The final chance to secure a place straight to Q2 started with quite a VIP list outside of the top ten positions, including Rins, Petrucci, Crutchlow and Miller and they seemed in no rush to rectify that until the final five minutes kickstarted the usual shootout. After Yamaha stole his thunder on Friday, Marc Marquez was keen to get back to the front on Saturday morning, picking up the lead early in FP3 and holding on to top spot until Maverick Viñales and Fabio Quartararo showed their cards. In the end it was the Frenchman who had more speed in hand, almost nudging the 1:31s, three tenths faster than his factory colleague and with an impressive run of low to mid 1:33s on soft tyres.
With Yamaha once again claiming the top two positions, they were in rather unfamiliar company, with Pol Espargaro taking a tow from Viñales to claim third. The KTM was the second best machine in that session, ahead of the Honda of Marquez. The world champion did not make much noise for the time attack, having a close look at Valentino Rossi’s Yamaha for the final few minutes instead and settling for fourth, with fairly decent pace on the medium rear. Marquez’s prediction of pole being fought between the Yamahas feels right on the money at the moment, the blue-toned duo over half as second faster than Marquez over one lap.
Franco Morbidelli in fifth was the final rider to post a time within a second of Quartararo, narrowly ahead of Takaaki Nakagami – the second best Honda in sixth. Rossi made it four Yamahas in the top seven, while Alex Rins secured a top 10 on the last lap, bringing a smile to a fairly stressed Suzuki garage. There was clearly still a lot of work to do for Ducati, with wildcard Michele Pirro as their lead rider in ninth, while Andrea Dovizioso held onto the final Q2 place by the skin of his teeth.
Johann Zarco was only three hundredths of a second away from Q1, with a still convalescent Miguel Oliveira less than a tenth away himself. KTM’s Q1 prospects look promising, given the struggles of Cal Crutchlow, Jack Miller and Danilo Petrucci throughout the weekend.