The last three Italian Grands Prix have all been won by a Ducati, as have the last two rounds of 2021. Only one point separates the top two in the standings as rain again threatens to spice things up.
Mugello is one of the most historic and important rounds in the MotoGP calendar. As with Jerez and Valencia, it is a venue used a lot for testing, especially by the Italian teams of Ducati and Aprilia, who will hope to do their home country proud in the first Italian round since 2019. Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo leads the title, but only by one single point coming into this round, with any of the top five mathematically able to take the title lead this round.
If history is anything to go by though, expect two Ducatis on the podium. The last time there were less than that in the top 3 was in 2016, which was also the last time the red bikes failed to win their home round. Seven active riders have won at Mugello in either MotoGP, Moto2, and Moto3, with Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez the only two to have won more than once, with Rossi doing it a mammoth seven times in a row in MotoGP, plus two more in other classes. When ‘The Doctor’ finishes races at Mugello, he is generally on the podium, with him only missing out three times in the past decade. He is good at taking pole too, with his most recent coming at the venue in 2018.
The pre-race favorite has to be Jack Miller though. The Australian has been on fire since winning the Spanish Grand Prix, and was seconds faster than anyone else in the changeable French Grand Prix at points, to win it by almost four seconds. Speaking of changeable, the weather looks set to play a part in proceedings again, with a 70% chance of rain on Sunday, with rain most likely to fall between 2 a.m and 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday look to be dry though, crucial for those wishing to cement their Jerez test gains from almost a month ago, like Rossi himself.
If anyone is to upset the run of form Ducati has, it is Fabio Quartararo. The title leader has only finished outside the top five once this season thanks to arm pump, and the Frenchman will have now healed from his surgery and will be looking to draw blood in the next chapter of the title fight. Yamaha has won five MotoGP races at Mugello, with their last coming in 2016.
Marc Marquez will be hoping to redeem himself after crashing out of the lead in France, and crashing out for good while he was recovering through the field. As he continues his recovery from injuries sustained in a crash last year, he understands this is a bogey track for him, as the modern MotoGP master has only won once in the premier class, back in his magnificent 2014 season when he won the first 10 races. Since then the Spaniard has only finished on the podium twice, in 2016 and 2019, and he will be hoping to at least find a top ten in what will be a grueling round for the 8-time champion.
Further down the field, Suzuki riders Joan Mir and Alex Rins will be hoping to pick up a solid result after a dismal French Grand Prix, where they both crashed out within a lap of each other. Both will want good results, as Rins languishes down in 12th in the title, with world champion Mir just sixth. Aprilia will also be looking for good form, after a good Saturday turned into a dismal Sunday in France, the team having a double retirement after Lorenzo Salvadori topped Q1.
All three of the rookies running this weekend at Italian, so all three will be hoping to impress their home fans this weekend. If past form is anything to go by, Luca Marini is the best placed as he has not finished outside the top 10 in any of his Italian Grand Prix finishes. We are still missing Jorge Martin as he continues his recovery from fractures sustained in Portugal, meaning Michele Pirro will make his first appearance of 2021, starting his ninth Italian Grand Prix.
As with any round in MotoGP, stats are one thing, but how it plays out is something else entirely. Just as in every other MotoGP round this year, with the tightness of the field and grandeur of the Mugello circuit, close racing and a memorable weekend is the only thing that can be assured as MotoGP begins the 2021 Italian Grand Prix.