After a five-week summer break, MotoGP returns to action this weekend, as the home run begins in the race for the world title.
The first destination for the series as it resumes competition is Silverstone, as the world-famous circuit once again plays host to the BritishGP.
With seven different winners from the last seven MotoGP races around this track, it is anyone’s guess as to who will be standing on top of the podium come Sunday afternoon.
This therefore, looks set to be a fascinating weekend that could yet play a pivotal role in the destination of the championship at the end of the season.
So with that in mind, we’ve taken a look at six things viewers ought to keep an eye out for from MotoGP’s visit to the British Isles this weekend.
How does Quartaro manage his penalty?
Last time out in Assen, defending champion Fabio Quartararo made the first major mistake of his otherwise near flawless defence of his title.
A poorly-timed attempt at an overtake on title rival Aleix Espargaro saw Quartararo force both off-track and into the gravel, and despite initially re-joining the race, Quartararo eventually crashed out for his first DNF of the season.
Subsequently, it was confirmed that due to the way he impeded Espargaro, the Frenchman will now have to complete a long lap penalty loop at Silverstone, as punishment for that move, which raises an intriguing questions about how he approaches that punishment.
With the race only 20 laps – the shortest of any on the calendar – there is an argument that Quartararo should be taken his penalty early, giving him as much time as possible to fight back through the field.
Alternatively, the way Quartararo dominated this race last year, comfortably taking victory without any sort of threat, the Yamaha rider may look to quickly establish a similar sort of advantage from the start this time around, so that by the time he comes to take that penalty, his position is not affected as much as would otherwise be the case.
It could be a tough decision for the 23-year-old to make, and one that may yet have a big say in who claims victory on Sunday.
Can Espargaro take advantage?
Having found himself at the back of the field as a result of that coming together with Quartaro last time out, Espargaro produced a remarkable recovery ride in the Netherlands.
The Spaniard eventually came back to finish fourth in that race, and he is now just 21 points behind the Frenchman, with 25 on offer for a win.
As a result, with Quartararo certain to lose ground at some point early on in the race when he takes his penalty, it does feel like there is a big opportunity here for Espargaro to put some distance between the pair on track on Sunday, to close the gap in the standings.
Given the form he is in – and the fact he will be somewhat frustrated his pace in Assen suggested he could have won had it not been for that collision he could do nothing about – the Aprilia rider may well fancy his chances of doing that, especially given Silverstone was the scene of his first podium with this team last year.
Is this Zarco’s moment?
With this his sixth season in MotoGP, the consistently solid Johann Zarco recently picked up his 15th podium in Premier class racing in Germany.
That means that the Pramac Ducati rider now has at least three more MotoGP podiums than any other rider who is yet to win a race in the top class of Grand Prix motorcycle racing.
However, only the aforementioned top two in the title race have more podiums than the Frenchman this season, and there is a sense that eventually something has to give in his quest for that elusive MotoGP victory.
Given he has previously won at Silverstone while on his way to the Moto2 title, there is a possibility that this could be an opportunity for him, especially given Quartaro’s own situation.
Should that happen, then the long-awaited and much-anticipated return of Zarco’s trademark track-side backflip celebration after a race win would be a welcome and potentially spectacular sight.
Dovizioso’s farewell tour begins
Away from those battling for the win, one rider who will deserve some form of attention during the course of this weekend, is Andrea Dovizioso.
Speaking over the course of the summer break, the Italian confirmed that he will not be returning to MotoGP next year, and in the lead up to this weekend, Dovizioso went even further by revealing that he will retire following the San Marino GP, in just three races time.
That feels like a sad way to end for a rider with 15 Premier class race wins to his name, and who as recently as 2019, had just finished second in the overall Championship standings for a third consecutive season.
So with this the first of his final nine races on the grid, a solid finish should be the least for people to hope for from a rider who was such a popular and significant presence in the paddock, for so many years.
Brits fly the flag in the lower classes
With Cal Crutchlow having retired in 2020, and there being no need for him to return to Yamaha as a replacement rider as he did last year, there will sadly be no Brits for the home crowd to cheer in the main event of MotoGP this season.
There is, however, plenty more home nation interest for crowds and viewers to keep an eye on in the other two classes this weekend.
In Moto2, Jake Dixon has claimed the first two podiums of his Grand Prix career this year, and with one of those coming last time out at Assen, the 26-year-old arrives at his home race with form and momentum.
Sam Lowes meanwhile, has the pedigree to do something big here, with 25 podiums – including nine wins – in Moto2, and he is in desperate need of a result having failed to finish six of the last seven races he has started.
There is also a Moto2 wildcard outing for 20-year-old Rory Skinner, the first of two appearances for the 20-year-old in the GP paddock this season, as the Scot – who is currently fourth in the British Superbike championship, gets the chance to show his potential on the world stage.
In Moto3 meanwhile, another Scot, John McPhee does have race wins and podium finishes to his name in the class, though he is still finding his feet again after fracturing two vertebrae earlier this year.
Elsewhere, the rookie duo of Scott Ogden and Josh Whatley have also produced delivered some impressive qualifying results, and in the former’s case points scoring finishes this season, for the new, UK-based VisionTrack Racing Team.
So while it may be all about those from further afield in MotoGP, there are plenty of home hopes to keep an eye out for in the other two events that make up the centrepiece of the weekend.
A chance to catch more mainstream attention
Ever since BT Sport secured the rights to show MotoGP from BBC and Eurosport before the start of the 2014 season, the sight of the world’s top Motorcycle racing series on free-to-air UK TV has been a rare thing indeed.
However, Sunday will be an exception to that rule, with the Moto3 race (11:20am) due to be shown live on ITV4, immediately after which the MotoGP (13:00pm) and Moto2 (14:30pm) races will both be live on ITV.
The presence of the country’s home GP on one of Britain’s main terrestrial channels is something that certainly ought to expose the series to more people than on a regular basis, when broadcast solely on a sports-specific subscription channel such as BT.
It should therefore be hoped that the fact so many more people have the chance to view this race, is something that could attract yet more interest in the series, giving the spectacle the interest it deserves, and in turn potentially help bring about the return of British representation on the MotoGP grid.
An entertaining main event could certainly help to do that, so here’s hoping Silverstone throws up another spectacular last-lap finish like the ones it delivered in 2013, 2017 and 2019, for any number of reasons.
BT Sport is the home of MotoGP. Catch all the action from the British Grand Prix at Silverstone live on BT Sport on August 7. For more info go to bt.com/sport/motogp