Following a small delay ahead of Q1 to clear some water after an eventful FP4, rain tyres had to be used on a confusing track that was half wet and half sporting a dry line. The damp sections reduced by the time Q2 came about but the second qualifying session also came with another dark cloud looming large over the busy pitlane and yet another delay due to the medical helicopter not being on site. The one-hour delay meant that the drying stretch of tarmac was tempting the riders into starting on slick tyres but the still very wet Hangar Straight convinced them otherwise.
Once things finally got underway on rain tyres, Bradley Smith’s Q1 warm-up helped him shoot straight to the top of the timesheets but as his rivals got accustomed to the conditions, Jorge Lorenzo picked up provisional pole soon after. Home favourite Cal Crutchlow and Johann Zarco also showed intentions but neither of them could get it done once the Ducatis got up to speed. Lorenzo came out on top of his teammate to snatch pole position by a tenth and a half, looking unusually well in the mixed conditions.
Dovizioso was second best, while Zarco was the surprise lead Yamaha posting a time only a tenth off the Ducatis while in the reigning world champion’s tow. Crutchlow could not reward the crowds with anything more than the title of lead Honda from fourth position, ahead of Marc Marquez, who will defend his championship lead from fifth grid spot. Danilo Petrucci added a third Ducati to the first two rows of the grid, although a second down on his factory teammates, while Andrea Iannone was top Suzuki in seventh position.
Bradley Smith had a great performance at his home track to finish eighth after his brief stint at the front and roasting the opposition in Q1. Meanwhile, Jack Miller gambled on slicks in the final five minutes of the session and while he looked very good in the dry sections, the Pramac man had trouble keeping within the lines in the wet parts and could not improve on ninth place.
Alex Rins escaped Q1 to open the fourth row of the grid, ahead of a shocking performance from the factory Yamahas in the wet. Maverick Viñales did not set a time on his first outing and had to rely on one final flying lap to get ahead of his teammate by almost a second but over two seconds slower than the poleman. Valentino Rossi had an even worse session, getting out of the pits late for his final charge and failing to improve on his early benchmark, which will see him start 12th, ahead of his apprentice Franco Morbidelli, who seemed to thrive in the tricky conditions of Q1. Dani Pedrosa was less than encouraged by the cool damp track and poor timing saw him drop to sixth row after a fast start to his Q1 session.
Tito Rabat did not take part in qualifying as he was transported to the local hospital following an incident in FP4 with a suspected broken leg.