What did the first MotoGP tests reveal?
We had already pointed out before the two days of testing in Losail that its informative value would only be of limited nature. Nevertheless, it is of course clear that initial conclusions can be drawn, for example, about the power of the bikes in Qatar. It was also interesting to see how the three Italian rookies would fare on practically identical material. Like Aleix Espargaró and Stefan Bradl, they had already participated on Friday. Regardless of the statements of various drivers, here is an assessment of the first MotoGP test days in Losail. It is well known that the facts are often more important than the generalities that pilots usually speak into the microphone. Below are the times of the first two MotoGP test days of the year.
The balance between the brands is unsteady
We warned before the start of the season not to set expectations of KTM too high. In contrast to relevant sports news portals, we saw this topic objectively and not from a sponsor’s point of view, like some pages sponsored by Red Bull for example. There is logically not neutral reporting and bad results like to embellish in order to present one’s own “heroes” in a positive light as possible. On the other hand, important aspects are deliberately suppressed by such “rapporteurs”, although they cannot be discussed out of the world. As far as KTM is concerned, the moment of truth now seems to have struck.
Without test advantages – does KTM fall back into the third class?
After knowing the new Michelin tires inside and out before the first race, unlike all their competitors in the previous year, the oranges no longer have this advantage in 2021. A particularly important example was KTM’s benefit in the first Corona year due to their special status and the lockdown that was previously lifted in their country. As a “concession team” they were allowed to test freely before the start of the season and thus had clear advantages over the competition in the first half. This became clear to every observer in Brno, Spielberg and Misano at the latest. But now with skewers of the same length, it looks much worse for the oranges and the balance of the brands fluctuates considerably.
The drivers and some question marks
In addition to the difficult-to-interpret presentation of Valentino Rossi, there were some question marks about the drivers and their performance. The old master is known for primarily taking care of a good race set-up even on the race weekend. In this respect, we do not consider the fact that he had not improved his time on Saturday on the second day of testing to be of little alarm in view of his immense experience. Apart from his three brand colleagues, for whom the bike may be a significant part of their modest lap times, Miguel Oliveira was definitely one of the more convincing drivers in the 1st test. In addition, of course, the established Ducati drivers with Miller and Zarco at the top, as well as, as expected, the two Suzuki drivers Rins and Mir.
Honda and Yamaha – the two question marks
While the Yamaha riders were mostly right at the front with the exception of Rossi, no one questions their speed over a single lap. But this was the case last season and Maverick Viñales and Fabio Quartararo in particular often had inexplicable problems in the race. Therefore, their times are reassuring for the fans for the time being, but it is definitely not a guarantee of podium places. It looked completely different for Franco Morbidelli last year. Had it not been for no fault of our own in Jerez and Spielberg, the underdog would have been able to win the title in 2020. As it was, in the end Joan Mir was the happier, but certainly not the more convincing of the two.
What will happen to Honda without Marc Marquez?
Since Bradl is and should be primarily a test driver, we leave the Germans out of the picture. In any case, Honda doesn’t look particularly good right now without Marc Marquez. At least this applies to the performance of the 3 regular drivers and only this is relevant. Pol Espargaró was not in the top ten, even before that at KTM it hadn’t been for a long time. Like Pol, Nakagami and Alex Marquez will have to improve enormously in 3 weeks to have a say in the battle for the podium. The fans of the brand and their drivers can only hope that everything was done for a good race set-up. If so, they, like Rossi, are unlikely to admit it in front of the microphone.
How it goes on
Another test is planned before the first weekend of the first double race of the season begins in Losail in just under 3 weeks. That’s why all team members and drivers stay in Qatar. Another 3 days are planned from March 10th to March 12th, followed by three more days for Moto2 and Moto3 from March 19-21. For the MotoGP riders there will be a two-week break from March 12th to Friday, March 26th. The second edition of the official calendar is still more of a wish program. Against the background of the pandemic, many more changes are to be expected. First and foremost, of course, this applies to the overseas races and those such as the Sachsenring, where it is hardly possible to drive without the permission for spectators.