The sun turned up to the premier class party to heat up not only track surface but also the simmering title battle and the only thing that shined more than Franco Morbidelli’s 2019 spec Yamaha was Joan Mir’s golden helmet, celebrating Suzuki’s first riders’ world title in 20 years, very fittingly on the factory’s 100th anniversary. The newly crowned champion might not have had a home crowd to celebrate with but that didn’t seem to make the cava any less sweet. The Spaniard did have to share the limelight in parc ferme with Morbidelli and Jack Miller, who fought tooth and nail until the checkered flag, a battle decided in the Italian’s favour. Morbidelli grabbed a third victory of the season, sharing the podium with some familiar faces in Miller and Pol Espargaro, the Spaniard scoring his 50th podium in Grand Prix racing.
The start of the race set the scene for the rest of proceedings, Miller perfecting his holeshot technique to lead into turn one, but his Ducati went wide straight away and allowed poleman Morbidelli back past. The Yamaha man was closely followed by Miller, Pol Espargaro and Takaaki Nakagami, while Miguel Oliveira was immediately up to fifth, having started on the fourth row. Also starting from the fourth row, Fabio Quartararo had a much more difficult start, running well wide at turn 2, as things got busy in the middle of the pack, and dropped to the back of the field. Mir managed to join the top 10 by the end of lap 1, with teammate Rins making a more impressive start, up to 7th from 14th on the grid.
Morbidelli was untroubled at the front, with Miller and Pol Espargaro close behind him, and Nakagami leading a sizeable group another seven tenths back. That group also included Oliveira, Johann Zarco, Rins, Brad Binder, Aleix Espargaro and Mir, with Andrea Dovizioso leading a third group, one second back and ahead of Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi. However, the chasing group lost Zarco at turn 1 on lap 6, making Rins’ mission a little easier as he inherited 6th place.
Morbidelli continued to be untouchable for the next laps, keeping the gap to Miller to about half a second, only Pol Espargaro keeping close to the leaders, while Nakagami dropped over two seconds back after running wide at turn 1 and then got a track limits warning on lap 8. In worse news, the LCR man soon had Rins on his tail, as well as Oliveira and Binder. Mir was losing touch with the chasing pack, over a second down and under attack from Dovizioso but the Spaniard was biding his time and his title mission was soon made easier by Quartararo. Having to find his way from the back of the pack, the Frenchman was in rush to recover positions but made some mistakes in his frantic recovery, which saw him get a track limits warning and promptly crash out on at turn 6, putting an end to his title aspirations on lap 9.
Back at the front, teammate Morbidelli had impeccably consistent pace and his gap got over the one second mark with 16 laps remaining, while Miller was fending off Pol Espargaro in the podium battle. Nakagami reduced his gap to the leaders to one second and he seemed to pick up the pace as the race entered its final half, but Rins could not keep up and was left to contend with the KTMs of Oliveira and Binder. Meanwhile, Mir was leading a small group two seconds down the road, where Dovizioso was struggling to get past Aleix Espargaro to attack the championship leader.
As the race entered the final 11 laps, Miller starting pushing to catch up with Morbidelli and got the gap down to six tenths of a second, but the Italian replied brilliantly and brought it back up to eight tenths. Rather than getting involved in the victory battle, Pol Espargaro was dropping into the clutches of Nakagami in the battle for third. Rins was still out of that battle, over two seconds behind, but the Spaniard got promoted one position after Nakagami rushed an overtake on Pol with 8 laps remaining and threw it away at turn 14, almost wiping out the KTM in the process. Espargaro did well to keep running but it allowed Rins to close to one second from his third place.
Closing at a much faster rate was Miller, the Australian less than half a second behind Morbidelli with 7 laps remaining, the two posting nearly identical lap times at the front. The duo got some more breathing room after Nakagami’s crash, which left Pol Espargaro almost three seconds behind the victory battle. The Spaniard’s third place did not look particularly secure either, with Rins posting personal best sectors behind him and Binder keen to attack too. Meanwhile, Mir and Dovizioso had almost caught up with Oliveira but Mir wasn’t exactly looking for a battle for sixth place.
Miller continued to put pressure on Morbidelli but the Italian was always just far enough ahead to avoid an attack – that is until the final lap, when Miller used the Ducatis’ power to attack going into turn 1 but ran wide and Morbidelli got the inside into turn 2. Miller had another look into turn 4 but Morbidelli found the gap at turn 5 once more. Miller then tried his best until the checkered flag but Morbidelli crossed the finish line nine hundredths of a second ahead of the Pramac rider. Pol Espargaro secured the final podium position, although Rins came within six tenths of a second of challenging him, with Binder back in the top five, ahead of colleague Oliveira.
However, it was Mir who got all the attention as he put the golden helmet on, after taking the checkered flag in seventh place. The Spaniard’s result sealed both the riders and teams’ titles and Suzuki continue on course to claim the triple crown heading into the season finale in Portugal.
|30||Takaaki Nakagami||Honda||9 Laps|
|20||Fabio Quartararo||Yamaha||19 Laps|
|5||Johann Zarco||Ducati||22 Laps|