In Austria, the qualifying session for the eleventh round of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship took place on a particularly warm Red Bull Ring.
In Q1, it was Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL) who topped the session from Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing), with the two moving through to Q2.
Q2 saw another demolition of the field from Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team). Since the middle of last year when Ducati started to beat him with horsepower and acceleration, Marquez’ mission has been to defeat the Bologna bikes. Not only has Marquez strolled away with this year’s championship, but he has also defeated Ducati in two of their best circuits: Le Mans and Brno; and beaten Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) in Mugello.
Austria is pure Ducati territory – or it has been – the gains made in engine power for this year by Honda have levelled that particular playing field and in Q2 Marquez was able to take advantage and make pole position by 0.434 seconds, a colossal margin by any standard in a regular, dry qualifying session. To beat the Ducati by 0.488 seconds over one lap when the Desmosedici has been so dominant in Austria is quite incredible. To take the record for premier class pole positions (fifty-nine now for Marquez) away from Mick Doohan at the same time is simply brilliant (coincidental) timing on the part of Marquez. He will be tough to beat in the race.
Yamaha had looked stronger than expected all weekend, and three of their four bikes were in Q2. Fabio Quartararo’s last lap on the Petronas Yamaha SRT satellite M1 was enough for second on the grid, in front of Dovizioso who will be demoralised with a distant third on the factory Desmosedici.
Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) made his first run on a medium rear tyre, and was quite fast. He was able to improve on his second run and held a position on the front row for a while. Quartararo ended the Spaniard’s hopes of starting from third, but a fourth-place start gives Vinales an opportunity tomorrow. Like Quartararo, though, he will face the problem of faster motorcycles, which around a circuit like Austria are almost impossible to defend against.
One such faster motorcycle is that of Francesco Bagnaia who made a career-best qualifying with fifth place on the GP18 Ducati, ahead of fellow satellite rider Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU), also making a career-best qualifying in sixth on last year’s RC213V.
Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) will start seventh after an anonymous session for the Spaniard. A distracted Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) will start from eighth, alongside Rins, and will be hoping to put in a performance that convinces Ducati to let him stay in favour of Jorge Lorenzo in the satellite Ducati outfit. Cal Crutchlow completes the third row in ninth, his best lap coming on the medium tyre in his second run.
Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) made the same decision as his teammate, Vinales, to start Q2 with a medium rear. Again, he was quite fast, but with the soft in the second run he was not able to improve enough, and could only manage tenth after Nakagami’s late lap. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team), who crashed late on in Q2, will line up alongside Rossi on row three.
Q1 was a tough battle. Whilst it was Bagnaia and Crutchlow who moved through to the second session, Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3), Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing) all had realistic shots at making it through. In the end, Oliveira, Morbidelli and Rabat missed out, qualifying thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth respectively.
Johann Zarco (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) went from the highs of KTM’s first front row in Brno one week ago to sixteenth place at their home race in Spielberg. Joining the double Moto2 World Champion on the sixth row will be Karel Abraham (Reale Avintia Racing) and Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini). The second Aprilia Racing Team Gresini machine of Aleix Espargaro will head up the last row, from Hafizh Syahrin (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) and Jorge Lorenzo’s replacement at the Repsol Honda Team, Stefan Bradl, who had bike problems at the beginning of his second run.
Featured Image courtesy of Jaime Olivares/Box Repsol