Red Bull Motorsports
Proving that to finish first, first you have got to finish, Ducati's Jack Miller scored a stunning victory at the Red Bull Spanish Grand Prix. Riding a measured and masterful race to take advantage of early leader Fabio Quartararo's misfortune, the Australian claimed an emotional, popular win at the head of a Ducati 1–2.
Miller claimed his first career MotoGP™ victory since the rain-soaked 2016 Dutch TT in a dramatic fourth race of the 2021 MotoGP™ championship at the Circuito de Jerez. Miller had seemingly settled for second, before race leader Quartararo hit problems, handing the lead to the Ducati rider.
For the Australian it was reward for keeping Quartararo honest and even after the leader's issues, Miller didn’t have it all his own way. He was forced to maintain the pace to keep the lead over team-mate Francesco Bagnaia.
Further back, in just his second race back at the sharp end of world motorcycle racing, six-time MotoGP™ champion Marc Márquez showed that his nasty injury sustained at this circuit in June last year wasn't holding him back.
For the Spanish rider, the race marked a return to the scene of his big crash last year, which saw the eight-time world champion crash out in the opening round of the 2020 MotoGP™ championship and sustain the serious arm injury that sidelined him for 15 races.
Following a long and painful recovery from a broken right humerus, there was no sign that Márquez was taking it easy and there was plenty of heart-in-mouth action before the lights even went out on Sunday afternoon.
In Free Practice 3 on Saturday afternoon, Márquez fell off his Honda RC213V at the left-handed Turn 7 at high speed and was lucky to escape serious injury, suffering just a cervical contusion.
After all the drama, Márquez qualified 13th, behind Honda team-mate Pol Espargaró. Meanwhile, at the front of the grid, Quartararo, winner of the previous two races, claimed pole position, with Miller leading the Ducati attack ahead of team-mate Francesco Bagnaia in third.
At the start of the race, it was Miller who blasted to the front of the field and behind the Australian, the battle for second shaped up between Ducati and Yamaha, as FrancoMorbidelli, Quartararo and Bagnaia battled.
By the end of lap four, Quartararo's challenge proved irresistible for Miller, who was forced to concede the lead to the French rider.
Further back, by the midpoint of the race, both the Repsol Honda bikes ran line astern in 10th and 11th, with Espargaró heading Márquez in a calm reversal to the team's crash-filled weekend that was compounded by both bikes suffering sizeable off-track excursions in the Sunday morning warm-up.
As the race entered the second half, Quartararo extended his advantage to almost 1.5s, with Miller lapping just a tenth of a second slower in second place as Morbidelli and Bagnaia fought it out for third place.
Then, suddenly, everything changed. With 11 laps to go Quartararo's lead was slashed by over a second and Miller found himself right with the Yamaha. By the start of lap 12, Miller once again headed the pack.
With 10 laps remaining, Miller made Quartararo's seemingly inexplicable loss of pace count, riding his Ducati superbly on a circuit not traditionally favourable to the Italian bike to maintain the lead.
A couple of laps later Ducati's fortunes took another upturn, as Bagnaia scythed past Quartararo, who quickly slipped backwards through the field to end up down in 13th place by the finish.
As the race entered its final lap, Miller held firm and shrugged off all the drama to bounce back from a sluggish start to the season and head home an unlikely Ducati 1–2, with team-mate Bagnaia heading Morbidelli to claim second.
There was also a reason to be happy for Takaaki Nakagami. The LRC Honda rider qualified well in fourth, despite still feeling the effects of a huge crash in Portugal, and ended the race strongly, lapping half a second quicker than Miller. Meanwhile, in the works Honda garage, a still-recovering Márquez ended up a solid ninth with team-mate Espargaró rounding out the top 10.
MotoGP™ of Spain results
- Jack Miller (AUS) – Ducati
- Francesco Bagnaia (ITA) – Ducati
- Franco Morbidelli (ITA) – Yamaha
- Takaaki Nakagami (JPN) – Honda
- Joan Mir (ESP) – Suzuki
- Aleix Espargaró (ESP) – Aprilia
- Maverick Viñales (ESP) – Yamaha
- Johann Zarco (FRA) – Ducati
- Marc Márquez (ESP) – Honda
- Pol Espargaró (ESP) – Honda