The 2021 MotoGP™ Rookie of the Year battle took another twist at Misano. After crashing, Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) now sits five points behind podium finisher Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama) with just two races to go.
Both Bastianini and Martin have been nothing short of superb in their opening premier class campaigns. Bastianini’s second half of the season form has seen the Italian claim two podiums and four top sixes in a row from Aragon to Emilia-Romagna – hence his rise to become the leader in the Rookie of the Year battle vs Martin.
Martin has been a sensation this season. One victory and two podiums – including in just his second race at the Grand Prix of Doha – made him the standout rookie for the majority of the year. His monstrous Portimao crash, which saw him suffer eight broken bones and miss four Rounds, has made the 2018 Moto3™ World Champion’s debut campaign a lot more difficult. But his win at the Styria GP and podium a week later at the Austrian GP were the perfect ways to bounce back.
To show how strong Martin has been, only four Rookie of the Year winners have won a MotoGP™-era race in their debut seasons so far. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa make up an exclusive list, with Martin ready to add his name next to those if he beats Bastianini to the title this season.
In addition, of the 19 Rookie of the Year winners up to 2020, 10 have been able to stand on the podium. Martin and Bastianini have both sprayed the bubbly on more than one occasion in 2021, and will join Binder, Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing), Marc Marquez, Ben Spies, Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Ruben Xaus, Nicky Hayden and Daijiro Kato in achieving this feat.
Bastianini’s 87 points give him the chance to beat Pol Espargaro’s (Repsol Honda Team) 2014 tally of 136 points – but only of the 2020 Moto2™ World Champion wins the final two races of the season. If he does, which is obviously a mammoth ask, Bastianini would become the 7th best rookie we’ve seen in the MotoGP™ era. Martin, if he wins in Portimao and Valencia, would become the 9th best rookie in terms of points we’ve seen in MotoGP™.
That, of course, is unlikely given how ferociously competitive MotoGP™ is. Not impossible though. This factor is also another reason why Bastianini and Martin have been unbelievably impressive in 2021. The premier class has never been so competitive, yet both the Italian and Spaniard have been able to challenge for top 10s, top sixes and podiums on more than one occasion.
Whoever claims the 2021 MotoGP™ Rookie of the Year title will deserve it. The downside – if you can call it that – for Bastianini and Martin’s excellent rookie campaigns is that expectations have now been raised for 2022. Victories are plenty more podiums are surely on the cards for both – music to the ears of Ducati.