Ducatis take a 1-2 to deny Honda, with the 2021 Championship top three off the first two rows.
Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) stormed to a phenomenal first pole position of the season under the glorious lights of Lusail International Circuit, beating 2021 Rookie of the Year rival Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) to the top by 0.147s at the Grand Prix of Qatar. It’s Martin’s fifth pole and second in Doha, and the best MotoGP™ qualifying for Bastianini. It also continues a seven-strong qualifying sequence for Ducati, with Borgo Panigale machinery having taken pole every race since Aragon last season.
Eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) lines up in P3, with the top three in the 2021 Championship – Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™), Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) and Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) – all off the front two rows.
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) pinched top spot ahead of Quartararo after the Frenchman just got shuffled out at the out of FP3. The South African had already sat inside the Q2 places, but his seventh and final lap saw him move ahead of the reigning World Champion with a 1:53.512 and increase the tension.
Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) had been in the red as he posted a time attack, but unfortunately for the Frenchman, he passed through the yellow flags after Darryn Binder (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP™ Team) crashed at Turn 2 and his lap was cancelled. Quartararo also lost a lap, but his to a moment that saw his foot off the peg, although he improved next time round.
There were also late attempts from Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and rookie Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team), but neither could quite find those few extra tenths to get themselves into the top two on the timesheets.
Shadowing 2020 World Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Marc Marquez set the first benchmark time – a 1:53.566 – but he wouldn’t stay top for long. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) emerged as the pacesetter after the first runs were completed, and the Australian was less than a tenth clear of a different Repsol Honda: Pol Espargaro. Martin was third, Marc Marquez fourth and Bastianini P5 ahead of the final push.
Tensions were high under the lights heading into the final six minutes, all set for the first pole position battle of the season. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) and Marc Marquez were first to emerge back out of pitlane, the latter getting his RC213V hooked onto the back of Pecco’s GP22. Halfway around the lap, Pecco was 0.018s under teammate Miller’s time, and Marc Marquez just 0.015s off. The tables turned through the third split as Marquez was a tenth quicker than provisional pole, and Pecco half a tenth. At the line, it remained so and it was Marquez who went pole by 0.128s, with the number 63 forced to settled for second.
It wasn’t over though, with red sectors galore on the timing screens – Miller, Pol Espargaro and Martin were all on fire, as well as Bastianini and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing). Tucked up behind the Repsol Honda of Espargaro, Martin leapt to P1, with Miller going third and Brad Binder slotting into P4.
Attention then turned to Mir and Pol Espargaro, with neither able to challenge the front row, but Bastianini was on course to. Keeping it together, the ‘Beast’ just missed out on pole but takes second his first front row. That means it’s a sophomore 1-2 with Martin leading Bastianini, and Marquez in third. Martin also makes it three poles in a row for Ducati at Losail – the last two of which are his – and seven poles in a row for Ducati overall.
Miller was shuffled off the front row after Bastianini’s late time but the Aussie makes it three Ducatis in the top four, with Aleix Espargaro bagging a top five for Aprilia. Younger brother Pol Espargaro lines up alongside in P6, with Brad Binder coming through Q1 to bag P7.
Mir is the leading Suzuki in P8. The Hamamatsu factory have looked like the team to beat but Mir and Free Practice 2 pacesetter Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) had a quieter Saturday in P8 and P10 respectively, with Bagnaia sandwiched between the two and also looking for more on Sunday.
So where are Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™? Quartararo starts his title defence in 11th, and that’s one place ahead of teammate Franco Morbidelli as Lusail’s most successful manufacturer looks to turn things around on race day.
The Martinator takes the first MotoGP™ pole position of the season, as we now get set for race day under the lights. Tune into the premier class race at 18:00 local time (GMT+3) to see who rises highest in the desert, with the stage set for another stunning showdown.
MotoGP™: FRONT ROW
1 Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) – Ducati – 1’53.011
2 Enea Bastianini (Gresini Team MotoGP™) – Ducati – +0.147
3 Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) – Honda – +0.272
Jorge Martin: “Yeah it feels good to be on pole position but I’m still not 100% happy because we are missing a bit on race pace still. We have a lot of work to do this evening to find these one to two tenths to fight for the victory. Happy with my performance, we did an amazing lap and happy with the team. Tomorrow starting from pole, try to manage the tyre and understand the race because it will be a tough one with a lot of fast riders, but yeah, we will try our best and fight for the victory.”
For more MotoGP info checkout our dedicated MotoGP News page
Or visit the official MotoGP website www.motogp.com