These just in from the desert
Unlucky end of the weekend for the Ducati Lenovo Team in Qatar with Miller and Bagnaia both forced to retire
Enea Bastianini triumphs at the Lusail International Circuit with first-ever MotoGP victory
The Grand Prix of Qatar, the first round of the 2022 MotoGP World Championship, held this evening at the Lusail International Circuit in Doha, did not end as expected for the Ducati Lenovo Team.
As he started from fourth place on the grid, from the second row, Jack Miller could not stay at the front after the start. The Australian rider dropped back into ninth place and tried to make up some ground when a technical problem forced him to retire after seven laps.
It was a difficult race also for teammate Francesco Bagnaia who dropped down into fourteenth place at the start after departing from the third row. Forced to make a comeback, towards the second half of the race, Pecco could recover up to tenth but, while trying to overtake Jorge Martín, he crashed, hitting the Spaniard and forcing both to retire.
Enea Bastianini triumphed in Qatar with the Desmosedici GP of the Gresini Racing team. Second in qualifying yesterday and fourth after the start, the Italian rider was able to take the lead with five laps to go, creating the gap behind him necessary to secure his first MotoGP success.
Jack Miller (#43 Ducati Lenovo Team) – Retired
“Since the first lap, especially at the end of the straight coming out of the last corner, the bike wasn’t going at full power: I was very slow, and the other riders easily overtook me. I tried to give my best and switch all the available maps to solve the problem, but it was not enough. It’s a shame because I felt really good today. I was satisfied with yesterday’s result in qualifying, and I knew I had a good pace. I was hoping to bring home some important first points. It is what it is. Now we will try to move forward and think to the next race”.
Francesco Bagnaia (#63 Ducati Lenovo Team) – Retired
“I can’t be happy with how the race went and, first of all, I want to apologize to both Ducati and Jorge because I made a mistake. In the race, unfortunately, I was losing a lot in the first part of the acceleration, and we were not as fast as we usually are. Also, I had some difficulties at the start. Now we’ll have to analyze the data to try to understand what happened and try to come back stronger starting from the next race.”
The Ducati Lenovo Team riders will be back on track in two weeks, from 18th-20th March, for the Indonesian GP at the Mandalika Street Circuit in Lombok.
Brad Binder: “Incredible. If you told me we’d be 2nd in Qatar after the first test I wouldn’t have believed you. Today was a great day, it was a great weekend. I knew we had a good level but I had so much confidence and belief in the bike from beginning to end. We made such a huge step. For us to be on the podium in Qatar is insane. Now we’re looking for more!”
Miguel Oliveira: “The pace for three laps before my crash was quite good and I was making time but I lost the front going into Turn 1. It’s pretty obvious that I need to improve my qualifying because Brad showed what the bike can do. If you can make a good start then it is easier to go with the fast guys and the race has a completely different dynamic. I did a race simulation in Mandalika and felt quite fast. We’ll see what happens. Brad showed that coming from Q1 you can still make it. We will arrive in Mandalika fully charged.”
Remy Gardner: “Although it is not where we want to be, it is nice to get a MotoGP point. I felt good and fast during the first half of the race. However, I was expecting a bit more speed and found myself struggling to overtake during the first laps.Brad did a podium today, so we need to look at his data and what he did in order to help us improve and go faster. It is a great result for KTM. Anyway, we finished the race today and we will take experience from it when heading to Mandalika.”
Raul Fernandez: “The weekend was difficult in general. Today in the race, all rookies battled in the same group, which is a signal that this track is very difficult for us if you don’t come here to do the preseason tests.We did a good job but I did not have a great feeling. We will analyse the data when we are more calm. Today, my biggest learning was managing the tires for a race duration. I gained a lot of experience and it is important to me.”
Francesco Guidotti, Red Bull KTM Team Manager: “An almost perfect start to the season and a deserved result for Brad and the whole team. It was an incredible race pace but he was able to manage the speed. The start was fantastic. Let’s keep going in this direction. A big shame for Miguel. He was recovering well from the fifth row of the grid but it was not quite enough to catch the top ten. The next race will be a challenge but we will look forward to it.”
