All four YZR-M1s are inside the top five in Catalan GP qualifying, but there’s a certain multiple World Champion sitting P2 on the grid…
Just 11 days after undergoing arm pump surgery in Barcelona, rookie sensation Fabio Quartararo has taken his second premier class pole position after beating Championship leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) to Q2 P1 by 0.015 at the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya, with Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Viñales completing the front row of the grid.
Under beautiful Barcelona skies, it was Viñales who led the field out for Q2 and tucked in behind the Spaniard was a certain Repsol Honda Team rider. Marquez was stalking the number 12 around the first flying lap but despite having a reference, it was Viñales who set the first benchmark, Marquez 0.2 slower. But the seven-time World Champion put the hammer down on his second lap to go top of the times on a medium rear tyre, however, he wouldn’t hold the P1 baton for long as the Petronas Yamaha SRT duo exchanged quickest times, Q1 graduate Franco Morbidelli edging teammate Fabio Quartararo by 0.047 to lead the way after the first set of hot laps.
Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati) was the man sitting on the outside of the provisional front row, but the Ducati man suffered a low-speed crash at Turn 5 to dent his chances of keeping that position. Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins, Free Practice’s fastest rider, sat fourth after the first flyers but when on track for a personal best time, the Spaniard tucked the front at Turn 10 to end his hopes of a first front row start of the year.
Viñales again led the 12-man strong Q2 lineup out for their last-ditch attempts to get pole and Yamaha rider shot to the top of the tree by the slenderest of margins – 0.001 edged Morbidelli back to second before another Yamaha rider struck. Quartararo hammered in a scintillating lap to go 0.2 clear of the field, but Marquez would quickly peg that deficit back to just 0.015.
Marquez – now on a soft rear – was now shadowing another Yamaha, this time Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) was his target – The Doctor jumping to fifth as the pair crossed the line – but at Turn 4, the number 93’s charge for pole was all-but ended. Marquez did well to stay upright as the rear stepped out but it was game over, Quartararo would hold on for his second consecutive pole in Barcelona with Marquez settling for second. Viñales takes P3 to put Marquez in a Yamaha sandwich on the front row, but could he be in a spot of bother for blocking Quartararo in the final moments of the session?
That 0.001 advantage for Viñales means Morbidelli misses out on a front row start at the Catalan GP after progressing through Q1, the YZR-M1 rider heads an all-Italian row two on Spanish soil. Rossi’s 1:39.753 means all four Yamahas are inside the top five, a phenomenal showing from the Iwata factory, with Andrea Dovizioso (Mission Winnow Ducati) joining the duo on Row 2 in sixth after bettering his time on his second run.
Petrucci slipped down to P7 after the second run, he leads a disappointed Rins on the grid, with LCR Honda Castrol’s Cal Crutchlow 0.667 back from pole in ninth. Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team) finished 0.048 off Crutchlow to line up tenth for his home Grand Prix, with two Spaniards joining the five-time World Champion on the fourth row. Q1 graduate Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) earns an 11th place in Q2, with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Pol Espargaro launching from P12.
A scorching qualifying sees Quartararo continue to defy the odds in his rookie MotoGP campaign. Just 11 days ago he was having surgery a few kilometres down the road, today he fends off a seven-time Champion for pole position. 24 laps will be a different kettle of fish for the Frenchman on Sunday though, so can the right arm hold up for what looks set to be a mammoth battle for Barcelona glory?
The Yamahas are on song, with Marquez, Dovizioso and Rins all looking equally as good for a podium shout. And what can Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) do from P14? You don’t want to miss Round 7 of the season from the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, with the MotoGP™ race coming your way at 14:00 local time on Sunday (GMT+2).
1. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) – 1:39.484
2. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.015
3. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.226
4. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.227
5. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.269
6. Andrea Dovizioso (Mission Winnow Ducati) + 0.293
7. Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati) + 0.360
8. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar Team) + 0.386
9. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) + 0.667
10. Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.715
11. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.756
12. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 0.941