Cloudless skies meant high temperatures on the Rimini Riviera, and for the MotoGP riders that meant grip at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli was at a premium as they qualified for the thirteenth round of the 2019 World Championship.
Q1 saw four or five riders all battling for the top two positions to advance to Q2, but in the end it was Johann Zarco (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) who topped the session from Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar), the pair moving through to the pole position shootout.
The Q2 session was very tight, with four riders fighting for pole position: Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT), Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team). The Yamaha riders had been dominating the weekend, but Marquez had been fast, and remained in touch throughout free practice, although the Honda was proving difficult to manage – especially in the high speed right-handers in sector three.
Marquez was keen to ensure that no one was in his tow, as was Quartararo on his second run. Vinales and Marquez both did three runs, although Marquez’ middle run did not see a flying lap, as he boxed before he started one. This meant both riders were out of sync with most of the rest of the field. Vinales managed to find himself some free space in the final lap, whilst Quartararo was trying to shake Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Marquez was behind Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP).
After slowing on the first flying lap of his final run to try to escape the attentions of Pol Espargaro, Quartararo ran wide on the exit of turn eleven, and lost his lap as a result. Espargaro had remained in the Frenchman’s slipstream, though, and put the KTM on provisional pole position.
At the same time, Vinales in free air and Marquez behind Rossi were both on fast laps that would have displaced Espargaro. Vinales was able to finish his lap cleanly, and took provisional pole from Espargaro by almost three tenths with a stunning lap, making the most of the Yamaha’s strong front end and comfort in the middle of the corner in the second half of the lap.
Things proved more complicated for Marquez, who caught an off-the-pace Rossi early in the lap. The speed of the Honda put Marquez in the position to pass Rossi into turn eleven, but the Spaniard ran off the track and onto the green. The move from the #93 did not impress Rossi, who block-passed the World Championship leader in turn fourteen. There was no contact, but the temperature of their rivalry increased once more, and tomorrow could provide some interesting exchanges between the two.
With both Rossi and Marquez ruining each other’s final lap – although Rossi’s wasn’t especially fast in any case – meant pole position was handed to Vinales, his second in Misano in the last three years. The #12’s race pace looks strong, but he will need to start well, as dropping behind the powerful KTM of Espargaro could leave him vulnerable to those behind.
KTM’s best qualifying performance in their MotoGP history was nearly pole position, but nonetheless a second place in a dry qualifying was an impressive performance from Pol Espargaro, especially on a track where Yamaha have been so dominant this weekend.
Fabio Quartararo perhaps should have had pole position, but he was too concerned with those around him. It was a mistake from the Frenchman to not focus on himself, but not one that he is alone in making – even in this session most of the riders were cruising at some point to find themselves some track position. The qualifying was not a disaster, anyway, for the #20, as he will still line up on the front row, and on the inside for turn one which means he can avoid the pinch in turn two.
Franco Morbidelli was close to the front row but didn’t quite have the pace in the second half of the lap compared to his Yamaha stablemates. Fourth place for Morbidelli, though, gives him a good chance tomorrow.
It is rare to see Marc Marquez off the front row, but for just the second time this season it is what we will see tomorrow. His pace is theoretically enough to go with the Yamaha riders, but the effort he has to put in to achieve that is significantly more, it seems. There could be some interesting fights between him and Rossi, all of a stone’s throw from Tavullia, but it is likely that the pair won’t meet each other on track, and that it is the other M1 pilots who Marquez has to worry himself with.
A sixth place start for Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) was a surprise, but it was achieved on his final lap of Q2. All Ducati riders have struggled this weekend, so for Dovizioso to salvage a second row start is something he will be disappointingly pleased with.
Missing out on the second row may well have cost Valentino Rossi a shot at the podium, and with a KTM and a Ducati in front of him there could be yet another frustrating afternoon in a home GP for The Doctor. A weekend that started out quite promisingly seems to be falling away from the Italian, who will start alongside Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) who should be expected to make progress from ninth and Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) on his return to racing.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU) will start tenth ahead of Johann Zarco, who qualified eighth but will start eleventh thanks to his grid penalty from Silverstone, and wildcard rider Michele Pirro (Ducati Team) who, aside from Dovizioso, has been the only Ducati with any real promise this weekend.
The fastest rider to miss out on Q2 was Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing), although he was close with his penultimate lap to moving through to the second session. The Italian will start his home race from thirteenth ahead of a struggling Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL) and a frustrated Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) who join the reigning Moto2 World Champion on the fifth row.
Row five sees Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) line up ahead of Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team). The Ducati stablemates line up sixteenth and seventeenth respectively, ahead of the still-injured Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team) on row six, which highlights Ducati’s struggles in Misano this weekend, despite winning the San Marinese round last year.
On row seven, the Red Bull KTM Tech 3 duo of Miguel Oliveira and Hafizh Syahrin qualified ahead of Karel Abraham (Reale Avintia Racing); Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing) was the slowest rider in Q1 despite a strong weekend for the Spaniard, and will start twenty-second, ahead of only Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) who had to go to the medical centre after a FP4 crash and missed Q1 as a result.
Featured Image courtesy of Yamaha Motor Racing Srl