Pit Beirer, KTM Motorsport Director: “It was an outstanding weekend. We restructured our whole program over the winter after coming so far, so quick and it was time for a change. This weekend showed we are on the right way and the podium was the ultimate payback. In fact, I still cannot believe it because this track is one of the toughest for us. We turned it around and this result means a lot to us.”
There was history on the table in the first Grand Prix of the season, and Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) stepped up to the plate. The ‘Beast’ delivered a masterclass in the Grand Prix of Qatar to claim an emotional victory under the lights, which he dedicated to the late Fausto Gresini. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) produced a terrific ride to seal P2 and KTM’s best at the track by some margin, the South African ultimately just 0.3s away from the win. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team), after leading the way for much of the race, completed the podium on the opening night, taking his second rostrum with Honda. And the headlines didn’t stop there.
As the lights went out and the curtain went up on the season, polesitter Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) got an uncharacteristically poor start, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) grabbed the holeshot from the outside of the front row and his teammate Pol Espargaro then shot past into the lead. Brad Binder made a great start to go P3 early doors, with Bastianini slotting into P4. World Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) was eighth battling with Martin, and just up the road, 2020 World Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was making rapid gains. Francesco Bagnaia and Ducati Lenovo Team teammate Jack Miller didn’t get away well, however, and both were outside the top ten.
Four laps in, it was as you were. Pol Espargaro led Marc Marquez, Brad Binder, Mir, Bastianini, Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) and Martin. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) picked off Quartararo on the front straight for P8. Pecco recovered to P10, the Italian sitting behind Quartararo, and the top 10 were all line astern – the riders not yet on the limit, tyre consumption on their minds.
After going in hot on Lap 2 at Turn 1, Marc Marquez was then wide again on Lap 6 to allow Brad Binder into P2. On the next lap, the eight-time World Champion lost out to Bastianini into the first corner too, with Aleix Espargaro and Mir scrapping away for P5 and P6. Miller then pulled into pitlane at the end of Lap 7 to retire from the race, a technical issue seeing his season off to a disappointing start.
Meanwhile, the race had settled down at the front and the pace was starting to pick up between the leaders. Needing to make up time, Bagnaia was trying to get up the inside of Martin at Turn 1 on Lap 12, and drama was about to unfold. The Italian tucked the front, leaving Martin with nowhere to go and the Ducati duo both crashing out of contention, thankfully both riders ok but compounding a difficult evening for the Borgo Panigale factory with Miller, Pecco, Martin, and Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team), the latter crashing out of points contention, out of the Qatar GP.
Back at the front, Pol Espargaro was a second clear of Brad Binder with 10 laps to go. Second place then changed though as Bastianini, flying the flag for Ducati, picked off the KTM on the run into Turn 1. The Beast then started chipping away at Pol Espargaro’s lead, and with seven laps to go it was back down to under a second. It was 0.6s at the beginning of Lap 17 of 22, and just 0.189s on Lap 18. Bastianini set the fastest lap of the race to slash Pol Espargaro’s advantage, as Aleix Espargaro got the better of Marc Marquez for P4 and homed in.
With four laps to go, Bastianini blasted past Pol Espargaro on the straight to take the lead, and to compound the problem for the Repsol Honda, the number 44 was then in too hot at Turn 1. That allowed Brad Binder to carve past into second as the HRC rider went from P1 to P3 in a matter of seconds, leaving Bastianini with a 1.4s lead with three to go.
Two to go and it was 1.2s for Bastianini over Binder, Pol Espargaro was 0.7s off the KTM, and Aleix Espargaro was threatening his younger brother for the final podium spot – Pol on the soft rear, Aleix on the medium.
Onto the last lap. Bastianini lost another tenth to Binder on the penultimate lap, and the gap was 1.1s. It was down to as little as 0.6s heading into the final sector too, but the Beast held on. The Italian powered his GP21 out the final corner and took an incredible, emotional victory under the lights in Qatar, the perfect tribute to the late, great Fausto Gresini and a history-making first premier class win.
