Maverick Vinales became the sixth different winner of the 2020 MotoGP™ season last weekend and can now nose ahead in the championship standings with a strong performance in Barcelona.
Vinales capitalised on Francesco Bagnaia's crash to snatch a dramatic victory in the second of back-to-back races at Misano last time out.
It moved the Monster Energy Yamaha rider onto 83 points, level with Fabio Quartararo and one behind championship leader Andrea Dovizioso, with Marc Marquez's absence leading to a wide-open competition this season.
With matters so congested at the top of the standings, Sunday's race – which begins at 11:00pm AEST – looks set to be a pivotal one.
LAST TIME OUT
It was a chaotic Emilia Romagna and Rimini's Coast Grand Prix, with leader Bagnaia skidding off the track with seven laps remaining.
It summed up a frustrating weekend for the Italian, who had been denied a maiden MotoGP™ pole and another Misano lap record in qualifying for exceeding track limits, but Vinales took full advantage.
Espargaro's place on the podium came due to a three-second post-race penalty for Quartararo, which cost the Frenchman dear as he would have moved above Dovizioso in the standings after the Ducati rider finished eighth.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR IN BARCELONA
Just six races are remaining after Sunday's grand prix in Catalonia, and it presents a real opportunity for one of the leading pack to break away from the rest and cement their place at the top of the pile.
Dovizioso is clinging onto pole position, but he needs a good showing to assert himself as the favourite, having made the podium just twice.
Vinales claimed pole in both Misano races and no rider has started first on the grid more often than the Spaniard this term. In total he has registered three poles, his best tally since 2017, when he recorded five.
However, his conversion rate has been poor, and Vinales' record at Barcelona is far from ideal – he has failed to reach the podium in his five previous top-level races at the circuit.
Quartararo was left seething after the costly long-lap penalty last weekend, meanwhile, and will be determined not to make such an error this time around.
Likewise, Bagnaia will be hoping to avoid a repeat of his Misano woe as he looks to claim his maiden race win in MotoGP™.
TOP FIVE STATS
Rossi record – Valentino Rossi is the rider with the most wins at the Catalunya Grand Prix in the top category (seven in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2016). However, he has only won one of his past nine appearances at Barcelona-Catalunya circuit, although he reached the podium in four of the last six.
Vinales in search of back-to-back wins – Vinales has now won at least one GP in each of his past five seasons in the competition. Only once has he won back-to-back races in the top category, though, in Qatar and Argentina in 2017.
Dovizioso and Vinales in good company – Both riders have won 24 races across all categories. Among current MotoGP™ riders, only Rossi (115) and the injured Marquez (82) have more victories.
Quartararo's poor qualifying run – The Frenchman has failed to reach the podium in the past five MotoGP™ races. If he falls short again in Barcelona, he will equal his worst streak in the top category (six).
Mir out to make Suzuki history – Mir is just one podium away from equalling the record of podiums per season of any Suzuki rider in the top category (four, set by Chris Vermeulen and John Hopkins in 2007, Vinales in 2016 and Andrea Ianonne and Alex Rins in 2018).
- Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 84
- Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha) 83
- Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha) 83
- Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar) 80
- Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha) 64
- Petronas Yamaha 147
- Monster Energy Yamaha 141
- Suzuki Ecstar 124
- Ducati 115
- Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 110