, 15 podium finishers, Independent Team riders winning over half the races and a brand-new World Champion in Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar). Oh, and Suzuki’s first title win in 20 years.

MotoGP™ treated us to a spectacle like no other, just when we needed it most. And the 2020 season has also given us so much to look forward to in 2021 and beyond. Mir, Franco Morbidelli, former teammate Fabio Quartararo, and 2021 teammates Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder all won their first MotoGP™ races this year, and you could arguable that only one of those riders were seriously backed as a title contender for 2020 – seven-time podium finisher Quartararo.

So, with this in mind, how many title contenders do we really have in 2021? Well, there’s a case to be made for many. The likes of Quartararo and Oliveira are moving to factory teams, and they’re joined by former Pramac Racing duo Jack Miller and Francesco Bagnaia in doing so. Miller is a four-time podium finisher in 2020 and we saw a glimpse of how Pecco can perform; his Andalucia, San Marino and Emilia Romagna – before the crash – performances were sublime.

Now on factory machines, all of the above riders mentioned have to be considered as genuine title contenders. Morbidelli might not be on the latest spec Yamaha machinery again in 2021, but that hasn’t stopped the Italian from finishing as the top YZR-M1 rider this year. The Italian has risen to a whole different level and as we enter the winter testing period, Morbidelli will be considered by many as a title threat. Of that, there is no doubt.


So three-time winner Quartararo, three-time winner Morbidelli, two-time winner Oliveira and one-time winner and Rookie of the Year Binder all have a chance at the title. Don’t they? Then there’s the factory Ducati duo of Miller and Bagnaia. Reigning World Champion Mir is of course after his sensational year, and teammate Alex Rins is definitely a title contender too. That’s eight already.

Then we come to Pol Espargaro. The new Repsol Honda Team recruit finished fifth in the World Championship standings after a mega final season with KTM that saw him claim five rostrums. Only Champion Mir had more, Morbidelli also took five. Now onboard a full factory RC213V, Pol Espargaro should be a serious weapon – just as he has been this year – in 2021. That maiden MotoGP™ victory eludes the number 44, but you have to imagine his super-aggressive, full attack mode riding style will suit the Honda down to the ground. Will Pol Espargaro be wrestling his new orange toy to the title? Who knows. But you have to think a victory is just around the corner for the 2013 Moto2™ World Champion.

Polyccio’s teammate doesn’t need any hyping up. Eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez will be returning hungrier than ever in 2021 after missing the entirety of 2020, and as always, will be a leading contender for the crown.

That’s 10 genuine title contenders, and Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Viñales makes it 11. The 2020 YZR-M1 riders have had a rollercoaster campaign in 2020, with it ultimately ending in disappointment. Quartararo and Viñales’ title push fell by the wayside in the latter half of a condensed season but there were always flashes of what we know Viñales is capable of. A huge winter lies ahead for the Iwata factory, a consistently competitive bike is needed if the number 12 is going to lift the 2021 crown, but you can’t write off the 2013 Moto3™ World Champion.

10 early contenders in five factory teams, 2020 runner-up Morbidelli in the Petronas Yamaha SRT set-up. 11 names who you can make a very strong case for straight off the bat. 2020 saw numerous names rise to the fore when many might not have expected it. It really was a phenomenally fascinating watch. Now though, with huge factory backing, podiums and the odd victory might not cut the mustard for long.

We don’t know what will happen in 2021. If it’s anything like this year then no one has a chance of predicting the outcome. However, what we do know is the grid is going to be just as competitive, if not even more so than this year. We've name 11 riders there, but there are arguments for more.

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