Brad Binder’s second place was a warning shot for their rivals after a more muted pre-season on the timesheets for KTM, and the South African, as he so often does, pulled a rabbit out the hat on Sunday. Pol Espargaro, after leading for so long, held onto a fantastic podium too – his second with HRC.
Aleix Espargaro was 0.8s away from the rostrum in the end but becomes the Aprilia rider to finish closest to victory – 2.2s. Marc Marquez’s return to action in Qatar for the first time since 2019 was celebrated with a solid P5, a good opening weekend for the eight-time Champion. It was, however, the first time the number 93 has finished a MotoGP™ race at Lusail and not come home as top Honda.
The two Suzukis, meanwhile, finished a low key sixth and seventh – Mir leading teammate Rins by 3.9s and both looking for more although still showing off some serious top speed gains from the Hamamatsu factory.
So where are the Yamahas? Quartararo looked set to take home P8 but Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing), on the run to the line, demoted the reigning Champion to P9. A disappointing start to El Diablo’s season, and a surprise for the factory who took two wins last season in Qatar with Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) coming home in P11.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) split the Yamahas in P10, with Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) a lonely 12th. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) edged out Andrea Dovizioso (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP™ Team) in P13 and P14.
The fight for the final points went down to the wire as reigning Moto2™ World Champion Remy Gardner (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) won the rookie battle for 15th, despite still struggling with a wrist broken in pre-season. Darryn Binder (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP™ Team) gave it one final lap push but the South African was just 0.012s away from a debut premier class point in the end, nevertheless impressing as second rookie as he moves from Moto3™ to MotoGP™.
Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) and Raul Fernandez (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) leave Round 1 empty handed, and Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) crashed out unhurt, separately, at Turn 1.
And that’s all she wrote in the season opener. What a night it was under the lights in Qatar, with a new MotoGP™ race winner in the field. Surprises and drama aplenty, and The Beast delivered a beauty. Indonesia is next up – bring it on as Pertamina Mandalika International Circuit welcomes the paddock back to Lombok.
Espargaro and new Honda RC213V power to podium in Qatar
Pol Espargaro showed off the incredible potential of the new Repsol Honda Team RC213V with a brilliant third place finish ahead of Marc Marquez, who with a fifth place finish sees the Repsol Honda Team leading the Teams’ World Championship. Leading most of the race with Marquez close behind, Espargaro proved the potential of himself and the new package from Honda HRC. The Qatar weekend as a whole has been hugely positive and productive for both sides of the Repsol Honda Team garage as Espargaro and Marquez consistently ran with front-running pace.
There was no missing the power and precision of the Repsol Honda Team RC213V off the line as Pol Espargaro rocketed forward to lead from sixth on the grid, teammate Marc Marquez, who has started third, tucking in just behind him after the first corner. The pair settled into a steady rhythm in the opening laps as the MotoGP field fought behind them.
Espargaro’s pace didn’t relent as he steadily worked his way further forward, opening up an advantage of a full second towards the middle of the race. On lap 11 of 22, the #44 set his fastest lap of the race as he tried to maintain his lead. Expecting another kind of race all together, Espargaro spent the closing stages of the Qatar GP managing his tyres and fuel and soon found himself with Enea Bastianini for company. As the young Italian passed on the start of lap 18, the extra speed from his slipstream sent Espargaro wide at the first corner – ending his challenge for victory and seeing Espargaro hold steady for third.
This is Espargaro’s second podium finish with the Repsol Honda Team. Having led 17 laps today, Espargaro more than doubles the amount of race laps led in his MotoGP career. This is Espargaro’s best result in Qatar and his first podium finish at the opening round.
After his lightning start, Marquez held strong as the likes of Brad Binder, Joan Mir and Bastianini piled on the pressure in the opening laps. Wanting more from the front tyre, the #93 lapped in the high 1’54s for most of the race as he defended his position in the top three. Taking home a safe fifth place when the flag came out positions Marquez well for the rest of the year, the eight-time World Champion knowing full well that seasons aren’t won at the first race.
