Fifteen days after the two consecutive opening rounds in Qatar, the MotoGP World Championship arrives in Europe for its third round on the calendar. The Portuguese GP, which is to be held this weekend (April 16-18) at the Portimao Circuit, will count with an incontestable protagonist: Marc Márquez.
The Spaniard returns to the competition after three surgeries on his right arm and a nine-month convalescence. It is still uncertain how this long period of inactivity will impact the Spaniard’s performance but his return is sure to stir things up at Repsol-Honda Team.
Without the #93, the team has seen the worst start of season in its history. His new teammate Pol Espargaró has had his work cut out just trying to get used to the indomitable RC213V.
Meanwhile, Pramac Racing is going through a very sweet moment. They face the Portuguese test with Johann Zarco as the unexpected strongman of the Ducati bikes. He currently leads the standings with forty points – four more than the official Yamahas – thanks to his two second places in Qatar.
Sharing the box with Zarco at ‘Fonsi’ Nieto’s squad is Jorge Martín. The rookie from Madrid has dazzled fans so far this beginning of season. At the Doha GP, his second ever MotoGP race, Martín took his first pole and podium. A real feat.
The situation is pretty much the opposite at the official Ducati team for the Portuguese GP. Outperformed by the satellite machines, Pecco Bagnaia & Jack Miller are under a lot of pressure to step up at Portimao.
The Iwata factory machines are certainly the most likely candidates for victory. Maverick Viñales and Fabio Quartararo are in great shape.
The pair did not make the podium at the Autodromo del Algarve in 2020 but this 2021 the Frenchman has taken the Doha GP and the Spaniard the Qatar GP, raising to second in the standings at just four points from the lead.
As for Yamaha’s satellite team, Petronas SRT, things are not looking so promising for the Portuguese GP. Franco Morbidelli and Valentino Rossi had a disappointing start to the season, weighed down by various technical problems with their M1s.
Both the current World Championship runner-up and his friend from Tavullia need to take action in order to reverse a situation which is beginning to concern the Malaysian structure.
Team Suzuki Ecstar is bound to be another one of the great attractions of the Portuguese GP. Both the crown holder Joan Mir and his teammate Álex Rins have demonstrated a good rhythm to date.
The performance of their GSX-RRs during qualifying, however, still needs some working on. So far, they have been able to compensate for their lack of speed on the Losail straight to place themselves fifth and sixth respectively in the standings. In Portugal, they will be fighting for their first podium of the season, an especially important mission in the case of Mir.
One of the most awaited performances of the Portuguese round will be that of Miguel Oliveira. The Portuguese pilot and his orange bike gave a flawless masterclass from pole in 2020.
The current underperformance of his RC16, however, has raised many doubts. In any case, Oliveira will attempt to make the best of his unresponsive machine. Next to him will be the South African Brad Binder, also rather grey at the moment.
Images of Portuguese GP: Repsol-Honda Team.