Rain played with the MotoGP paddock all day and just on cue as the countdown for Q1 started, visors showed some drizzle and prompted a rush out of pitlane. The same script repeated in Q2 but the downpour never arrived and pole position was decided at the very last minute. In the end, consistency paid off for Franco Morbidelli, the Italian snatching his second premier class pole by nine hundredths of a second. Jack Miller came close but had to settle for being lead Ducati and in the middle of the front row. Takaaki Nakagami added a Honda to the mix and secured a third consecutive front row start to continue the chase for that elusive maiden win.
Johann Zarco continued to show good form, qualifying in fourth place, ahead of Pol Espargaro and Maverick Vinales. Aleix Espargaro also looked fast as he claimed seventh on the grid, opening the third row ahead of a resurgent Pecco Bagnaia - a solid result after a difficult couple of races for the Italian. Brad Binder was one of the main actors throughout qualifying, the South African topping Q1 and that experience paid off early in Q2, when he claimed provisional pole, but the extra session limited his tyre options and the KTM man got pushed down to ninth on the grid. The hierarchy changed so much throughout those 15 minutes of Q2 that Miguel Oliveira went from provisional pole to fourth row in the blink of an eye.
In yet another twist in the championship tale, the first title contender on the grid is Fabio Quartararo in 11th position, the Frenchman putting together an impressive Q1 to join the Q2 line-up and the confidence he gained in the tricky conditions served him well initially but a slight moment at turn 2 and lack of fresh rubber saw him slide down the standings in the closing stages of qualifying. However, the Petronas man will start right ahead of rival Joan Mir, who wasn’t keen on taking too much risk and instead took the checkered flag in last position in Q2.
Coming off an excellent showing in FP4, Alex Rins could not replicate that in Q1 and will have to conjure up another remarkable comeback from 14th on the grid, two places behind his teammate and main rival. The Spaniard will start in the middle of fifth row, in between Cal Crutchlow and Danilo Petrucci. Valentino Rossi was slow to join the Q1 action as his bike was not ready in time and after a yellow flag infringement, the best he could do was 16th, ahead of an underwhelming performance from Andrea Dovizioso and with Stefan Bradl closing row six. Meanwhile, teammate Alex Marquez’s struggle in Valencia not only continued but it got worse as the Spaniard suffered a massive highside at turn 11 early in Q1 and very slowly moved away from the gravel trap. He miraculously headed back out on his second machine but could only qualify 20th.