We won’t be forgetting the 2020 MotoGP World Championship in a hurry but a memory it is already becoming because as the clock strikes midnight to welcome in 2021, we are immediately looking ahead to what should be a step towards a ‘normal’ year of sorts.
Joan Mir’s spectacular 2020 MotoGP title win for Suzuki earns him the de facto #1 plate heading into 2021 but in a season that forged such an unpredictable journey towards the delivery of its conclusion, there is much to anticipate this year.
With testing just a few weeks away and all (but one) seat on the 2021 MotoGP grid decided, here are six (plus one) things we just cannot wait for from this season’s MotoGP World Championship showcase.
1 – New season, new King
Joan Mir’s route to the 2020 MotoGP World Championship title may have been a stealthy one but rivals won’t allow him that benefit in 2021 as he and Suzuki prepare to defend their titles in what will be a true test of the Spaniard’s mental resolve.
Only his third season in grand prix racing, Mir now has the pressure of having a target painted on his back, while Suzuki by extension know it needs to make improvements in certain areas (ie. qualifying) in order to cling onto their trophies another year.
2 – The (possible) return of Marc Marquez
While his rivals enjoyed fun and games in 2020, Marc Marquez is set to return from the sidelines this season provided he makes a satisfactory recovery from his ongoing arm injury troubles.
With his quest for a ninth GP world title scuppered by a high-speed crash at the opening round in Jerez, Marquez has since undergone three surgeries on the troublesome break, raising speculation he may not be at full strength come the opening round.
With Honda realising a year too late that it needed a complement to fill the shoes of Marquez should it suffer a worst case scenario, Pol Espargaro may well be very useful to the team come season start if the multiple world champion isn’t fully recovered.
Following four career-defining seasons with KTM, while Espargaro may well be second guessing his decision to defect for 2021 on the back of his ex-team’s stellar 2020 campaign and Honda’s relative woes, of all the riders on the grid thought capable of taming the notoriously tricky RC213V, it is the Spaniard.
4 – Back to a full schedule
The abbreviated and compacted 2020 MotoGP season may have been run at a breathless tempo at times, but there will be many looking forward to a sense of normality for 2021 with a full schedule of 20 events planned.
While the ongoing crisis means the schedule could yet chop and change, for now MotoGP will venture beyond Europe this time, while Finland gets its belated return to the calendar at the all-new Kymi Ring.
After months and months of speculation, Valentino Rossi will shuck off the blue hues of the Factory Yamaha team in favour of a swap to the Petronas SRT outfit.
Considered the prelude to what will be retirement either at the end of the season or in 2022, the swapped position certainly isn’t a ‘bum deal’ for The Doctor given the Malaysian-backed team’s performance last year, while Rossi may well relish coming into the year as something of an underdog.
At the other end of the Yamaha scale, Fabio Quartararo will need to show he has the mental fortitude to pick himself up from a poor conclusion to the 2020 season and prove himself alongside Maverick Vinales in the Factory team.
6 – Ducati’s shake-up
With Danilo Petrucci dropped and Andrea Dovizioso calling its bluff, Ducati has overhauled its rider line-up for the 2021 MotoGP season to compensate with Jack Miller and Pecco Bagnaia representing a younger, less proven but certainly eager and – in Miller’s case – still experienced Factory effort.
This trickles down too with Johann Zarco promoted to Pramac Racing after his Avintia success, while a trio of rookies will make up the remainder of the Italian firm’s seats…
6 + 1 – The Rookie Army
…with Jorge Martin securing the Pramac seat, while new Moto2 champion Enea Bastianini and Luca Marini fill the Avintia Ducati seats – the latter bringing the VR46 Sky branding with him – to usher in the next generation of MotoGP talent hoping to follow in the tracks of race victor Brad Binder and double podium winner Alex Marquez,
2021. Bring it on.