Fabio Quartararo took his fourth victory of 2021 with a dominant ride at Assen this afternoon, heading a Monster Yamaha one-two in the DutchGP from Maverick Viñales.
The 22-year-old taking the win by almost three-seconds despite admitting to struggling with his right arm throughout the 26-lap race. Suzuki Ecstar’s Joan Mir completed the podium after getting the better of Johann Zarco, with Pecco Bagnaia dropping from podium contention in the early stages after a penalty for track limit infringements.
Having dominated the weekend so far, Viñales continued to dominate the headlines as the Dutch TT race prepared but not entirely due to his pole and session-topping performance. Rumours continued to circulate of the Spaniard’s imminent departure from the factory Yamaha team with Aprilia Racing the surprising destination for 2022, while a pre-race gamble saw him the sole rider to opt for soft rather than medium front tyres, partnering it with a hard rear. The Honda’s of Pol Espargaro, Marc and Alex Marquez favoured soft rear Michelins with the rest of the pack split between the medium and hard.
As the grid lined up, Quartararo joined his teammate on the front row with Bagnaia completing the trio and as the lights went out it was the Frenchman who struck out front. Viñales dropping to fifth as his teammate cut him off and his gamble failed to pay off. Bagnaia took second from Takaaki Nakagami with the pair instantly challenging the leading M1 and the Ducati taking charge halfway round the opening lap.
Quartararo was second as the second lap began, Nakagami holding off the pole-man as Zarco and Jack Miller sat fifth and sixth. Alex Rins, having initially enjoyed a positive start, was sent wide after a challenge from Zarco and forced to regroup from the back of the pack.
The leading pair were neck and neck as the race unfolded, Quartararo looking to retake the lead at the start of lap four with Bagnaia holding fast to maintain the position. Viñales beginning to lose touch of Nakagami with Zarco hassling on his rear wheel.
An impressive start saw Marquez up 10 positions to 10th in the race, one ahead of teammate Espargaro and with the Aprilia in front. Quartararo briefly retaking the lead before the Ducati man struck back but the Frenchman wasn’t giving up, a successful move in the closing sector providing the advantage.
Further back Mir was battling with Zarco for fifth, Miller having dropped to eighth as Miguel Oliveira joined the party. Valentino Rossi mounting his own recovery after a disastrous start saw him second to last, one ahead of Garrett Gerloff, returning to 17th at the start of lap eight. The comeback, however, was short-lived as ‘The Doctor’ crashed out in blistering speed at turn seven.
Lap nine saw the Frenchman comfortably out front, with over a second lead. The gap increasing to two-seconds just half a lap later as he found his rhythm. Nakagami began to reel in Bagnaia for second with Viñales still defending from the Pramac man behind.
The LCR machine was up to second as lap 12 wound down, Bagnaia hitting back down the start/finish straight and the M1 honing in as the battle played out.
The second-half of the standings saw the Tech3 KTM’s circulating in 12th and 13th, Alex Marquez and Brad Binder holding the final points positions as Jorge Martin headed the recovering Suzuki of Rins.
The battle for second continued out front as Nakagami made another move, the Ducati once again hitting back as Viñales took another look. Track limits came into the mix, however, as Bagnaia was issued a long lap penalty, Vinales joining his teammate in second as Nakagami dropped to fifth and the Ducati peeled in to the penalty zone. There was further heartbreak for the Bologna team as Miller crashed out and Martin retired to pitlane. Zarco now holding court on the Desmosedici in third and hunting for more.
Bagnaia was back in the mix as he sought for a way round the Aprilia for sixth, Nakagami fading fast as he split the Repsol Hondas on the edge of the top-10. The medium rear tyres potentially proving the wrong choice as the top-six all circulated on the hard option rears.
With clear air ahead, Vinales was picking up pace as he ate into his teammate’s advantage, Miller retiring after being shown the black and orange flag as Mir bettered Zarco for third. Iker Lecuona becoming the next victim of the Dutch track, with his stricken KTM lying across the middle of the final chicane and seven laps to go.
Marquez continued another impressive ride as he improved again, this time to seventh. The Repsol Honda hassling Bagnaia hard for sixth from the middle of a four bike train with Oliveira almost two-seconds ahead. It was Espargaro, however, how would take the advantage as his fellow Spaniard’s attention was on the Ducati, the Aprilia claiming seventh with less than two laps left to play.
The final round began with a 2.4s lead for Quartararo, Viñales himself 3.6s clear of Mir in third with Zarco just three-tenths away from the podium. There was no change to the top, however, as the flag came out. Yamaha locking out the top of the rostrum with Mir securing his third podium of the year.
Zarco came home in fourth from Oliveira and Bagnaia with Marque bettering Espargaro on the final lap for seventh. Nakagami finished with ahead of the second Repsol machine with Rins recovering to an impressive 11th across the line. Binder claimed 12th from Danilo Petrucci and the younger Marquez brother with Enea Bastianini securing the final point as Lorenzo Savadori, Gerloff and Luca Marini completed the finishers.