Generous sunshine graced the Riviera as the premier class was preparing to qualify for the scenic Grand Prix of not quite San Marino. And what we lacked in weather drama, they made up for otherwise. Marc Marquez shot out the gates as soon as the green flag waved and set the reference lap time on lap one with the fastest time of the weekend. His feat did not last long, Jorge Lorenzo crossing the line barely a second after and improving on his own pole record by one tenth of a second, writing the likely plotline of the session.
Both Spaniards got the same idea and went for a 2-stop strategy, with Marquez having three tenths to find on Lorenzo, while the rest of the chasers were over half a second off provisional pole. The Repsol Honda man was pushing so hard on his second run that he slipped out in the final sector, having to re-enact a motorised version of his COTA run to grab his second bike for a final attack with three minutes left on the clock. After running through the gates like a commuter at peak times, the world champion started off with a red hot sector but a couple of moments and a big save later, Marquez had to let his pole hopes go.
Marquez might have stolen Lorenzo’s TV thunder but the Ducati man did not rest on his laurels and calmly shaved another tenth off his benchmark on the final lap to seal the deal for a dominating pole, three tenths of a second ahead of his colleague. The likely Ducati 1-2 did happen, just not the Ducati you’d expect in second position, Jack Miller’s fine timing seeing him secure a worthy front row start. Maverick Viñales brought Yamaha to the fore once again, breaking the Ducati monopoly at the very last moment by demoting Andrea Dovizioso to the second row of the grid.
On a second row with barely two hundredths of a second to pick between them, Dovizioso ended up leading an animated Honda duo of Marquez and Cal Crutchlow – the British rider adding another RC213V to the gravel trap late in the session. Valentino Rossi missed out on row two by a mere three thousandths of a second and will start just behind his rivals from seventh position, in the company of Danilo Petrucci and Johann Zarco.
Alex Rins opens row four, ahead of Q1 escapees Dani Pedrosa and Franco Morbidelli. The Italian did not post a time in the session but his two colleagues were only seven tenths off pole despite their lowly positions. The unlucky men of Q1 were Andrea Iannone, who will start 13th, ahead of Michele Pirro and Alvaro Bautista.