Nine in a row. That is Marc Marquez’s pole record in Sachsenring. It is a stunning statistic that will likely go unmatched by any other rider in any track. But the endlessly left-handed nature of the German Grand Prix track lends itself beautifully to Marquez’s flat tracking background, where turning left is the way of life. But that does not mean that pole position was handed to him on a silver platter, by twenty-three other riders kneeling before him. It was mostly thanks to Marquez’ approach this weekend, which has been entirely focused around race runs. He put almost a full race distance on a tyre in each of the first three free practice session, and didn’t bother to try a time attack.
This, obviously, hampered the reigning champion’s qualifying preparation, and handed a rare Saturday advantage to the rest of the pack. Most notably Jorge Lorenzo and Danilo Petrucci; the current factory Ducati rider towing his 2019 replacement to provisional pole position with just over one minute left on the clock. But finally it was Marquez who took pole, by 0.025 seconds from Petrucci, with his very final lap, the value of such a result highlighted by the #93’s celebrations.
Second place for Petrucci was probably better than he had expected. Danilo had been around the top times all weekend, and had looked good over one lap. But still, to beat both the factory Ducatis and the Yamahas in qualifying is quite an achievement – especially at a track which historically should not suit Ducati. The problem for Danilo is race pace, which he admits is a different story to qualifying, but if he can get some track position at the beginning of the race, anything is possible.
Jorge Lorenzo might be a little annoyed when he watched qualifying back when he realises he towed Petrucci round for his fastest time, something which Petrucci thanked Jorge for in the parc ferme after qualifying. Even still, at a track which no one expected the Ducati to go well at, Lorenzo is on the front row, less than one tenth off a pole position set by the most prolific pole hound both MotoGP and the Sachsenring has ever seen. But, as for Petrucci, the key to victory lies in the tyre life, an area in which Ducati seem to have regressed this year and in the scorching heat of the Saxony summer, is a big factor this weekend.
Maverick Vinales is off the front of the second row tomorrow after a solid qualifying session. Both he and teammate Valentino Rossi are suffering with wheelspin this weekend, but this time it is Vinales who is making the most of the situation, and has looked to have a little bit of pace over his more experienced teammate. The qualification was an important one for Vinales, too, because from there, even if he makes an average start, he should be in a decent position going into turn one – one from which he can recover. The number 25 is in the hunt for the podium, but like the Ducati riders the key is going to be making the tyre last.
The third and final GP18 on the grid tomorrow is Andrea Dovizioso, who is without a podium since Mugello but has looked strong this weekend, and seems to be the only one who can go with Marquez. With this in mind, it is essential that Dovi makes a good start from the middle of the second row tomorrow so that he doesn’t have too much work to do in the opening laps to be in contention. Of course, the tight layout at Sachsenring which features no real straight is difficult to overtake on, so making positions off the line will be essential for Dovi tomorrow if he wants to have a shot at Marc.
Sixth on the grid for Valentino Rossi looks quite good considering that at the end of yesterday he was seventeenth, 0.8 seconds off the pace. He has had some decent race pace, too, able to lap in the high 1’21s which looks at this stage as though it will be podium pace. There are many riders in that fight, though, including Lorenzo, Vinales and Petrucci, so Rossi will need a good start from the back of the second row if he wants to be in the podium battle. However, of all the riders theoretically in that fight, he looks to be the most fragile with the tyre, perhaps even more than Petrucci.
Cal Crutchlow has had a difficult weekend, but recovered well today to take seventh on the grid. He is another who can be in the podium fight. Andrea Iannone and an impressive Alvaro Bautista join Crutchlow on the third row.
Dani Pedrosa looks back on some kind of form, and has a good race pace with podium potential, but if he wants his first rostrum of the season he will have to recover well at the start as he qualified only tenth.
The Suzuki of Alex Rins is on the middle of the third row tomorrow, in the middle of the Honda sandwich, between retiree Pedrosa and rookie Takaaki Nakagami, who had a brilliant qualifying – making his second Q2 of his short MotoGP career.
Johann Zarco qualified fourteenth, but thanks to a six-place penalty for Aleix Espargaro – for blocking Marc Marquez in FP3 – the Frenchman will start thirteenth alongside Jack Miller and Pol Espargaro on row five.
Bradley Smith, Hafizh Syahrin and Tito Rabat make up row six, whilst Espargaro’s penalty dropped him to nineteenth, and will be joined on row seven by Scott Redding and Franco Morbidelli’s replacement, Stefan Bradl who was commentating yesterday morning before he got the shout that Morbidelli could not continue.
Tom Luthi, Karel Abraham and Xavier Simeon make up the back row of the grid, whilst Mika Kallio will not start after his huge FP2 crash yesterday in which he suffered ligament damage in his knee.
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