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As the MotoGP™ grid begins to descend on Qatar for the upcoming Official Test and Grand Prix later this month, it’s fair to say anticipation and tensions are building for the 2021 season. It has been ever since we left Portimao back in November 2020. And this year, with a grid packed full of immense talent again, rivalries are going to be fierce.
As the saying goes: “Your teammate is your first rival.” Same machinery – most of the time – means the same chance of winning, or scoring the best possible result. Everyone in the motorsport world knows, from the riders or drivers themselves to the millions of fans around the globe, beating your teammate is the number one priority. In 2021, teammate rivalries are going to be huge talking points – maybe more so than ever before.
We’ll start with the World Champions: Team Suzuki Ecstar and Joan Mir. Heading into the season opener, the reigning King of MotoGP™ will be the favourite. 2020 was an unreal year for the now double World Champion and it was a season put together by Mir and Suzuki that fully deserved a title. But on the other side of the garage, a certain Alex Rins will now be hungrier and more determined than ever to be the one to lift the premier class title.
Finishing third in the overall standings last season was a mighty achievement by Rins. A fracture-dislocation to his right shoulder at the opening race weekend heavily blighted his campaign from the off, but a victory in Aragon and three other podiums in Barcelona, Teruel and at the European GP showed what we all know: Rins can be the fastest rider out there on his day.
Mir vs Rins is going to be an intense and pulsating battle in 2021. Rins’ crew chief Jose Manuel Cazeaux admitted that Mir’s title win dealt a huge blow to Rins, however, the disappointment has passed and is now motivation. In ‘Inside Suzuki: The Crowning Moment’ Mir told us that their rivalry is already fierce. Could that go into overdrive this season?
Elsewhere, the battle for top factory Yamaha honours is going to be an enthralling watch. Maverick Viñales vs Fabio Quartararo in the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP ranks: experience vs youth. Both saw title aspirations fade quite dramatically last season after such promising starts, with the combination of technical issues, mistakes and an inconsistent YZR-M1 ultimately costing Viñales and 2019 Rookie of the Year Quartararo from taking the fight to Mir.
However, both riders showed that when the stars aligned, they could blow the competition out of the water. Viñales at Misano, and Quartararo in Jerez (twice) and Barcelona. A consistent Yamaha package will give both riders the tools to win races and challenge for the title, and when on the same package and both in the groove, a Viñales vs Quartararo on track scrap will be something to behold.
Yamaha need to get back to challenging for titles, and with these two in the factory fold, there’s no reason why it can’t be both going for the ultimate glory. A title battle between or involving Yamaha’s chosen soldiers? Yes please. Chuck in 2020 runner-up Franco Morbidelli and Petronas Yamaha SRT teammate too and you have an Iwata quartet all capable of challenging. Morbidelli insists friendships prevail over teammate fallouts, Rossi agrees – but that could prove difficult.
In 2021, Pol Espargaro is going to be pitching himself against eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez on the same machinery. Repsol Honda Team’s frontmen form a frighteningly fast partnership, at least it will do when the number 93 is back racing. 2020 was a year of total opposites for the new teammates, Pol Espargaro stringing together his best-ever season in the premier class as Marc Marquez was forced to watch the drama unfold from the sofa.
Arguably, partnering Marc Marquez at Repsol Honda Team is the ultimate test for a rider. Pol Espargaro is a lion heading into a wounded lion’s territory, wanting to make the kingdom his own. There is no doubt that the number 44 can excel on the RC213V, it’s a machine that has similar characteristics to the KTM that Pol Espargaro tamed so brilliantly in 2020. And if he does, Marc Marquez vs Pol Espargaro is going to be an incredible watch.
Since Dani Pedrosa, Marc Marquez hasn’t been challenged by a teammate. Is 2020 and beyond the time where the number 93 has a rider on the other side of the box to properly worry about? Time will tell. But these two Spaniards know each other very well already. They’ve joined each other on a 125cc podium seven times, and a Moto2™ rostrum 11 times – none so far in MotoGP™, but HRC will be hoping that will change quite quickly. 2012 saw Pol Espargaro finish runner-up to Marc Marquez in the Moto2™ World Championship, the former won’t want to surrender to his rival again.
Other teammate rivalries to look out for? Well, if truth be told, all of them. But in particular, Ducati Lenovo Team’s Jack Miller and Francesco Bagnaia will be making sure it’s one of them who either challenges or brings the rider’s title back to Bologna. The red bullets are ones to watch for sure. Moreover, 2020 race winners Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira joining forces in the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing setup is another that is going to be extraordinarily intriguing, both riders will feel can fight for the title. Is another mesmerising year for KTM incoming?
Rivalries. It’s what sports are all about. Hard but fair, the best in the world pushing themselves to the absolute limit against each other. MotoGP™ in 2021 is shaping up to be yet another astonishing year of racing, made even more enticing by teams that boast two riders that will be doing all they can, in every walk of life, to make sure it’s them who take the plaudits come November. Are you ready for the tension? We can’t wait.
As always, you can watch every ounce of every session in 2021 LIVE and OnDemand with MotoGP™ VideoPass. The official streaming service of MotoGP™ offers you unrivalled access to interviews and features as well as all the track action on motogp.com, the MotoGP™ app for Apple and Android, while you can also watch LIVE or OnDemand VideoPass content with Roku TV, Apple TV, Android TV or Amazon Fire TV.
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