Now the MotoGP World Championship prepares to head back to the Mandalika circuit in Indonesia for Round Two on March 20. The race will see MotoGP return to Indonesia for the first time since 1997, when Tadyuki Okada won the 500cc race on his NSR500 from Repsol Honda Team teammate Mick Doohan and Alex Criville.
“It’s a great way to start the year, we made an incredible start and we were able to lead most of the race. Honestly speaking, we were not expecting a race like this and with the pace we had, so at the end we were really on the limit. It’s an incredible feeling to start the year like this, of course I am disappointed that when Bastianini passed me I got sucked into the slipstream and I ran wide, dropping to third. But still we have to be pleased to start the year like this at a track where I normally do not go well at and in the past has not been the best track for Honda. I wanted to show my potential and today I was able to do it. Much of the glory today has to go to Honda HRC, for all their hard work over the winter in Japan to build this new bike and allowing me to show my true potential.”
“Honestly speaking the pace today was just too fast, the speed coming from Pol and the guys at the front was amazing. I did my maximum today and managed everything we had to, it’s the start of a new season and I thought to start with a top five is good for today. Today was not our day as I was struggling with the front tyre, so we kept calm. Of course, we need to keep working. I am happy for Pol and really happy for Honda HRC, this result shows all the work they have been doing and the potential of this new bike.”
We already knew that this race would be difficult after yesterday‘s qualifying, but we are still disappointed with today‘s result. Coming to this track, we had higher expectations than what materialised this weekend. Both riders experienced unusually high tyre pressure almost immediately from the beginning of the race. This prohibited them from being on the attack like they normally would. We will be investigating why this happened. Fabio had a great start and that played to his benefit. He did the best he could do considering the circumstances. Franco struggled a bit at the start but then got into a steadier rhythm. We have to make steps for the next round and make sure we are closer to the front, where we belong.
I had a good start, but from the start the tyre pressure was super high. That was a bit strange but I pushed to the maximum, and I expected to have a bit better pace. We couldn’t do better than this today. Of course, we had hoped for more today, but my job is to be 100% prepared and focused for every race. I always give my 100% in every position: whether I‘m fighting for the victory or P3, P5, P15. I do my best, regardless of what position I‘m in.
It was a difficult race. We struggled this weekend in terms of rear grip. That prevented us from having a wonderful performance. Speaking about my race: I had a really poor start. I wasn’t cunning enough to make the right moves in the first laps, and I lost a lot of time. And then when I picked up my pace, I was not so bad. I was close to my maximum, that felt good. The problem is that our maximum was not enough to be on top this weekend. But it’s just the first round. We know Qatar is a particular track and a particular weekend, so we move forward. We keep in mind the problems that we have, and we’ll work on them for sure. But we go to Mandalika with the same energy as always, we will try to do a good job there, and then we‘ll see where we stand there.
SIXTH AND SEVENTH FOR SUZUKI ON OPENING NIGHT OF SEASON
Team Suzuki Press Office – March 6.
Joan Mir: 6th – +4.843s
Alex Rins: 7th – +8.810s
Team Suzuki Ecstar kicked off their 2022 campaign under the lights of Losail International Circuit, where an electric atmosphere greeted the grid and fireworks illuminated the night’s sky.
Both Joan Mir and Alex Rins opted for the soft-medium tyre combination for the 22 -lap race and the pair got off to good starts, slotting into sixth and tenth respectively. By the end of the first lap, Mir had carved through to fourth, and a few laps later Rins was also up two places to eighth, setting the fastest lap in the process. The GSX-RRs displayed great top speed, and an improved race pace, indicating promising results ahead.
With 10 laps left in the Qatar GP, Mir and Rins had settled into a rhythm and were running sixth and seventh. However, both riders began to struggle a little with feeling and grip, thus preventing further progression. While Mir kept on with his mission to chase fifth place, with a small gap between himself and the position, Rins opted for a clever strategy; trying not to push over the limit to close the wide gap in the field. They both secured some points from Round 1.
