Mir begins mind games with MotoGP leader Quartararo

Joan Mir, Jorge Martin, and Fabio Quartararo (left to right) on the podium at the Michelin Grand Prix of Styria. Picture: MotoGP.com

Joan Mir is expecting “a different championship” over the next three MotoGP races, questioning whether or not Fabio Quartararo can handle the pressure.

The 2020 champion holds a share of second in the standings, although technically third on a countback, at 47 points behind Quartararo.

The latter has held top spot since the end of Round 5 and boasts six podiums through the first 11 rounds, more than any other rider.

Quartararo arguably should have had another win and another podium on top of that, having led before suffering arm pump at Jerez and then vied for victory in the Austrian Grand Prix before the rain arrived.

Speaking after that race at the Red Bull Ring, Mir suggested the landscape might change from this weekend at Silverstone.

“I think in the next three races we will start to see a different championship,” responded the Suzuki rider when asked if the Frenchman will succumb to the pressure of a possible premier class title.

Quartararo is one of the few positives which Yamaha has going for it at the moment, another point which Mir alluded to.

Maverick Viñales is now already an ex-Monster Energy Yamaha rider while satellite team SRT is seemingly on the verge of also imploding, in no small part due to the impending departure of its title sponsor.

Test rider Cal Crutchlow has been switched from standing in for the injured Franco Morbidelli at SRT to filling the breach left by Viñales at the factory team, Valentino Rossi continues to struggle on the other current-specification M1 on the grid, and Jake Dixon has been moved up from Moto2 to ride the ‘A-Spec’ bike this weekend.

Quartararo can therefore hardly count on any of those three to be a rear gunner, and Iwata’s hopes rest on his shoulders.

“Even if he has a considerable distance now, I think the pressure will start to be higher every race,” said Mir of ‘El Diablo’.

“It is always difficult for riders to manage that pressure.

“Also, all of the pressure from Yamaha is now against him and yeah, this is something that last year was not like this.

“He is doing really well but for sure now the pressure is much higher, so let’s see.”

A look at the constructors’ championship, a title determined by the sum of the points of a constructor’s highest finishing rider in each race, goes some way to illustrating Mir’s point.

Yamaha lost the lead to Ducati with Francesco Bagnaia’s second placing last time out at the Red Bull Ring, but trails by only three points.

Quartararo was the top Yamaha rider that weekend, albeit only in seventh, and on seven other occasions this year, amassing 157 of the Iwata marque’s 209 points.

Ducati’s haul, on the other hand, has been contributed to five times by Johann Zarco, three times by Bagnaia, twice by Jack Miller, and once by Jorge Martin, the latter of whom nevertheless has three podiums so far in his rookie season.

Quartararo, however, seemed unmoved when Mir’s comments were put to him.

“This could be a strategy of my rivals, to put pressure on me, but I’m calm,” he said.

“The situation in Yamaha has no impact on how I managed the races; there will be no problems at Silverstone.”

Mir managed to win last year’s MotoGP championship with just a single grand prix victory, and even that came only a round before he moved to an unassailable lead.

Suzuki has picked up the pace since the 2021 summer break after arriving at the Red Bull Ring with a rear ride height device finally installed in its GSX-RRs.

However, its Mallorcan champion knows he needs more if he is to go back-to-back.

“I think we must win two or three races to get the championship,” said Mir, winless this year but having finished second and fourth at the Red Bull Ring.

“Now the better races for us are coming. More favourable and this means we will get some opportunities in races.

“The important thing again is to stay on the bike, like in this race [the wet Austrian Grand Prix], and to continue improving – the bike also – and to try and win. This will be key.

“I think we need to win minimum two races to get the title again. I will be surprised if I don’t need them.

“I’ll still go race-by-race but it’s true that there are less races remaining and it’s really crucial the three next ones. It is important to maintain this great feeling.

“Austria is not the best track for us, our bike and I could manage to recover some points in the championship. We did our homework quite well but we always expect more.”

Meanwhile, SRT has announced that Adam Norrodin will take over Dixon’s Moto2 seat at this weekend’s British Grand Prix.

Norrodin has ridden for the team in the intermediate class world championship in the past, and currently competes in the Moto2 class in Spain’s FIM CEV Championship.

Practice at Silverstone starts on Friday.

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