For the fourth time in 2021 Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) tasted victory after delivering a pitch-perfect performance at the Cathedral of Speed to lead a factory Yamaha 1-2 at the Motul TT Assen. Maverick Viñales goes from last in Germany to second in the Netherlands, a fantastic return to form, as reigning World Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) battled his way to a third podium of the season.
Quartararo and Yamaha unstoppable
Both polesitter Viñales and second place Quartararo got very good launches as the lights went out. Quartararo’s was slightly better, the Frenchman chopping the nose off his teammate into Turn 1 and the title chase leader grabbed the holeshot. Viñales was shoved down to P5, as Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) went for a Lap 1 leap for the lead at Turn 8. It was close between Quartararo and Pecco, their exits were compromised, Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) was up alongside the pair as Quartararo ran hot into Turn 9. Bagnaia said thank you very much, the Italian now led.
Quartararo was so much quicker through Assen’s unique kinks on the run towards the final chicane. At said chicane, Quartararo went for a move but was wide, and Bagnaia got his GP21 stood up and blasted back past. This happened again on Lap 6, before Lap 7 saw Quartararo grabbed P1 through Turns 12 and 13. How crucial was that going to prove? Meanwhile, Nakagami was still holding Viñales at bay, with Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing), Mir and Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) line astern right behind.
Two 1:32.8s saw Quartararo stretch a 1.2s lead to Bagnaia on Lap 9. On Lap 11, that gap was up to 2.5s as Bagnaia now had to focus on keeping Nakagami behind him. The Japanese rider passed the Ducati rider on Lap 11 through the rapid kinks, but Bagnaia grabbed P2 back down the front straight. Viñales, Zarco, Mir and Oliveira were all waiting in the wings. It was copy and paste of Nakagami vs Bagnaia a couple of laps later, before Bagnaia was handed a long-lap penalty for exceeding track limits too many times.
On Lap 15, there was plenty of action. Bagnaia dived into the long-lap penalty loop, teammate Miller crashed unhurt at Turn 5, Nakagami was sat up by Mir at the same corner and it was now Viñales in second place, four seconds behind runaway leader Quartararo. Miller re-joined but was given the black flag and orange flag, meaning the Australian was out of the race. Mir was past Zarco at Turn 5 with eight laps to go and into third place, Oliveira was around half a second away from Zarco in fifth.
The gap came down to 2.5s with two laps to go between Quartararo and Viñales, but no one had an answer to El Diablo at Assen as the Frenchman tasted Dutch delight in 2021, a fourth 25-point haul of the season to extend his Championship advantage to 34 points heading into the summer break. Viñales delivered impressive late-race pace on the front soft tyre, but it wasn’t enough to reel in Quartararo. Nevertheless, after finishing last at the Sachsenring, P2 for the Spaniard is a splendid effort as the number 12 returns to the podium for the first time since his Qatar GP win. Mir’s podium is his third of the season, yet another brilliant comeback ride from P10 on the grid.
The remaining points scorers at the Dutch TT
The leading Ducati at Assen was Zarco in fourth place. The Frenchman was just 0.3s away from the final podium spot, with fifth place Oliveira having to give up the chase to the podium finishers – the Portuguese rider ends the day P5, 8.4s off the win. Bagnaia recovered to P6 after his long-lap penalty, a solid salvage job from the Italian, who beats Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) by 0.075s. The eight-time World Champion, starting 20th, battered and bruised from Friday’s huge highside, strung together a magnificent ride to secure 7th in the Netherlands. A much-needed five-week break is coming up for the Spaniard.
Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was in fight with Pecco and Marc Marquez, the Aprilia rider takes home P8, with Nakagami slipping to P9 after such a strong opening half of the race. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) took the chequered flag in a lonely P10.
Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was involved in a Turn 10 incident with Zarco in the opening exchanges, the Spaniard was well inside the top 10 fight before taking a trip through the gravel. Rins got his head down from last place and clawed his way back up to a P11, nothing more could be done by Rins on Sunday afternoon. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) started P21 and finished P12, six seconds ahead of Danilo Petrucci (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) in 13th. Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) and Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama) take home the remaining points on offer, Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), Garrett Gerloff (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and Luca Marini (SKY VR46 Avintia) were the other finishers.
Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) crashed at Turn 7, rider ok, with Iker Lecuona (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) crashing unhurt at Turn 17. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) retired halfway through the race.
So it’s Quartararo standing on top of the podium again. The Frenchman is on top of the world as we hit the halfway point of 2021, can anyone stop Quartararo in August and beyond? Who knows. The Styrian GP is up next on the 6-8 of August, as the fight for the MotoGP™ title resumes at the stunning Red Bull Ring.
1. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP)
2. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 2.757
3. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 5.760
4. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) + 6.130
5. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 8.402
6. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 10.035
7. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) + 10.110
8. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) + 10.346
9. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) + 12.225
10. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) + 18.565