The sun was out to welcome the premier class attack for the title of fastest man on the fierce Italian track. The fog that threatened in the morning was replaced by neon smoke and if the crowds did not exhaust their stash at the beginning of the session, they sure did it once the checker flag came out and home idol Valentino Rossi put his name at the top of the timing screens. In a fairytale script for the Italian, he snatched his first pole position in almost two years while setting a pole record in the process.
The start of the session told a different story, with Marc Marquez the first to present his bid for pole and bring down Andrea Iannone’s record from 2015 but the Italian did not take that lightly and swiftly went a tenth faster. At this point it looked like a straight fight between the two fastest men of the weekend but mistakes from the world champion in the third sector undid his blistering pace in the first part of the track and the Repsol man failed to improve on his final run.
In the final two minutes, it turned out that Iannone was hardly the only challenger, Rossi going straight to the top and followed by old nemesis Jorge Lorenzo as the first Ducati. Rossi won’t have an easy time on the front row when you add teammate Maverick Viñales to the mix, in a rather surprising front line-up based on every other session at the track. Viñales himself only just about escaped Q1 by the skin of his teeth.
Iannone also failed to go faster in his final time attack and disappointedly settled for fourth, sharing second row of the grid with Danilo Petrucci and Marquez, who once again relied on his elbows to save his behind as he was running a hot pace late in the session. Talking about favourites who left themselves with a lot to do, Andrea Dovizioso once again failed to qualify higher than seventh position, three tenths of a second slower than the celebrated poleman. Cal Crutchlow might be only one place behind on the grid but the LCR rider was another three tenths down, with Johann Zarco completing row three.
Alex Rins was another tenth down in tenth position, sharing fourth row with Q1 leader Jack Miller and Franco Morbidelli. Tito Rabat would have been disappointed by how close he was to Q2 but nowhere near as disappointed as Dani Pedrosa, whose continuing search for grip dropped him down to 20th starting position.