Judging by every other minute spent on track at the Red Bull Ring except the last 10 seconds of the race, Marc Marquez was going to leave Austria with the full set of circuits checked off the victory list. But Ducati were in no mood to lose their playground and staged a tribute to the 2017 race, with Andrea Dovizioso coming out of the final corner in the lead. However, the two main actors reversed roles and Dovizioso mercilessly attacked a sliding Marquez into turn ten and managed to bring the big trophy home for the Bologna crew. Marquez rued his medium tyre choice but still punished it until the checkered flag to cross the line two tenths off the winner. Fabio Quartararo almost went unnoticed on his way to third but scored yet another podium ahead of his factory colleagues.
The heat of battle was previewed on lap one, when Marquez made a great start from pole but so did Dovizioso. The Ducati and the Honda could not decide who was best going into turn three and both ended up on the losing side, going wide and allowing Quartararo to lead the way. Dovizioso was quicker to regroup and trail the Frenchman, while Marquez was looking for a way around Jack Miller while also fending off Valentino Rossi, the Italian having made great progress on lap one. Alex Rins was right in the mix with the lead group initially but he got pushed one second behind the five-man pack by lap three and was trying to find a way back, together with Maverick Viñales.
With Quartararo finding half a second on the opposition, Marquez was keen to get past Miller and made it stick at turn three, setting his sights on Dovizioso next. The Italian felt the threat and upped his pace to drag back Quartararo and get past him with the unrivalled acceleration of his Ducati. Marquez soon followed suit but the Yamaha man did not make it too easy for the world champion.
By lap six, it looked like a classic Dovizioso-Marquez tussle, with Quartararo, Miller and Rossi as welcomed extras. Two seconds down the road, Viñales and Rins showed better speed than the leaders in their attempt to catch up but were not making fast progress. Miller abandoned the fight at tricky turn nine on lap eight but there was little airtime for him as Marquez was soon attacking Dovizioso into turn one and the two were rubbing elbows like long lost comrades. Marquez immediately upped the pace by half a second and only Dovizioso seemed to pass the test, Quartararo one full second back by lap 12. Rossi was close but not within striking distance of the Frenchman, while Viñales was getting ever closer to his teammate, a second and a half behind the Italian and fending off Rins.
Tom and Jerry continued their play for the next dozen laps, Marquez stretching a four tenths lead in the first part of the track and Dovizioso getting back within two tenths on the fast final sector. The Spaniard was his sliding twitchy self but looked in control despite the Ducati getting dangerously close to its rival, both riders posting very low 1:24s heading into the final ten laps, half a second faster than anyone else.
Dovizioso made his move in turn one and made it stick at the start of lap 20, the Ducati stretching its legs on the straight and taking its turn in the lead. Marquez tucked in behind his rival and had a close look at the red machine ahead. The two continued to light up the timesheets, while flying away from Quartararo, the Petronas rider three seconds behind on the victory battle and two safe seconds ahead of the tentative exchanges between Rossi, Viñales and Rins.
Dovizioso and Marquez started the final five laps still glued to each other, barely a Toblerone between them, and there was a sense of déjà vu as Marquez was planning his last lap assault. The Spaniard tested the waters at turn seven with three laps to go but the Ducati retaliated immediately, this leading to a couple of exchanges for the lead and turn one turning into the scene of a couple of close hugs for the final laps. Marquez started the last lap in the lead, punishing his tyres for one final time but Dovizioso went all Marquez with a block pass in the final turn and did what the Spaniard couldn’t at their last close encounter at the Red Bull Ring.
While all the cameras were on the Italian’s celebrations, Quartararo secured the final podium spot ahead of his factory colleagues. Rossi held back Viñales and Rins, while Bagnaia turned a top qualifying position into a top seven place. Miguel Oliveira ended up as the top KTM rider at the manufacturer’s home race, ahead of Danilo Petrucci and Franco Morbidelli, who completed the top ten.
Dovizioso’s valiant victory reduces Marquez’s championship lead to 58 points, with Danilo Petrucci still third, 94 points down on Marquez and with Rins getting closer to the Italian.
|16||29||Andrea IANNONE||Aprilia||1 Lap|
|53||Tito RABAT||Ducati||8 Laps|
|43||Jack MILLER||Ducati||21 Laps|
|55||Hafizh SYAHRIN||KTM||26 Laps|
|44||Pol ESPARGARO||KTM||27 Laps|
|35||Cal CRUTCHLOW||Honda||27 Laps|