Fully dry and slightly chilly, the French circuit was a recital of flying laps and flying Frenchmen. But, above all, it was Yamaha that reigned supreme in the qualifying session, Maverick Viñales showing that Friday was just a wet glitch in the system and that he is back to the place he enjoys more: the top of the timesheets.
The Spaniard grabbed pole position from his teammate, Valentino Rossi, by a tenth of a second, both factory riders under pressure from the home favourite and satellite Yamaha, Johann Zarco. The Frenchman provided a bit of drama and gave the audience another reason to cheer after coming through Q1 by deposing of Dani Pedrosa at the last minute and joining the Q2 party late after sitting out the first run.
Zarco pushed Cal Crutchlow to the second row of the grid on his final flying lap, the LCR rider left sharing a row with Marc Marquez, who had another small tumble in turn three on cold tyres, and the other Q1 qualifier, Andrea Dovizioso, the Italian being the first Ducati across the line.
The third row will be headed by Scott Redding, who crashed late in the session and did not manage to equal his FP3 performance. Pol Espargaro’s eighth grid spot will bring some more smiles to the KTM team and the same could be said for Karel Abraham in ninth position and completing the third row for the Aspar team.
Bradley Smith qualified tenth, ahead of Jack Miller, who once again suffered a crash – thankfully much smaller than the FP4 scare – and Loris Baz completing the fourth row.
The Honda of Dani Pedrosa has a bit of a challenge from fifth row, Jorge Lorenzo starting right behind his fellow Spaniard, in sixteenth grid position.