Opening the 2021 MotoGP calendar, the Barwa Qatar Grand Prix under the floodlights at Losail circuit, Qatar, saw Maverick Vinales of Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP take the first season win. With the emphatic words, “we’re back,” Vinales started the race from third on the grid – team mate Fabio Quartararo was in second – but was quickly swamped at the start by the Ducatis from both factory and satellite teams.

Ducati has shown the straight line power of the Desmosedici GP20 during practice and qualifying, a fact proven by rookie Jorge Martin who had an amazing launch from 14th place at the start to joining his Corse team mates in the lead bunch before the first corner. Meanwhile, Malaysian-led team Petronas Sepang Racing Team (SRT) was strongly tipped to give a good race with Valentino Rossi qualifying fourth on the grid after being transferred to the satellite team from Yamaha Factory Racing.

2020 MotoGP world champion Joan Mir of Ecstar Suzuki, who started the race 10th on the fourth row of the grid, did sterling work fighting with the front group right until the final lap. Sitting in second with the finish line in sight, Mir ran wide on the final corner, allowing Zarco and Bagnaia to go past and let their Ducati’s straight line speed do the talking.

At the finish, it was Vinales crossing the line with a time of 42’28.663, with Zarco and Bagnaia following 1.092 and 1.129 seconds behind, respectively. Mir had to settle for fourth place after his last corner mistake, with Quartararo and Suzuki team mate Alex Rins taking fifth and sixth places.

Meanwhile, for the Petronas SRT, it was not the best of starts to the season, with Rossi finishing 12th, 10.742 seconds behind Vinales first place Yamaha, despite team principal Datuk Razlan Razali saying Rossi would be on identical machinery to the factory team. SRT compatriot Franco Morbidelli, who finished runner-up in the world championship last year, had a dismal race, complaining of suspension problems and finishing in 18th place.