MotoGP

How is the 2021 MotoGP grid shaping up?

The 2021 MotoGP World Championship rider line-up is starting to form despite the 2020 season having not yet started a race this year

The 2020 MotoGP season may not have turned a wheel in anger as yet but teams are still using this moment of reflection wisely to plot their futures beyond what could well be a season to forget.

Over the weekend Suzuki firmed up its rider line-up for the next two seasons with Joan Mir signing on the dotted line with the Japanese firm to form an unchanged pairing alongside Alex Rins to the conclusion of the 2022 season.

That fills six of the provisional 20 spots on the grid – here is how the rest of the grid is shaping up…

2021 MotoGP Rider Line-up: Confirmed

Mir’s confirmation means two of the top factory teams – Suzuki and Yamaha – can now start planning with an eye on a long-term future.

Suzuki’s move to retain its riders comes as no surprise. Rins has become something of a talisman for the team since he debuted in 2017, leading to his strongest season yet in 2019 where he secured the first two wins of his career, while Mir’s positive first season in MotoGP – just four years after making his GP debut - was always destined to keep him in Suzuki colours.

That’s not to say they weren’t targeted though with Ducati reported to be sniffing around, just as they were with Maverick Vinales and Fabio Quartararo. They too are now officially off the market having agreed terms with Yamaha over the winter.

Elsewhere, Marc Marquez will remain in Honda colours right through to the end of the 2024 MotoGP season after penning an unprecedented four-year deal, while Tito Rabat is set to remain with Avintia Racing provided the Spanish team can weather the current storm.

2021 MotoGP Rider Line-up: Rumoured

With Marquez confirmed at Honda, his brother Alex Marquez is expected to retain his seat with the factory team for at least another season despite having not yet made his MotoGP debut.

Though the lack of racing right now doesn’t necessarily help the Spaniard in his hopes to impress when MotoGP does restart again, Honda has signalled it is committed to getting him up to speed and is likely to give him extra time to prove himself in light of this year’s difficulties.

Ducati, meanwhile, has something of a headache having now officially lost out on a number of riders it was targeting. Not only that but it already has as many as five riders – Andrea Dovizioso, Danilo Petrucci, Jack Miller, Pecco Bagnaia and Johann Zarco – that all have designs on just two factory seats.

That will put pressure on the riders to impress right from the moment the season begins, though Ducati in turn runs the risk of losing one or two of them altogether (namely Miller) if they cannot commit them to a factory ride in 2021.

Meanwhile, Petronas SRT Yamaha is waiting on a firm decision from Valentino Rossi over whether he will continue in MotoGP beyond 2020 though the Italian appears to be leaning towards one more season to ensure his career gets the proper send-off it deserves.

That’s not to say Franco Morbidelli is definitely set to stay though having been bumped down the Yamaha hierarchy in the wake of Quartararo’s emergence as its new young star. As such, the Italian could be enticed elsewhere, with Aprilia arguably a potential destination for him.

The pause in action has given the Italian marque time to think of its next move following Andrea Iannone’s drugs ban. Right now, Bradley Smith is set to take on riding duties in 2020 alongside Aleix Espargaro but doesn’t appear to be part of its long-term plans unless they keep him on board until mid-way through 2021 when Iannone’s 18 month suspension runs out.

Failing that, riders like Miller, Morbidelli and even Dovizioso could be logical targets for a manufacturer that believes it now has a podium-winning machine in its midst.

Having put its faith in youth already, KTM is likely to retain its current four-rider line-up into 2021 at least but could use whatever season we have in 2020 to decide on the configuration. Brad Binder was surprisingly given a factory ride for 2020 at the behest of Miguel Oliveira, who remains on the sister Tech 3 machine, but they could potentially swap over depending on their results to the end of the year.

Finally, LCR Honda now looks set to hold onto its riders after Cal Crutchlow dismissed ideas of retirement plans, while Takaaki Nakagami appears to be coming good on Honda’s investment on year-old machinery to the extent that he could – potentially – be in line for a move to the factory outfit in place of Marquez if he completely trounces the Spaniard this year.

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