The heat dial was turned up to the max ahead of the premier class’ qualifying session given the modest gaps throughout practice and the result was a bigger surprise than expected. Fabio Quartararo started the session in his favourite position, at the top of the timesheets, and looked to comfortably continue his fine qualifying run - that is until compatriot Johann Zarco flew past by three tenths of a second. The Avintia rider finally got rewarded for the troublesome 18 months he endured with an excellent pole position in Brno and will headline the Saturday press conference for the first time in two years. Quartararo benefitted from a yellow flag infringement by Pol Espargaro and inherited second place from the Spaniard, making it a French one-two despite a late crash at run 13. Franco Morbidelli joins them on the front row of the grid, only eight thousandths of a second slower than his teammate.
Aleix Espargaro proved once again to be the expert in following the right people at the right time and a tow from Quartararo helped him score a place at the front of the second row. Maverick Vinales fought his Yamaha to climb into fifth on his first run but got his timing wrong and missed out on a second run before running out of fuel. Pol Espargaro dropped to sixth after the penalty for setting his best lap under a yellow flag prompted by Cal Crutchlow’s crash but just about kept the honours for being the top KTM, one place ahead of his teammate. Brad Binder snuck through Q1 and made the best of it to open the third row of the grid, ahead of Danilo Petrucci and Joan Mir.
Valentino Rossi finds himself in familiar company on row four, where he is joined by Q1 leader Alex Rins and the equally convalescent Cal Crutchlow. Miguel Oliveira and Jack Miller narrowly missed out on Q2 but the real losers of the first qualifying session were Takaaki Nakagami, whose Q2-worthy time got cancelled for exceeding track limits and dropped him to 17th, and Andrea Dovizioso, whose 18th qualifying position made it a truly bittersweet afternoon for Ducati.