Vinales takes pole at Qatar
The spectre of cold and damp at Turn Two claimed a number of victims in MotoGP afternoon practice and evening qualifying … but Maverick Vinales was not one of them. Instead – underlining his speed in testing – the Monster Yamaha rider went fastest from the start, and then ran faster still, to take his second pole position in successive races.
While other big stars foundered, including his team-mate Valentino Rossi, Vinales consolidated his growing confidence, saying afterwards: “I think the way I am riding is the best Maverick of the last two seasons.”
The team had worked on race pace, but “I felt pretty good on one lap. We need to improve. The last corner we are really slow and the others are fast down the straight. But I think we can do pretty good.”
His time of 1m 53.546s was less than two tenths down on Marquez’s new record set last night in better conditions, and a similar time ahead of second-fastest Andrea Dovizioso (Mission Winnow Ducati).
“I am really happy,” last year’s winner said. “We came here with not so good feelings after the test, but we improved step by step, practice by practice, small things, but we stayed came … and in FP4 the lap time came.”
At the last, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) slotted into third, just one thousandth slower. He had fallen twice during the day, and was critical of the dangerous conditions that caused a number of tumbles on the track’s tricky left-hand corners early on the lap.
“Today’s condiions were not so good: really cold and really windy. This is why we pushed to an earlier race start. Now we saw many crashes. If tomorrow’s conditions are like today, we need to survive.”
Q1 was at 8pm, and Q2 at 8:25, and when conditions are cold the track becomes very treacherous. The race is scheduled for 8pm, and riders wanted it put forward to 7pm, as last year.
Marquez narrowly tipped Jack Miller off the front row; simultaneously the Pramac Ducati rider became one of several Turn Two victims – the first left after a run of right-handers. Others to fall there in the evening or at the next left, Turn Six, included Johann Zarco (Red Bull KTM), Alex Rins (Ecstar Suzuki), Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Ducati), and Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda), his second tumble of the day.
Lorenzo in the process lost his chance of breaking out of Q1, as he was consigned to third in the session behind LCR Honda riders Cal Crutchlow and Takaaki Nakagami.
Rookie Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha) continued to amaze, placing fourth in Q2 to sit in the middle of the second row, with Crutchlow alongside.
Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati) heads row three from second Petronas rider Franco Morbidelli and Nakagami. Behind them, Rins heads rookie Ecstar Suzuki team-mate and Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro on row four.
Lorenzo lost more places at the end of Q1, with Pecco Bagnaia (Pramac Ducati) up to an overall 13th, to head row five from late-comer Valentino Rossi (Monster Yamaha) and Lorenzo.
Then came Red Bull KTM pair Pol Espargaro and rookie Miguel Oliveira 16th and 17th.
After 157 races, Marcel Schrotter claimed his first pole position and the first in the new Triumph Moto2 era, almost 1.5-tenths clear of a batch of ultra-close times, the top 15 all within the same second.
The session was almost a Kalex whitewash, with the German chassis taking nine of the top ten slots – the only exception being Brad Binder’s Red Bull KTM in eighth.
Schrotter (Dynavolt Kalex) will be joined on the front row by Xavi Vierge (EG-VDS Kalex) and Pons HP40 rider Lorenzo Baldassarri.
Luca Marini (SKY VR46 Kalex) came through from Q1 and considered himself lucky to be leading row two on an earlier time in the session, after crashing on his second run.
Remy Gardner continued his strong run, placed seventh on his ONEXOX SAG bike; with Sam Lowes (Gresini Kalex) surviving a dramatic lap on an increasingly slippery cold and windy track to place sixth.
Former title runner up Tom Luthi (Dynavolt Kalex), back from a fruitless MotoGP year and a heavy crash yesterday, heads row three from Binder and Alex Marquez (EG-VDS Kalex), with Augusto Fernandez (HP40 Kalex) completing the top ten.
Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM) crashed early in the session but stayed 11th, best of the crop of fast rookies, with Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Kalex) 13th, Niccolo Bulega (SKY VR46 Kalex) 15th, but Fabio Di Giannantonio (+Ego Speed Up) missing out on a chance in Q2, after his fourth-fastest time in Q1 was disallowed for exceeding track limits.
Aron Canet, newly switched from Honda to Sterilgarda KTM, claimed the first pole of 2019, and the first under the new MotoGP-style Q1/Q2 qualifying for the smallest class.
The Spaniard was narrowly threatened at the end of an exciting 15-minuite Q2 by former race winner Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Honda), whose late bid fell short by two-tenths; with another first-timer, Kaito Toba (Team Asia Honda) alongside.
Returned Honda rider John McPhee (through from Q1) and – at the last gasp – Nico Antonelli (SIC58 Honda) headed row two from Albert Arenas (Sarna KTM); with Tony Arbolino heading the third from rookie Celestino Vietti (SKY KTM). Antonelli only had one flying lap, after a crash early in the session.
The big loser was early session leader Romano Fenati (Snipers Honda). He left his second run too late on the long lap, and didn’t make it over the line in time to improve, ending up 11th-fastest. Star rookie Can Oncu was last in Q2, putting him 18th, 1.7 seconds adrift.