Olivera was able to win here last year to end the season, so can he get KTM’s season back on track this weekend? As for Marc Marquez, even knowing as much as we do about him, no one expected him to return to the sport in the way that he did today. Also, Mir and Miller were the two big names going into this season to fight for the title, however Qatar wasn’t ideal for either of them, so can they start afresh now?
Let’s get straight to the biggest talking point from today, the return of Marquez, and how he would do off the bat? It turns out, it would be like he never left, as he went straight to the front, hanging off the bike and doing massive saves along the way. This confirms to me that he is still a title threat, the fact that he can jump right into the mix, shows that he and the bike work well together, and whilst it won’t be the dominance of pre-2020, wins are more than likely. His teammates are thereabouts on the edge of the top ten, so could be a factor as well, especially as they can now learn from Marc each session. I don’t honestly think even Marc can win this weekend, but a podium is on the cards, and good points for his teammates.
Suzuki are my pick for the win, when we came here last year, we all said that they were the ones to watch. However, either due to them relaxing after winning the title, or just set up issues, they never got it to click. Fast forward to 2021, and their pace even over one lap is better than we have seen for a while from them. If they can be fighting with the Yamaha’s and Ducati’s on Saturday, then watch out on Sunday, as one of them could do what Miguel did last year! Mir is still my pick of the two, despite him boiling over a bit in Round 2, it just seems he has that last bit on a Sunday over Rins, which could be crucial. Boy I would love to see a battle between him and Marquez, as they seem to be very different characters.
The story of Ducati’s year may be, incredible over one lap, then falls back during the race, as practice is suggesting a repeat of that here. Once again though it is Bagnaia ahead of Miller, which goes against everyone’s expectations going into the season. Maybe the pressure on Miller to be the lead Ducati is too much for him, if he is not careful, he may even have Zarco trying to get his factory seat! It is still early on so Jack has time, but he can’t wait too long, as he will soon be out of title contention if he is not careful. Martin isn’t matching the heights we saw in Round 2, which is to be expected from a rookie, as he beds himself into the team.
Yamaha should be in the mix again, I expect the main battle to be between them and Suzuki, with Marquez giving his all to be up there too! The teams race pace has been proven without doubt, as both of their factory riders have fought through the pack to take a win each at Qatar. The key will now be to keep it up here, and not let anyone else escape into the distance. So far so good in that regard, as they are matching the top times. The worries need to be addressed to the customer bikes, who have fallen from grace in 2021 so far, time will tell if it is a blip or a deeper issue. But it is worrying signs, especially for Rossi, who is not getting any younger!
KTM to be honest, don’t look as though they will be able to equal the feats of 2020, Olivera is not far off, however the bike just doesn’t seem to have that last bit of pace, that gave them 3 wins last year. I may well be proven wrong, but the huge engine upgrade, which the other teams feared, has disappeared into thin air, and any momentum is draining away. Solid points are a must for them, and should be quite likely, they clearly learnt something for Round 2, so it may be that they go better on long runs that short runs.
As much as we rejoiced at Aprilia’s jump to the front in Qatar, there was no feeling it would be a consistent thing throughout the season. Practice today has somewhat backed that up, as Aleix seems to have dropped back, and actually Salvadori has jumped up too. So, we may see a more realistic view of their placing for this year at this track, which nonetheless does show signs of progress for the team, after a long tough time for them.
Portimao is an incredible track to watch racing, as we saw last year, so if this time we get a proper battle for the lead, like we had at Losail, it could be a stunning weekend of racing!