The King of COTA returns to his throne with a dominant show of power, Quartararo celebrates second like a win and Bagnaia completes the podium
The King of COTA is back! A faultless display from Marc Marquez saw the Repsol Honda Team rider take a magnificent seventh win at the Circuit of The Americas as the number 93 stormed to a second victory of 2021. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) extended his World Championship lead with a valuable second place at the Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas, with Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) taking third but now 52 points shy of the Frenchman with three races to go…
Plan A was executed to perfection by Marc Marquez from third on the grid, the number 93 grabbing the holeshot as Quartararo also got the better of polesitter Bagnaia. The latter then lost another place to the fast-starting Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) on the opening lap, with Pecco then demoted to P5 as Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) carved his way past on Lap 2 too.
Then, Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) was the first crasher of the race, the Japanese rider sixth when he tumbled out on Lap 2. Further back on Miller watch, Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) was making good progress on the hard rear Michelin tyre from 10th on the grid, and the Aussie grabbed a two-for-one deal at Turn 12 to pass Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) on Lap 3 for sixth .
After dispatching Rins, Martin was a formidable nuisance for Championship leader Quartararo as Marc Marquez started to stretch his lead to a second for the first time. Miller, having passed teammate Pecco, was now ahead of Rins in P4 too and the Aussie was the man on the move. Bagnaia, in turn, was struggling to keep up with the top five, initially down in sixth.
Lap 8 of 20 ticked by and Marc Marquez slammed in a 2:04.368, his lead was now up to a second and a half over Quartararo. By 11 to go, that gap had been stretched to 2.3, with Quartararo, in turn, a second clear of Martin. Miller was only half a second down on his fellow Ducati rider and 1.3 behind came Pecco, who had started to find some rhythm – the Italian soon passing Rins.
Pecco then latched onto the back of teammate Miller, before the latter allowed his teammate through – with every point in the title race absolutely critical at this stage, especially with Quartararo up ahead on second. Now, the question was: could Bagnaia catch and pass Martin for third? With four laps to go, the gap was suddenly nothing, with Martin seemingly looking down at his dashboard a few times. Was the rookie struggling, or were Ducati intervening? It wouldn’t matter in the end, with Martin being handed a Long Lap Penalty for not losing enough time at Turns 4 and 5 when he had a front end moment and ran off.
In the end though, Captain America returned to reign once again in Austin. Marc Marquez gave the Repsol Honda Team their 450th premier class podium with a classy ride at COTA, as Quartararo takes a second place that gives him his first match point of the season next time out at Misano. Bagnaia recovered well to claim P3, but its ground lost in the Championship chase… although Misano went pretty well last time for the Italian.
Rins was able to finish P4, profiting from Martin’s Long Lap Penalty, the latter unlucky to finish fifth after another fantastic ride but still top Independent Team rider. Sixth place went the way of Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama), who once again impressed as his form rolls on. He also benefitted from a clash between Mir and Miller on the final lap, and the Rookie of the Year battle is close still between Martin and Bastianini heading into the final three races.
The Mir-Miller clash earned the Suzuki rider some post-race interest from both Miller and the FIM MotoGP™ Stewards Panel. The number 36’s move on Miller at Turn 15 saw the reigning World Champion make contact with the Ducati and he received a one place penalty. Mir crossed the line in P7 with Miller P8, that result is switched after the penalty.
Binder and Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) completed the top 10, with Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) taking home a lonely P11 but some good points. Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol), Andrea Dovizioso (Petronas Yamaha SRT), Luca Marini (Sky VR46 Avintia) and Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) round out the points, The Doctor scoring in his final Grand Prix appearance in America.
Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) crashed out unhurt on Sunday afternoon, joining Nakagami on the list of DNFs.
So that’s that from Texas. A dream return to COTA for Marc Marquez sees the King reclaim his Austin crown. And equally as happy is Quartararo, with that 52-point advantage meaning he could now win the 2021 title next time out at Misano. Could…
Marc Marquez: “The plan was exactly how I did the race. Start well, be first at the first corner, slow in the first three laps and then when the tyres drop a bit, start to push. It’s exactly what I did. Then I saw that I increased the gap, I was riding a constant pace and comfortable. The last few laps I was tired and it was hard to concentrate but Fabio was far, my instinct said he’d slow down too because he’s fighting for the Championship. So today everyone is happy on the podium! Me for the victory, Fabio for second… maybe Pecco no! But for sure he’ll be strong again at Misano.”