Lies, lies and more lies from the weather radar as the premier class lined up to beautiful sunshine for the first Austrian race, but the weather was quickly forgotten with all the drama that unfolded in the following hour. A red flag, several crashes and major mistakes later, Andrea Dovizioso showed Ducati what they’ll be missing next year, as the Italian scored the factory's 50th victory in the premier class and kept their perfect score at the Red Bull Ring. Joan Mir gave us some last lap entertainment to rob Jack Miller of second position and score his much awaited first podium in the class. Miller had to settle for third and stepped onto the podium for the first time this season.
Holeshot masters Ducati had aided Miller take the lead heading into turn 1 ahead of poleman Maverick Vinales, while Dovizioso made a fine start from the second row. In a familiar sight, Vinales was struggling early on, losing places to Dovizioso, Pol Espargaro and Mir by the end of the first lap. The Yamaha man found himself at the back of the lead group and getting reeled in by Fabio Quartararo, who was the big loser at the start, having to fight his way back into contention from 8th position.
Back at the front, Dovizioso took his time to find a way past Miller and the slow pace allowed the second group led by Quartararo to merge with the leaders. That added Franco Morbidelli, Miguel Oliveira, Valentino Rossi, Johann Zarco, Alex Rins and Brad Binder to the mix. Having started 17th, Binder was knocking on the doors of the top ten barely four laps into the race.
With Miller still at the front, Pol Espargaro picked up the chase on lap five and was demoting the Australian by the end of that same lap, while Dovizioso was left to contend with a feisty Mir in the battle for third. As the pace was hotting up at the front, Oliveira was the only other rider just about hanging onto the back of the leaders, with Vinales over a second and a half down. Meanwhile, Quartararo suddenly dropped to 22nd spot, after a trip through the gravel trap and leaving himself a lot of work to do to keep the title lead. That work had to be paused before completing lap nine however, when a terrifying incident at turn three between Zarco and Morbidelli sent their machines flying over an extremely lucky factory Yamaha duo and prompted a red flag.
Once Morbidelli and Zarco walked away largely unharmed and the track was cleared, the race was restarted for 20 laps. An unhappy Pol Espargaro headed the grid but got robbed by Miller at the start and the duo started exchanging top spot ahead of Dovizioso, the Suzuki duo and Oliveira. Only three laps in, the six man group had stretched a one second gap over the chasers led by Binder. Having restarted last, Quartararo was quickly inside the points positions, but Vinales took his place as the unluckiest Yamaha, dropping to the very last in the pack on the first lap, for no obvious reason.
Miller’s decision to restart on soft rubber paid off early on, as the Pramac rider got a one second gap on Dovizioso, with a presumably frustrated Espargaro getting hounded by Rins and not getting a proper shot at attacking the Ducatis ahead. The KTM’s speed on the start-finish straight kept him ahead of the Suzukis but several mistakes from the Spaniard allowed the blue bikes back past and one final mistake at turn four put him in Oliveira’s path and put both riders into the gravel trap before completing lap nine.
Back at the front, Miller’s tyres were starting to fade and Dovizioso swiftly got past his colleague at turn one with 11 laps remaining, Rins following his example soon after. The Spaniard fancied a shot at the lead but lasted mere seconds at the front, before rapidly sliding out into the gravel. The depleted leading group left Dovizioso, Miller and Mir in provisional podium spots, with Binder finding himself in a lonely fourth and waiting to pick up any scraps from the podium battle.
The final four laps started with Dovizioso quite firmly in command, nearly a second ahead of Miller and Mir and the Suzuki youngster didn’t feel like finishing third but struggled to keep up with the Ducati’s power. Mir had one solid go on the final lap and the move at the penultimate turn secured him second ahead of the Pramac rider. Binder fended off Rossi and Takaaki Nakagami in the late battle for fourth, with Danilo Petrucci best of the rest in seventh place. Quartararo saved his championship lead by finishing eighth, while Iker Lecuona had a fantastic performance to cross the line ninth and score his first points. Vinales recovered enough positions to round out the top ten but stormed straight out the back of the garage once he brought his presumably stricken machine back.
Quartararo did just enough to protect his championship lead but Dovizioso’s victory brings him within 11 points of the Frenchman. Vinales drops to third, 19 points down, with Binder leading the charge for KTM, 26 points behind the leader.
|42||Alex Rins||Suzuki||10 Laps|
|44||Pol Espargaro||KTM||12 Laps|
|88||Miguel Oliveira||KTM||12 Laps|
|21||Franco Morbidelli||Yamaha||0 Lap|
|5||Johann Zarco||Ducati||0 Lap|