“Honestly today has been disappointing, I was expecting more from this race. Our bike has definitely improved and that was clear to us – the rhythm and speed were better than last year. I started out well and I felt good at the beginning of the race, but then I started to lose the feeling with the rear and it became very difficult to make progress, especially in the last laps, and I couldn’t get more than sixth. So, this is something we’ll need to look into, to try and get more grip, for the coming races.”
“It was a bit strange today, because I suffered a little bit in the first part of the race when it came to overtaking the other riders. But then when I was alone on the track, and wanting to close the gap up to Joan, I pushed a lot but I didn’t feel very good in the corners; So instead of ending in the gravel I wanted to bring the bike home.”
Livio Suppo – Team Manager:
“For sure these aren’t the results we hoped for, especially after the strong pace on Friday, but anyway we still feel positive because the race was super-fast up front and both Joan and Alex had good pace. We also saw how much the bike has improved on the straights, so that will be useful in the coming races. We need to analyse the data to understand exactly what we lacked today. It’s a long championship and it’s good that both our riders scored points and got off to a decent start; we are looking forward to Indonesia in a couple of weeks. It’s my first weekend back in the paddock for four years, and I want to thank Sahara-san for his trust in me, I’m determined to have a great season all together with the team. I would like to extend my congratulations to the Gresini family. I am sure Fausto would be proud of their job.”
Ken Kawauchi – Technical Manager:
“This weekend we showed the potential of our riders and our bike, but in the end we couldn’t turn this into really top results. It’s a pity but it’s only the first race of the season, and the first with our new bike. We will continue to learn and see how our bike performs at the next circuits, which are all very different. Joan and Alex brought home some nice points. Let’s see what happens in Indonesia.”
GRAND PRIX OF QATAR RACE CLASSIFICATION:
1 Enea BASTIANINI Gresini Racing MotoGP 42’13.198
2 Brad BINDER Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 42’13.544 0.346
3 Pol ESPARGARO Repsol Honda Team 42’14.549 1.351
4 Aleix ESPARGARO Aprilia Racing 42’15.440 2.242
5 Marc MARQUEZ Repsol Honda Team 42’17.297 4.099
6 Joan MIR Team SUZUKI ECSTAR 42’18.041 4.843
7 Alex RINS Team SUZUKI ECSTAR 42’22.008 8.810
8 Johann ZARCO Pramac Racing DUCATI 42’23.734 10.536
9 Fabio QUARTARARO Monster Energy Yamaha 42’23.741 10.543
10 Takaaki NAKAGAMI LCR Honda IDEMITSU 42’28.165 14.967
11 Franco MORBIDELLI Monster Energy Yamaha 42’29.910 16.712
12 Maverick VIÑALES Aprilia Racing 42’36.414 23.216
13 Luca MARINI Mooney VR46 Racing Team 42’40.481 27.283
14 Andrea DOVIZIOSO WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP 42’40.572 27.374
15 Remy GARDNER Tech3 KTM Factory Racing 42’54.305 41.107
16 Darryn BINDER WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP 42’54.317 41.119
17 Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO Gresini Racing MotoGP 42’54.547 41.349
18 Raul FERNANDEZ Tech3 KTM Factory Racing 42’55.555 42.357
89 Jorge MARTIN Pramac Racing
63 Francesco BAGNAIA Ducati Lenovo Team
88 Miguel OLIVEIRA Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
73 Alex MARQUEZ LCR Honda CASTROL
72 Marco BEZZECCHI Mooney VR46 Racing Team
43 Jack MILLER Ducati Lenovo Team
RIDERS WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP CLASSIFICATION:
1 Enea BASTIANINI 25
2 Brad BINDER 20
3 Pol ESPARGARO 16
4 Aleix ESPARGARO 13
5 Marc MARQUEZ 11
6 Joan MIR 10
7 Alex RINS 9
8 Johann ZARCO 8
9 Fabio QUARTARARO 7
10 Takaaki NAKAGAMI 6
11 Franco MORBIDELLI 5
12 Maverick VIÑALES 4
13 Luca MARINI 3
14 Andrea DOVIZIOSO 2
15 Remy GARDNER 1
16 Darryn BINDER 0
17 Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO 0
18 Raul FERNANDEZ 0