Five things to take away from the 2021 MotoGP COTA | Americas MotoGP Analysis
Round 15 of the 2021 MotoGP season went underway at the bumpy Circuit of the Americas or as famously known as COTA. The race was dominated by the eight time world champion Marc Marquez who led the race from start and built a significant gap over the rest of the field. Behind him, Fabio Quartararo was able to comfortably come second after defending quite some attacks from the pack of Ducatis behind him. This also let him build a gap of over 50 points over his title rival Francesco Bagnaia and now has a chance to seal the 2021 championship at Misano. Even though the Ducatis were supposed to be dominating on this track, the highlight from Ducati came by the name of Enea Bastianini after he took his two-year old factory Ducati from P16, all the way to P6. Now, with all that let us look at the five key aspects from the 2021 Americas MotoGP
1. Marc Marquez’s dominant victory
Marc Marquez has been dormant for most of the 2021 with a few glimpses of his old form after his fatal accident in the 2020 season. Marquez is still yet to recover completely from his injuries but that hasn’t stopped the Spaniard from laying it all out on the track.
Marquez started the race from P3 on the grid after being denied pole by Ducati rider Francesco Bagnaia and Yamaha rider Fabio Quartararo. But as the race started, Marquez got a good holeshot from the start and took the lead of the race at the first turn. From then onwards, no rider on the grid was able to remotely challenge the Spaniard.
The gap increased lap by lap between him and the rest of the field as he found a competitive rhythm around the track. The bumpy nature of the track was not posing a problem for him and he was able to keep his lap times consistent till the final lap of the race. Now, even though Marquez is not a title contender for the season, it is evident that he has found his old form back and will challenge the grid in the remaining races in the 2021 calendar.
2. Jack Miller playing the team game
Jack Miller was specifically seen as a strong contender for the race win as MotoGP headed into COTA. The power of the Ducati is evident and Jack was able to get the best out of the bike as he was always in the top two throughout the Free Practice sessions.
But he has been struggling to get the tyres in the right operating window for a fast qualifying lap for most of the 2021 season. And COTA was no different. Jack could only qualify P10 and was almost a second behind his teammate Francesco Bagnaia, who was the pole-sitter.
However, the tables turned during the race as Miller was able to get a great start off the line and moved himself in the top five after just a couple of laps. But on the other hand, Bagnaia was not able to get his tyres to work on the opening few laps and saw himself dropping to P6.
At the finishing stages of the race, Miller started to drop time and Bagnaia had found his rhythm around the bumpy COTA circuit. As Bagnaia caught up to Miller, he let Bagnaia pass allowing Bagnaia’s title fight to remain alive for the 2021 season. This shows Miller’s ability to see the bigger picture and play the team game but whether it's enough for Ducati to extend his contract or not, is something we’ll have to find out.
3. Enea Bastianini’s charge
Enea Bastianini has been a talking point from the past few races. He has shown solid pace on a two year old Ducati run by Avintia and looks to be in good contention to get a seat in the Ducati stables.
Bastianini was struggling in the bumpy track of COTA throughout Free Practice sessions and was struggling to put the famous power of the Ducati on track. It looked like he was not going to be a news grabbing highlight during this weekend, but things changed during the race.
Enea had a decent start from the line and was holding onto his position for the first few laps. But as lap count started to rise, Enea found pace in the Ducati and was slowly making his way through the pack. As Enea made his way into the top ten, he started replicating the pace of race leader Marc Marquez.
In the final laps, he kept his pace at par with the front runners and crossed the checkered flag in P6 ahead of Jack Miller, Joan Mir and Pol Espargaro. This shows his potential on the Ducati bike and also opens his doors to be a strong contender for a seat in the Pramac Ducati stables.
4. Fabio Quartararo’s title contention
Fabio Quartararo has proved his worth on the Factory Yamaha bike time and again this season and now stands at a place where he can seal the rider’s championship in the next race at Misano.
In the race, Fabio was trying to catch Marquez on the opening laps but quickly realised that he was not going to challenge the eight-time world champion on this track. Instead of laying everything on the line, Fabio chose to keep his P2 position and pick up the important points that would come with a podium finish.
Fabio kept himself out of any potential dangers and completed the race with a careful ride, and secured the P2 position with ease. Even though he was relatively not happy with the compromised P2 position, it was evident that he had the maturity to see the bigger picture and grab the important points needed to win the championship.
Quartararo now leads the championship with 254 points under his belt, which is 52 points clear of his title rival Francesco Bagnaia. With that Fabio now has a chance to seal the rider’s championship at the next race at Misano, but has told the media that he has no intention to hype up the next race and will go to Misano with the sole purpose of extracting the best from the weekend at Misano.
5. Safety concerns of COTA
The Circuit of the Americas is an important track on the MotoGP calendar. It is the only circuit in the North American continent and acts as an opportunity for MotoGP to connect with the American fans.
But the condition of the track has deteriorated over the years and a lot of bumps and crests doesn't make it ideal for a safe MotoGP race. This is due to the fact that COTA has been built on clay which tends to move and shift over time. On top of that, after the floods in 2015, the drainage systems have been seriously affected and water has seeped to the sublevels of the track’s foundation which has worsened the conditions further.
Even after a 100 million dollars of influx into the track, the problem is yet to be resolved. On top of that various parts of the track have been resurfaced at different points of time which leads to uneven grip levels.
These conditions were highlighted over the weekend when multiple riders raised concerns over the weekend about the extreme bumps that a MotoGP bike is not designed to endure. No proper solutions have yet been put into action for improving the track, but it is clear that COTA is very important for the MotoGP world, financially or otherwise.
With that Fabio Quartararo leads the rider’s championship with 254 points and Francesco Bagnaia still has a chance to deny that as he trails the Frenchman with 202 points. Rest of the grid is currently out of contention for the title win, but with the unpredictable nature of the MotoGP world, it is clear that a different race winner can be expected in the races to come. The next race on the calendar will take us back to Misano on October 24. Will Quartararo be able to seal the title or will Bagnaia keep the fight alive? We’ll find out soon enough. For more news and updates from the MotoGP world, stay tuned to evo India!