There could have been no odder celebration for MotoGP’s 70th birthday than the chaos under the burning sun of Catalunya. The party was missing some of its most iconic guests after they were forced into an early exit but the reigning world champion made it a worthwhile race for the home crowd, Marc Marquez making it a hat-trick for Spain in Montmeló. The Spaniard also made sure that his record for the youngest GP winner stayed intact but Fabio Quartararo was more than delighted with his first painkiller-fuelled podium in the premier class. Danilo Petrucci scored a hat-trick of consecutive podiums and brought at least half a smile to the Ducati garage.
That smile was much wider at the start of the race, when King of the Holeshot Andrea Dovizioso took on Marquez into turn one and came out victorious. Having started on the front row, both the Petronas boys lost a lot of ground in turn one, while Maverick Viñales and Jorge Lorenzo were flying and soon harassing Marquez for second. Petrucci and Valentino Rossi were not too far behind, with Alex Rins battling Quartararo and Jack Miller at this early stage.
The end of lap one was already promising a tasty affair, with the all-star cast at the front but disaster struck on lap two. Marquez took over the lead from Dovizioso in turn ten but the move went barely noticed as Lorenzo behind him messed up (with a touch of bad luck) while attempting an overtake on Viñales and the Spaniard took Dovizioso, Viñales and Rossi out like innocent bowling pins. The only survivor of the turn ten melee was Marquez, who made his own luck with his choice of overtaking spot and ended up the sole leader by one second, with Petrucci, Quartararo and Rins there to pick up the pieces for the podium battle.
By lap six, Marquez had extended his advantage with a sequence of fastest laps, while Rins looked like the fastest of the chasers but was struggling to get ahead of Petrucci and Quartararo. Despite several attempts here and there, the Suzuki had to wait until the final ten laps to one-up the Ducati in a harsh move in turn four but by then Marquez had disappeared into the horizon by five seconds.
Rins did not get much of a shot to lead the chase as Petrucci used his speed into turn one to retake second with eight laps to go. Rins’ worries started to multiply as Quartararo, Miller and Crutchlow smelled blood and a rodeo ride from the Suzuki man in turn one dropped him out of the podium battle, to seventh position. Petrucci did not get much of a breather either as Quartararo immediately attacked and the Yamaha was more successful in holding on to second position. Crutchlow left the podium party with six laps left, after a failed move on Miller at turn four.
Once the poleman got into the lead of the chasing pack, the gap to Marquez got under five seconds but four seconds in five laps was too much to ask of the young Frenchman. For the final four laps, the podium battle reduced to two, Quartararo and Petrucci dropping Miller, Rins and Joan Mir, while Pol Espargaro was still posting personal best sectors on a lonely ride to seventh.
Marquez was just starting to drop the pace in the 1:41s for the final few laps after a scarily consistent run of high 1:40s but Quartararo did not seem keen to give up the fight just yet and threw a late 1:40 into the game, reducing the gap to three seconds for the last two laps. Petrucci on the other hand threw in the towel and settled for third, while Rins made a late move on Miller and made amends for his earlier mistake with a fourth place. Miller rounded out the top five ahead of a good result for Mir in sixth. Pol Espargaro brought it almost literally home in seventh, with Takaaki Nakagami, Tito Rabat and Johann Zarco completing the top ten. With the long list of riders who didn’t see the checkered flag, everyone who did ended up in the points, namely Andrea Iannone, Miguel Oliveira and wildcard Sylvain Guintoli.
As if Marquez needed any help in the championship, his teammate's blunder sees him leave his home race with a 37 point advantage on Dovizioso. Rins stays third, another two points back, with Petrucci fourth, 42 points behind the leader. It was a big impact both on the tarmac and in the championship for Viñales and Rossi, the Yamahas losing touch quite decisively in the title battle.
|35||Cal CRUTCHLOW||Honda||6 Laps|
|21||Franco MORBIDELLI||Yamaha||8 Laps|
|63||Francesco BAGNAIA||Ducati||19 Laps|
|55||Hafizh SYAHRIN||KTM||21 Laps|
|46||Valentino ROSSI||Yamaha||22 Laps|
|4||Andrea DOVIZIOSO||Ducati||22 Laps|
|12||Maverick VIÑALES||Yamaha||23 Laps|
|99||Jorge LORENZO||Honda||23 Laps|
|41||Aleix ESPARGARO||Aprilia||23 Laps|
|17||Karel ABRAHAM||Ducati||0 Lap|
|38||Bradley SMITH||Aprilia||0 Lap|