A remarkable MotoGP season came to a bittersweet end in the Portimao, with the local fanbase unable to fully celebrate a fantastic win on home soil for Miguel Oliveira. The Portuguese rider was untouchable over 25 laps and gave one final gift to his Tech3 team, finishing over three seconds ahead of the battle for second. In a near replay from one week ago, Jack Miller and Franco Morbidelli fought it out to the last lap and it was the Australian who stood on the second place of the podium for Pramac one last time. Morbidelli settled for third in the race but claimed second in a rollercoaster of a world championship.
Oliveira kept in the limelight from start to finish, making a fine launch from pole to stay ahead of fellow front row starters Morbidelli and Miller. Cal Crutchlow followed them from the second row but Fabio Quartararo’s poor start dropped him to 8th, behind Pol Espargaro, Alex Rins and Stefan Bradl. Maverick Vinales and Johann Zarco completed the top 10 by the end of lap one, but only the Frenchman was able to stay there for much longer. Having to start 20th on the grid, world champion Joan Mir was a busy boy early on, climbing up to 12th on the first lap but a harsh overtake on Pecco Bagnaia saw him slide back down to 20th and prompted the Italian to retire. Brad Binder was the first rider to crash on lap 2 but the rookie of the year battle was pretty much sealed, with Alex Marquez having to start 16th and stuck in the midfield.
Oliveira thrived on his home playground and extended his lead to nearly 2 seconds by lap 4. Morbidelli and Miller struggled to keep up with him but built a one second gap to the pursuers led by Crutchlow and including a resurgent Bradl and Pol Espargaro. Zarco pushed hard to recover a one second gap on the trio ahead and had a big group in a not particularly orderly queue behind him. Oliveira continued to extend his gap to 3 seconds from Morbidelli and Miller by lap 8, while Pol Espargaro was on a roll and got past the Hondas of Crutchlow and Bradl. Zarco was keeping in touch with the group but Rins struggled to reduce the gap and the battle for second in the championship seemed to be going Morbidelli’s way already. Behind the Suzuki, Takaaki Nakagami, Quartararo, Alex Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso were having a bit of fun for 9th place.
The cameras barely showed the podium contenders for the next few laps, as the battle for fourth was getting pretty feisty between Pol Espargaro, Crutchlow, Bradl, Zarco, Rins, Nakagami and Dovizioso, with Marquez and Aleix Espargaro pushing to rejoin the group. The Yamaha trio of Quartararo, Vinales and Valentino Rossi completed the top 15, a handful of seconds ahead of Mir. The world champion entered pitlane to retire with 10 laps remaining and to make matters worse for Suzuki, Rins was dropping out of the top 10 too, shattering any dreams left of the Triple Crown.
With 10 laps left, Oliveira was a casual four seconds ahead of Morbidelli, with Miller seemingly waiting to pounce on the Italian. Six seconds down the road, Pol Espargaro was still fending off his rivals and it took him a few laps but eventually he managed to stretch a comfortable gap to the rest of the group, where Dovizioso was on a charge. The next group down the road was fighting for 10th place, as well as third in the championship, as Rins had dropped into the clutches of Vinales, Quartararo and Rossi.
Oliveira continued to look untouchable at the front all the way to the checkered flag but Morbidelli and Miller looked to re-enact the fine squabble of Valencia 2, this time for second position. Miller kept close but the Italian made no mistakes so the Australian’s first and only attack came at turn 13 on the final lap. It proved enough for Miller to keep second and secure Ducati the constructors’ world championship. Morbidelli had to admit defeat and settle for third but the podium was more than enough for the Italian to secure second in the riders’ world championship.
Pol Espargaro bows out of KTM with a fourth place and fifth in the championship, holding off Nakagami in the closing stages of the race. Dovizioso’s progress to sixth was rewarded with fourth in the championship in his final race for Ducati, while Bradl, Aleix Espargaro, Alex Marquez and Zarco completed the top ten. Valentino Rossi was 12th on his final race in factory Yamaha colours, before moving to a different shade of blue. Crutchlow faded to 13th position in the closing stages of his final race as a full time rider, after a battle with the men he is going to be testing for next year. Quartararo dropping all the way down to 14th sees him slip to 8th in the championship, while Rins only scored one point but it was enough to keep 3rd overall. Mir got to enjoy the end of the race from his garage, while presumably preparing his suit for the trophy ceremony later today.
|32||Lorenzo Savadori||Aprilia||3 Laps|
|36||Joan Mir||Suzuki||10 Laps|
|33||Brad Binder||KTM||23 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|63||Francesco Bagnaia||Ducati||0 Lap|