The nineteenth and final qualifying session of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship took place in relatively cold conditions. The contrast between this nineteenth round and round eighteen two weeks ago in Sepang has been drastic, a polar opposite in terms of temperature especially, but it was nonetheless the usual trio of Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) who were looking to be the favourites.
Q1 was first, though, before the pole position shootout, and it was one rider short with Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) missing out after a bizarre FP3 crash at the end of pit lane courtesy of the cold weather draining the temperature from the carbon brakes of his satellite Ducati Desmosedici GP18. The Italian, whilst coming out of the pits braked, unleashing the power of the front carbon brakes, causing his tyre to come to a halt instantly. The end result was to cause Bagnia to face plant the track. A lack of memory courtesy of the face plant as well as a wrist injury, saw him declared unfit aftert a trip to the hospital.
Of the riders who did compete in Q1, it was Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) who advanced through to Q2.
The final pole position of 2019 went to Fabio Quartararo, quite fittingly, as the qualifying master of the season, the one who was usually able to find the most with a fresh soft rear tyre, was able to come out on top of Marquez in their penultimate scrap of the season. Marquez will start alongside the Frenchman, returning the front row after his eleventh-place qualifying in Sepang, while Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) completes the front row.
Row two is headed up by Maverick Vinales, who is joined by Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and – more worryingly for the Spaniard, as well as Quartararo – Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) who could cause problems for Vinales tomorrow should he get past the #12 in the opening stages tomorrow. It is not easy to pass a Ducati, nor is it easy to pass in Valencia. Additionally, for the Yamaha riders they know that they need to pass early in the lap so they have a chance to build a gap before the main straight because they cannot live with the horsepower of the Ducati. This was Rossi’s problem in Sepang, but as in Motegi it could be the problem of Vinales, and possible also Quartararo now in Valencia with Miller and Dovizioso having the potential to cause frustrations.
Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) enjoyed a positive final qualifying of his rookie season, taking seventh on the grid ahead of teammate Alex Rins, who will have work to do tomorrow from eighth with his strong race pace, and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL) who completes the third row.
Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) heads up the fourth row ahead of Pol Espargaro who was briefly sixth despite qualifying in Q2 on a hard rear tyre. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) disappointingly was the slowest rider in Q2 and qualified twelfth, his fastest time being the first lap of his first tyre and three tenths of a second slower than his FP3 time in the freezing conditions of Saturday morning.
Johann Zarco (LCR Honda IDEMITSU) was the fastest rider to miss out on Q2, qualifying thirteenth in what might be his final ride for LCR Honda, maybe his final ride for Honda and maybe his final ride in MotoGP but it also might not be some of those- it might not be any of them. Joining the Frenchman on row five will be Ducati wildcard Michele Pirro (Ducati Team) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) who crashed three times on Saturday before qualifying.
Row six will see Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team) start from sixteenth on his final MotoGP appearance ahead of Mika Kallio (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) who may also be competing his final MotoGP race this weekend. The sixth row is completed by Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing).
MotoGP first-timer Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) made an impressive first qualifying appearance in the premier class, qualifying nineteenth, ahead of Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Karel Abraham (Reale Avintia Racing), who join him on the seventh row, as well as Hafizh Syahrin (Red Bull KTM Tech 3), his teammate on the satellite RC16 for this weekend, the Malaysian also making his final appearance in MotoGP.
Featured image courtesy of Yamaha Racing.