Winter has finished. The first race weekend of the season is upon us for both MotoGP and F1, the most prestigious 2 and 4-wheeled circuit racing competitions…in the world.
It has been a long time coming for eagerly awaiting fans, but that wait is finally over as the circuits in Qatar and Bahrain open their gates to the sound of horsepower, starting with Friday’s free practice sessions.
The big news is that whilst Marc Marquez is progressing well in his rehab, he will miss the opening two rounds of the season. I’m sure we all want to see him on a bike as soon as possible, but I don’t want to see him never ride again, so prudence is certainly encouraged and appropriate at this point in time.
The other big news is that “The Doctor”, Valentino Rossi, will be returning for his 26th year of Grand Prix racing except he’ll be in Petronas Yamaha colours. His spot in the factory team has been taken by young up-and-comer, Fabio Quartararo, who has effectively switched places with the 9-times world champion. The teal and black is going to take a bit getting used to, but I’m grateful he is still on the grid, and he plans to race for another two years, all things going well.
Aussie Jack Miller begins his first year as a factory Ducati rider, unfortunately missing out on pairing with veteran Andrea Dovizioso who had a bit of a falling out with the Italian manufacturer as they failed to come to terms on a new contract. Dovi, however, will be back in April test riding for Aprilia, who have impressed everyone over the winter and seem to have put behind their past woes.
Despite winning both rider and constructor titles last season, Suzuki (still) haven’t been grabbing the spotlight entering the 2021 season. 2020 champion Joan Mir and teammate Alex Rins will be looking to repeat again this year to show everyone that it was no fluke. However, they’ll be doing it without team boss Davide Brivio who is now running the Alpine F1 team (who’s Alpine? More F1 to come).
It should be another interesting season of MotoGP, the greatest show on wheels (although I may be bias). Like last year, I honestly don’t know how it is going to manifest itself. A lot depends on when Marquez will race again and how much of him will be there. Suzuki still remain the team to beat, but I think Jack Miller will give them a run on the Bologna bullet and Quartararo will be looking to make amends for last season and show he is deserving of usurping Valentino Rossi on the factory Yamaha.
Lewis Hamilton returns to try and make it eight championships as he and Mercedes lead the chasing pack once more in this the final year of current regulations. Oh, yes, that’s Sir Lewis now – I wonder if he calls his mechanics “maesters” haha.
There have been a few movers and shakers around the F1 paddock including Australia’s own, Daniel Ricciardo, moving from Renault (now Alpine) to McLaren, partnering up with young Brit, Lando Norris. Ricciardo replaces Carlos Sainz Jr who has moved to Ferrari to
replace Sebastian Vettel who has moved into the new Aston Martin Racing Team (formerly Racing Point), replacing Sergio Perez who is now at Red Bull Racing, demoting Alex Albon to the reserve driver position. Did you get all that?
Oh, did I forget to mention that Fernando Alonso is returning? And in typical Alonso fashion, he claims he is better than anyone on the grid.
Hamilton’s main contenders will again be his teammate Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen with the latter having their best chance yet to dethrone King Lewis.
There’s going to be some interesting battles amongst the rest which are closer than ever. Ferrari are still not where they want to be and McLaren, Aston Martin, Alpine, even the AlphaTauri may scrap it out in the mid-pack. The Alfa Romeo has improved as well and being driven by a man who “knows what to do”, former champion and cult favourite Kimi Raikkonen, a few more points finishes may be on the cards.
I feel that Lewis (coughs), Sir Lewis, will win again. I take the “he’s the champion ‘til he’s the champion no more” approach to this season, but he’s certainly not unbeatable, just you can’t really afford any mistakes.
There is still time, however, to consume the new series of “Drive to Survive”, the ever-popular Netflix show returned for its third season on March 19. Sadly, I do not have Netflix so I haven’t watched it yet, but I do have cheese and wine should anyone feel inclined to offer.
So, here’s to a competitive and (hopefully) relatively COVID-free and uninterrupted motor racing season and may the best rider/driver win! As Murray Walker would say, “Anything can happen in Grand Prix Racing, and it usually does.”, or as former MotoGP commentator Nick Harris would say, “Never say never in MotoGP!”.