The premier class pulled out all the stops for the last weekend of the season and peppered drama over the two qualifying sessions, starting with Johann Zarco’s smoking Ducati delaying the Q1 session. The wait was worth it for the home favourite, Miguel Oliveira presumably prompting many people to shout at their TV sets across the country as he claimed a first pole position in the premier class. The Portuguese rider set himself up for a fairytale race on home soil by leading the field by four hundredths of a second. A confident Franco Morbidelli breezed through Q1 and held provisional pole in Q2 until getting robbed in the final minute of the session. Morbidelli held onto second to have the upper hand in the battle for second place in the world championship, while Jack Miller joins them on the front row after a solid weekend in Portugal.
After being fastest in Q1, Cal Crutchlow will start his final race from the top of the second row, while Fabio Quartararo’s result of fifth hands him the keys to a BMW. Stefan Bradl completes the second row in a very impressive display for Honda’s recently renewed test rider. Despite a late crash at turn 8, Zarco opens row three of the grid ahead of Maverick Vinales and Pol Espargaro.
Alex Rins will have to make another lightning start from 10th on the grid to battle Morbidelli for the championship podium and the Suzuki will have company from Takaaki Nakagami and Andrea Dovizioso on the fourth row. Although the Japanese rider was a prominent fixture towards the top of the timesheets all weekend, he was looking worse for wear after a crash in FP4 and could not do any better than 11th.
For no apparent reason, newly crowned world champion Joan Mir struggled to escape Q1 and starts his reign with his worst qualifying of the season in 20th, adding an obstacle in Suzuki’s triple crown challenge.