Three other riders may have made the front page in the opening races of the season, not least Fabio Quartararo, but look out for Joan Mir. Yes, because the current champion may not have won a race yet, but he has shown to be keeping the 2020 lesson in mind, one which ultimately awarded him the title of world champion.
Consistency the word of the day
Let’s consider the facts. In the first two races of the season, the Spaniard had to take on a hostile Qatar, a track where the Suzukis rarely shine. Right away, he had problems in qualifying, often an issue for the Spaniard and the Hamamatsu bike, which forced Joan to start from tenth and ninth on the grid respectively.
Having to play catch up in the race can lead to possible contacts with other riders as well as premature tyre wear, but this didn’t stop Mir from positioning in the leading group on both occasions. In race one, he missed out on a podium only because of a mistake at the very last corner, while in the second a skirmish with Jack Miller certainly didn’t help matters. The result was 22 points in all, nothing compared to Zarco’s 40, but an interesting tally at a complicated track.
The difference between me and you
He then moved on to Portugal and Portimão, a track that brought Mir only disappointment when it first appeared on the calendar last year. The newly crowned champion had a disastrous weekend in 2020 in fact, a technical problem bringing what was already a very difficult race to a premature end.
But Mir knew that things would be different this time around, and he said so during Thursday’s press conference. And he was right, not about qualifying, where he finished ninth again, but the race, where Joan was able to obtain his first podium of the season, also thanks to team-mate Alex Rins’ mistake.
The Portimão weekend once again highlighted the main difference between the two Spanish team-mates. Last year, Rins paid dearly for his Jerez crash and injury, having to follow his team-mate for the rest of the season, perhaps less “explosive” but able to score one podium after another. 2021 seemed to have taught Alex a lesson, but then he threw away a precious second place finish in Portugal due to another burst of over-enthusiasm. “I pushed to force him to make a mistake – commented Quartararo after the race – and it worked”, with Rins once again left to lick his wounds, while his team-mate enjoyed a podium prize.
Spain vs France
Having got the better of his team-mate (until now), Mir can now target the Frenchman, another rider whose 2020 mistakes only highlighted the Spaniard’s consistency. Fabio’s speed is not up for debate, especially after two consecutive wins, but has he really taken that mental step forward?
This is perhaps the most important question of all, because on the other side of the ring is a Mir who has proved to be perhaps the most mature and intelligent rider on the grid, and who is now more than ready to defend his championship throne.
Translated by Heather Watson