Considering the pleasingly small gaps separating riders in practice, there were plenty of them eager to get some early brownie points (and/or birthday presents) in qualifying. None more so than Marc Marquez, the world champion already down into the 1:36s on his first lap, nudging the all time lap record but not quite getting there. While the Honda man’s trademark two-stop strategy was unfolding, Franco Morbidelli became his closest threat, the Petronas rider coming as close as four hundredths of a second from pole. Meanwhile, teammate Fabio Quartararo went stealth at the start of the session only to attack the lap record on his final run, snatching an extraordinary first pole position in the premier class as the youngest rider to do so, robbing Marquez in more ways than one.
Just as outstanding was Petronas Yamaha’s one-two on the front row once Morbidelli also got the best of Marquez at the checkered flag, an amazing achievement for a young satellite team on only its fourth race. The reigning world champion had a tame few slides by his standards that hindered his final charge but Marquez stayed on the front row, nine hundredths of a second slower than the Yamaha duo. Andrea Dovizioso will be opening row two ahead of Maverick Viñales as top factory Yamaha and top Q1 escapee, followed by LCR’s Cal Crutchlow.
Danilo Petrucci could not repeat his practice performance and had to settle for seventh after a late tip-off in turn one. Takaaki Nakagami’s Honda and Alex Rins’ Suzuki filled in a diverse row three while one row behind, Pecco Bagnaia showed the way after being the one to push Valentino Rossi out of Q2. Jorge Lorenzo’s birthday present was one of those that distant relatives get you rather than what you actually want: an 11th grid position after a fall at turn 2 in the final three minutes. Joan Mir will be closing row four, while Rossi will have to pull off another excellent comeback from fifth row.