The Frenchman bounces back from an FP3 crash to take pole at MotorLand, with Viñales denied by 0.046 and Crutchlow back on the front row for the first time since Austin 2019
Despite an FP3 crash leaving him riding through the pain barrier, Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) managed to snatch pole position from Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) at the Gran Premio Michelin® de Aragon, the Frenchman pipping the Spaniard by just 0.046 for his tenth MotoGP™ pole. Yamaha led the way on Saturday once again, but Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) took third and only two tenths off the top, with the Brit back on the front row for the first time since Austin 2019.
Q1 started with enough drama already; not a single Ducati having made it through automatically by virtue of combined practice times. So it was going to be tight, and Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci were running in tandem – Dovizioso ahead –for much of the session. Petrucci took to the top first and last, with Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) then ruining the Ducati Team party as the Aussie moved up to second. And that was it – Dovizioso was out, 13th on the grid and exceedingly unhappy about it.
As Q2 got underway, Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) was the first to set a laptime but that was immediately beaten by Miller, a 1:47.657 coming in from the Australian to go top of the pile in the early stages. Quartararo slotted into P2 early doors before Morbidelli then snatched P2 back – and almost went top. Just 0.002 separated the number 21 from Miller, but there were plenty of red sectors lighting up the timing screens. Quartararo was one cause, shooting up to provisional pole, and following the Yamaha on track, Miller also improved. He stayed P2, but it was just a tenth splitting the pair.
Morbidelli then made it a Petronas 1-2 again, and again with less than a tenth in it, as Viñales slotted into P4 after the first set of flying laps. Crutchlow was in fifth, with Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) sitting on the outside of the provisional second row. But that was all going to change as the riders slotted in fresh rubber, ready for their second runs…
First up was Viñales, lapping alone, and he was 0.021 under Quartararo’s time in Sector 3. It only got better from there as he then leapfrogged his fellow Yamaha to take provisional pole by 0.171, taking over at the top. Crutchlow then crossed the line and moved up to P3 to shove Morbidelli down to head the second row, but the Italian was on a great lap and only 0.020 off in Sector 3. However, he then lost time down the back straight and despite setting a personal best time, the number 21 stayed P4. Viñales was then setting an almost identical lap time to his current P1 best, and the number 12 came across the line to go every so slightly quicker – but it was ultimately just 0.003 gained.
However, Quartararo had one more lap. The Frenchman was just through his first sector and up, and he kept it as he headed through Sector 2 0.073 faster than Viñales. Could he hold onto it? It was the latter half of the lap where Quartararo really gained time. Heading onto the almost 1km long back straight, the title chase leader was over a tenth and a half under Viñales’ best and despite losing over a tenth in the final split, the number 20 just kept it together to take pole by 0.046 seconds after yet another phenomenal final flying lap.
In terms of the front two rows, that was all she wrote so it’s a Yamaha 1-2 as Quartararo digs deep to claim Saturday honours, but Viñales has every chance of fighting for victory from second. Crutchlow makes a welcome return to the front row as the British rider finds form despite still nursing his arm injury, the LCR Honda man finishing 0.229 adrift of pole. Morbidelli was just 0.012 shy of the front row but it was a good day for the Italian and Yamaha on a circuit that hasn’t necessarily suited the YZR-M1’s characteristics in the past… ominous signs for race day?
After graduating from Q1, Miller claims a solid P5 to fly the Ducati flag in Aragon, the Australian fuming after his FP3 time – that was good enough for the top 10 – got chalked off due to Yellow Flag infringements, but amends made in the afternoon. Championship contender Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar), meanwhile, will line-up in his best grid position since the Styrian GP. Suzuki’s strength doesn’t usually show on a Saturday afternoon compared to race day, so the signs are good for Mir and the Mayorcan should be one to watch on Sunday.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) set his personal best time on his final flying lap, and the Japanese rider ended up less than a tenth off Mir’s time to spearhead Petrucci and Aleix Espargaro on Row 3. The latter, younger brother Pol Espargaro and Repsol Honda Team’s Alex Marquez had a bit of an incident in Q2 as the Aprilia, Honda and KTM all ended up sandwiched together at the final corner.
Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins completes the top 10 on home turf, with Alex Marquez cementing his best MotoGP™ qualifying result in P11, and after heading through to Q2 for the first time. After the incident earlier in the session and a little damage to his KTM, Pol Espargaro had to settle for P12.
That’s it for Saturday as a dramatic MotoGP™ qualifying day draws to a close in Aragon. Medical centre to pole position for Quartararo is a heroic effort, but how will he fare in the race? Dovizioso has plenty of work to do to stay in the title race as the Italian launches from P13 – and his main competitors are all inside the top six. Another phenomenal battle awaits at MotorLand Aragon, with the premier class action coming your way at the later time of 15:00 (GMT+2).
MotoGP™ front row
1 Fabio Quartararo* – Petronas Yamaha SRT – Yamaha – 1:47.076
2 Maverick Viñales – Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP – Yamaha – +0.046
3 Cal Crutchlow* – LCR Honda Castrol – Honda – +0.229
*Independent Team riders
Fabio Quartararo: “Honestly as soon as I had the crash I thought ‘can I ride in the afternoon?’. Now it’s not too bad but when I crashed I felt quite bad, I stood up and felt something wrong. But I’m so happy because it was a tough morning, yesterday I crashed and this morning again, and I always take a bit of time to be back. FP4 wasn’t so bad, and qualifying was good, my laptime is great. I could have done better because the lap wasn’t perfect but I can be happy because we’re on pole position and the goal was to be on the front row today.”
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