Defending champion and points leader Marc Marquez played his last card perfectly at Mugello to claim his fourth pole of the season and the 84th in his career. He did it to the discomfort of title rival Andrea Dovizioso.
The Winnnow Ducati rider, fighting through from Q1, had inadvertently slowed Marquez in the Repsol Honda rider’s first run. Pitting for fresh tyres, Marquez “found a good space, calculated so well the space behind Dovi”, and used the Ducati’s slipstream to set an all-time record for the picturesque Mugello circuit.
Dovi doubtless knew he was there, but couldn’t afford to slow down, as it was his last chance to get himself higher than 12th on the grid.
That record had already been broken in the morning by second Mission Winnow Ducati rider Danilo Petrucci, then smashed once more by dazzling rookie Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha), who was on pole two races ago in Spain. It had been 1m 46.208, set last year when Rossi took pole. By the end of today, it was 1m 45.519.
Quartararo ended up second, saying: “There are a few tracks that for me it would be amazing to do well, and this is one of them.” It will be only his sixth race in the premier class.
Petrucci was third, describing a difficult afternoon, with a hotter track stripping away the grip. His other problem was his health – his ‘flu was a day or two younger than Marquez’s, and his recovery a little behind. “I am not fit, but tomorrow I will try my hardest anyway.”
The other big story of the afternoon concerned multi-Mugello winner Valentino Rossi, on pole here in 2016 and 2018. Struggling all weekend and slowest of the four Yamahas, his factory Monster bike will start tomorrow from 18th, the sixth row of the grid, his worst qualifying since Aragon last year.
His protégé Franco Morbidelli was fourth on the second satellite Petronas Yamaha, heading the second row from Jack Miller (Pramac Ducati) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda).
Row three will be led by Monster Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales,
from yesterday’s free practice leader, rookie Pecco Bagnaia (Pramac Ducati).
Dovizioso made it to ninth at the far end of the row; troubled all weekend with a bike “I cannot ride as I like”.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda) was tenth, ahead of the again on-form Pol Espargaro on the top Red Bull KTM, and ahead of Ducati test rider Michele Pirro, who had followed Dovi through from Q1.
Also left languishing out of the top 12 was Alex Rins (Ecstar Suzuki), who had earlier been set to go through until Dovi consigned him to third. It might have been different had the rising Spaniard not mistimed his final run, crossing the line to start it just after the chequered flag.
The same thing happened to Rossi, another row down. Rins had Tito Rabat (Avintia Ducati) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) alongside; then Karel Abraham (Avintia Ducati) led row six from a disappointed Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda) and Rossi.
Struggling new KTM rider Johann Zarco led the seventh row, suffering yet another crash during qualifying.
The track best-lap record was smashed also in Moto2, where Marcel Schrotter ran a time of 1m 51.129 after the finishing flag for the Q2 session. This pushed his Dynavolt Intact Kalex team-mate Thomas Luthi to second by four hundredths of a second.
Schrotter is still struggling with foot injuries, but pronounced himself ready to fight; while Luthi courteously praised him for securing a team one-two.
French GP winner Alex Marquez was less than two tenths down in third on the EG-VDS Kalex, with times close enough to put the top 17 inside the same second.
Nicolo Bulega made it another Kalex in fourth, the SKY VR46 rider narrowly ahead of Jorge Navarro on the ever-threatening Speed Up chassis. Him aside, the top eleven were all riding Kalexes, with the next best Luca Marini (SKY VR46) completing the second row.
The third comprised Tetsuta Nagashima (ONEXOX), Sam Lowes (FederaOils) and Augusto Fernandez (Flexbox HP40); with Australia’s Remy Gardner (ONEXOX) completing the top ten.
The only KTM in Q2’s top 18 was rookie Jorge Martin, leaving Red Bull team-mate Brad Binder a disgruntled 19th. Title leader Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP40 Kalex) narrowly got through from Q1, but ended up 15th, at the far end of row five.
A typically tactical Q2 session for Moto3 rewarded Tony Arbolino (Snipers Honda) with a last-gasp third pole position, but punished Le Mans winner John McPhee (Petronas Honda), who was 18th and last, after waiting until the last five minutes of the 15-minute session before going out.
Arbolino headed an all-Honda front row, with a new circuit outright record of 1m 56.407.
Gabriel Rodrigo (Kommerling Gresini) was an impressive second, albeit six tenths down, but securing the position lapping alone, with no benefit of a slipstream. Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) was third.
The top KTM was Andrea Migno’s Bester Capital bike, the former Mugello winner through from Q1. He consigned the early-session leaders Tatsuki Suzuki and Niccolo Antonelli (both SIC58 Honda) to fifth and sixth. Romano Fenati (Snipers Honda) was seventh, then Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) and another man up from Q1, Leopard Honda’s Marcos Ramirez.
Points leader Aron Canet (Sterilgarda KTM) rounded out the top ten … but with possible penalties to come overnight for Suzuki and Antonelli (for leaving pit lane early) and also Ramirez (obstructive riding), and possibly others, the final grid might be different.