Quartararo sixth, Aleix Espargaro fourth and Bagnaia on pole? Sunday’s MotorLand showdown promises another storm.
Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) has given himself the best possible opportunity to take a fifth straight MotoGP™ win, taking pole position with a new All Time Lap Record at the Gran Premio Animoca Brands de Aragon. Not only did Bagnaia take pole with a 1:46.069, just quicker than Jack Miller in a Ducati Lenovo one-two, he is set to start a full row ahead of his key World Championship rivals at MotorLand Aragon. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) came from Q1 to take fourth on the grid, while Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) could only manage sixth. Will that 30 point gap look even smaller come Sunday?
With so many big names starting Q1, someone was bound to be disappointed and it turned out that Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) would be one of them. He was quickest after the first runs on a 1:46.909 before Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) went to the top on a 1:46.843, but then then Aleix Espargaro usurped both with a 1:46.569. Eight-time World Champion Marquez was unable to improve as a Yellow Flag came out too, and he will start 13th, sharing Row 5 with Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™).
Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) had his first crash of the year, the usual front-end wash-out at Turn 2, and is set to start 16th alongside Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) and Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team). The latter was the crasher late in the Q1 session at Turn 5, the yellow flag cancelling a faster lap from team-mate Marc Marquez, among others.
As Q2 got underway, it was Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) who bolted out of the blocks with a 1:46.580 on his initial flying lap, and that would still be the benchmark when the first runs came to an end. As the track went quiet at the midway point, Bagnaia was still second on a 1:46.633 and Miller – one of two with a soft Michelin slick on the front as well as the rear (the other being Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins) – was third. Quartararo was only seventh on a 1:46.952 and Aleix Espargaro sat 11th with a 1:48.742, but having reused a rear tyre after coming through Q1.
Once Espargaro got a new soft Michelin slick onto the back of his RS-GP, he was able to go second-quickest on a 1:46.590. That became third when Bagnaia set the 1:46.069 – 0.253 seconds up on his year-old lap record – before Bastianini clocked a 1:46.313 and then Miller a 1:46.159. Those laps decided the front row – a Ducati lockout – and Espargaro would be classified fourth.
At a tougher track for man and machine, Quartararo was pushing hard to make up the deficit to Bagnaia and company when he was forced into a super save at Turn 2 on his penultimate lap, which ruined that flyer but gave ‘El Diablo’ a fighting chance. Quartararo was only 10th when the chequered flag came out and dug ever so deep with his final attempt, but the 1:46.802 was only able to move him up to sixth. Starting between Espargaro and Yamaha’s Frenchman on Row 2 will be another Frenchman in Zarco, who also advanced from Q1 before setting a 1:46.646 in Q2.
Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team), Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) and Rins lock out Row 3, the latter a place ahead of where he started when he won at MotorLand. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) is in tenth ahead of teammate Miguel Oliveira and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu).
With Marquez back on track but back in the pack, Quartararo mid-top ten and Aleix Espargaro only just up the grid, there are already a whole host of headlines to be made on Sunday. Can Bagnaia make sure they’re all about a fifth win in a row? We’ll find out at 14:00 (GMT +2) as the lights go out for the premier class!
MotoGP™: TOP THREE
1 Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) – Ducati – 1’46.069
2 Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) – Ducati – +0.090
3 Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP) – Ducati – +0.244
Francesco Bagnaia: “Thank you very much. Like I said before, I think it’s my best lap time ever. I never did a lap before that’s so perfect, when I’ve pushed so hard, so I’m very, very happy about what we have done. It’s the best way possible to finish the Saturday. Looking at the race, we are strong, but Fabio is also very strong so starting at the front is for sure an advantage.”
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