Track temperature is often the limiting factor in Barcelona, and it seemed to be the case for qualifying for the seventh round of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship.
Q1 saw Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) recover from his huge high-side in FP3 to top the session from Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar), who both advanced to Q2.
In Q2, Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) took his second MotoGP pole position in response to his first crash on a MotoGP machine in FP3. It was a crucial result for Quartararo because he has had a strong race pace all weekend. If he gets to turn one first it could be bad news for the others.
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) has struggled, by his standards, this weekend in Montmelo. Nonetheless, he positioned himself well on the track for his second run in Q2, and with the assistance of a Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) tow he managed to take second place, and put himself in a good position for tomorrow. He might not have the outright pace of Quartararo or Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), but he might not need it, such is the expectation of high tyre wear in the race and the speed of the Honda.
Franco Morbidelli took third place on the grid, which was quite remarkable considering the size of his crash in the morning. With Valentino Rossi taking his best qualifying since Texas as he took fourth. The circuit is a good one for Yamaha thanks to the long, flowing corners, which allow it to negate its disadvantage in the half-mile straight. Between Quartararo, Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), Morbidelli and Rossi, Yamaha has a good chance to take its first victory of the season tomorrow.
In the middle of the second row is Andrea Dovizioso (Mission Winnow Ducati). The #04 has also looked strong this weekend, and seems to be in the frame for the podium fight. The nature of the tyres could see Dovizioso take his favoured strategy to hit the front and control the pace for the first part of the race to save his tyres. If his main rivals are Yamaha riders and the Suzuki of Alex Rins, Dovizioso has a strong chance to do just this in the 2019 Catalan GP, a race he won in a similar way from Marc Marquez in 2017.
Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati) will start from the back of row two. For both Petrucci and Dovizioso, the start could be crucial to allow the Ducati’s to control the race in the early part to try and save some tyre for what will surely be a battle at the end.
Maverick Vinales’ weekend has been a quiet one. The Spaniard was out of Q2 overnight but made a step in the morning. Third place in qualifying would have been his best since Argentina when he was second on the grid, but a three place penalty for blocking Quartararo leaves him in sixth for the start, which will be a crucial one for the #12.
Alex Rins perhaps has the strongest race pace, and it looked like for once he would be able to qualify well and be able to use that pace to escape at the front on Sunday, but a crash in turn ten on his second run whilst following Maverick Vinales cost him the front row. Instead, Rins will start eighth – not ideal, but better than he has endured in the past. There is still a good chance for Rins in the race to take his second MotoGP victory.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL) will go from the back of the third row in ninth place after making a step overnight from a difficult Friday.
Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team) had one of his best days of the season on qualifying day for the Catalan Grand Prix. He qualified directly to Q2 and will start tenth on the grid, joined by Joan Mir and Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing).
It has been a good weekend for Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing), who was fifth overnight. A crash in FP3 saw him go to Q1, which he was unable to advance from. Instead, Bagnaia qualified thirteenth, ahead of his teammate Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) who crashed in the Q1 session, but was unaffected. The two Pramac riders will be joined by Karel Abraham (Reale Avintia Racing) in what is an all-Ducati fifth row.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU) is another rider who has looked strong this weekend, but was unable to deliver on his free practice promise come qualifying, when he ended up qualifying sixteenth. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Johann Zarco (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) join the Japanese rider on row six.
Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing) will head up the seventh row, from the Red Bull KTM Tec3 pairing of Miguel Oliveira and Hafizh Syahrin; whilst the two wildcarding test riders, Bradley Smith (Aprilia Racing Team) and Sylvain Guintoli (Team Suzuki Ecstar), join Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) – who qualified last for the third consecutive race, thanks to mechanical issues with his number one bike – on the last row.
Featured Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing