Marquez drags pole out of the bag to deny Quartararo

It takes a combination talent and some savvy thinking by Marc Marquez to defeat the superb Fabio Quartararo to Mugello pole in Italian MotoGP qualifying
Marquez drags pole out of the bag to deny Quartararo

Italian MotoGP Qualifying Results

Marc Marquez produced arguably one of the finest qualifying laps of his career as he used his tactical experience to slipstream his way to pole position, even if the series leader needing a big new Mugello record to see off the inspired Fabio Quartararo.

Though the Italian MotoGP weekend hasn’t been an easy one for Marquez as he battles flu and a strong rival contingent across all manufacturers, his experience ultimately told in the dying seconds of Q2 as he lined up a perfect lap-long reference point – and tow - in Andrea Dovizioso.

Prior to that Petronas Yamaha SRT’s Quartararo looked to be on course for another shock pole position as he twice took chunks out of Danilo Petrucci’s FP3-fresh lap record by clocking the first ever sub-1m 46s lap at Mugello.

Such was his remarkable pace, it would take a clever lap from Marquez to deny the Frenchman as he came into his final flyer behind title rival Dovizioso, far enough not to be delayed but close enough to use his lines as a reference point. Steadily closing the margin to the Italian – struggling for consistent pace on the Ducati all day – by the time the Repsol Honda straightened up for the drag to the line he had the perfect bubble behind his rival to tuck into.

The result was a 1m 45.519secs, two tenths up on Quartararo, who nonetheless deserved credit for doing his times alone without the assistance of a tow despite his Yamaha M1 losing a noticeable amount of time in terms of top speed.

A bitter outcome for Dovizioso on a day that will leave him scratching his head overnight, not only did Marquez use him to pull his grid position up but the pair almost came to blows early in Q2 when the Spaniard made an aggressive pass on his first flyer. No doubt unsettling Dovizioso, though he was able to avoid an massive upset by coming through Q1 to qualify ninth, it wasn’t a comfortable Saturday for the home hope.

Despite being only the fourth-highest placed Ducati, Dovizioso can take heart from the fact team tactics give him a better chance on Sunday, even if third place Danilo Petrucci will fancy his chances of a maiden win from the front row in third.

Whilst overshadowed again by Quartararo, Franco Morbidelli was still an impressive fourth on the grid, ahead of Jack Miller on the Pramac Ducati and Cal Crutchlow on the LCR Honda, who ensured only two of the top six came from a factory garage.

On a sobering day for the Yamaha factory after Valentino Rossi could only manage 18th (see below), Maverick Vinales stands to gain more from seventh, ahead of Francesco Bagnaia, who maintained his strong weekend form to secure a middle spot on the third row.

Takaaki Nakagami starts tenth, while Pol Espargaro couldn’t replicate his practice en route to 11th, while Michele Pirro at least ensured all five Ducatis start on the first four rows.

With a number of notable names forced to fight for a Q2 spot via Q1, while Dovizioso and Pirro locked out the two available positions for Ducati – the former doing so with a committed last gasp lap – it came at the expense of Valentino Rossi and Alex Rins, who paid the price for a baffling tactical error.

Indeed, with Dovizioso piling on the laps to ramp up the momentum, Rossi and Rins instead went for one final flyer from the pit-lane but miscalculated the time available with neither reaching the line before the chequered flag. Rossi’s miss was so marginal he continued pushing, almost crashing after a big wobble, only to learn it was futile anyway.

As such, Rins starts 13th with Rossi 18th, the pair split by 14th place Esteve Rabat – who benefitted greatly from being the caravan to Dovizioso on his last run – top Aprilia Aleix Espargaro, Karel Abraham and Jorge Lorenzo, the latter getting the better of his historic rival but finding no joy in being a lowly 17th a year on from winning at this track.

Having been upstaged by Espargaro all weekend, Johann Zarco’s dismal season went from bad to worse as he suffered his second crash of the weekend to leave him 19th.