With Q1 providing a highly entertaining prelude to the main act of Q2, things were getting hot on track both literally and metaphorically. Marc Marquez started as a firm favourite for top honours on Saturday and ended the day as favourite for Sunday by scoring his 75th career pole position – but the story was nowhere near as simple as that.
Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo had chased each other around for the first run but the wildcard in that run was Alex Rins. The Suzuki man had already survived a wild Q1 and demoted his compatriots from the top position briefly. On the second run, Rins placed himself nicely on Marquez’ tail and while the world champion was shaking off traffic, Andrea Iannone became the main contender. The Italian benefited from a smooth tow from an unaware Lorenzo, off which he stole top position at the time.
For a second it seemed like Iannone and Lorenzo had the upper hand while the rest of the pack were dicing with each other and not getting any faster but that one final flying lap changed the whole story. Once the checker flag fell, Iannone and Lorenzo went from hero to a little more than zero as their times got swallowed by the pack behind, Marquez the best of the lot by half a tenth.
Cal Crutchlow also timed it to perfection and was one of the last men to cross the line and climb into second on the grid. Valentino Rossi looked a little lost after the first run, messing around towards the bottom of the top ten, but the Italian pulled another rabbit out of the hat to round out first row in front of an adoring audience.
Andrea Dovizioso was only seven hundredths of a second off pole but down in fourth, while Rins eventually dropped to an honourable fifth. Maverick Viñales completed the second row of the grid two tenths down on the poleman, while Aleix Espargaro salvaged a complicated weekend with a seventh position. Johann Zarco had an animated Q1, only just about getting out at the very last minute and going on to climb into eighth on the grid. Iannone went from pole to the end of third row in the blink of an eye, as did Lorenzo in tenth. Danilo Petrucci and Alvaro Bautista rounded out fourth row – the Italian half a second down on pole, while Bautista was still feeling the consequences of his FP4 crash, finishing over a second slower than Marquez.
There was room for more misery behind the Spaniard, Takaaki Nakagami missing out on Q2 by only two hundredths of a second, while Dani Pedrosa had a dreadful day at the office, struggling to make an impression in Q1 and starting Sunday’s race back in 18th position.