Eight of 2020’s 14 grands prix were won by riders at satellite teams, with Fabio Quartararo and Petronas SRT team-mate Franco Morbidelli responsible for three each, while Tech3’s Miguel Oliveira won twice.
Both Oliveria and Quartararo were riding factory-supported machinery, while 2020 runner-up Morbidelli was on what Yamaha dubs its ‘A-spec’ M1 – which is essentially a 2019 bike.
In 2021, all satellite team riders but Avintia duo Luca Marini and Enea Bastianini, plus Morbidelli, will be on factory-supported current-spec machinery
In 2021, Oliveira will move to the factory KTM team, with former Ducati rider Danilo Petrucci joining Iker Lecuona at Tech3.
When asked during KTM’s official team launch day if a satellite team could win the championship in 2021, Poncharal responded: “Honestly, yes. Almost all satellite teams have equal machinery [to the factory teams], equal support, equal development speed.
“We could see last year – with all respect to our factory team – we won more races than them.
“If you look at what happened in Jerez 2 and Spielberg 1, we could have been very close to maybe the best-placed KTM in the championship.
“If you look at Yamaha, clearly the independent team [SRT] in 2020 was the leading Yamaha team.
“So, I think an independent team has the possibility on paper to win races, we could see that last year, and to win the championship I’m pretty sure.
“I really believe an independent team can win the championship thanks to the technical rules, thanks to the riders we have, thanks to the manufacturers we have who believe in their satellite operations.”
Oliveira’s wins in 2020 were the first for the Tech3 squad in MotoGP, but Poncharal believes coming into the new campaign as grand prix victors won’t change how the team approaches the season.
“Honestly, it doesn’t change too much,” he said.
“I think 2020 was a great championship in general, [it] was a great championship for KTM, for Tech3.
“But we start from scratch. The grid is incredibly competitive, bikes, riders, and very clever he who can say who is going to win round one and very clever he who can say who will be world champion in 2021.
“I think it’s very open, almost anybody on the grid can win races and quite a few can win the championship.”