|For the first time since the 2021 Catalan GP, Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) will start a MotoGP™ race from pole position. After topping the timesheets on Friday at the Pertamina Grand Prix of Indonesia, the Frenchman kept it rolling in qualifying to underline the contrast between a difficult Qatar GP and a turnaround in Lombok. Alongside it’s Jorge Martin and Pramac Racing teammate Johann Zarco in P2 and P3, the former taking his first front row that wasn’t a pole position, and elsewhere there was plenty of drama.
Eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez crashed twice and didn’t make it out of Q1, Repsol Honda’s Pol Espargaro was just behind his teammate, and Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) likewise suffered a damp squib, concluding with a crash and no place in Q2 for the 2020 Champion. But Sunday? Sunday is another day, and a shuffled grid should make for a spectacular showdown.
In a breath-taking Q1, eight World Champions were battling it out for the top two positions, including Repsol Honda Team duo Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro, Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team), and Mir. Bagnaia kept it cool, calm and collected to top the timesheets thanks to a 1.31.219, and the Italian avoided the chaos to give himself almost half a second in hand over a stunning session from Fabio Di Giannantonio in P2. The Gresini Racing rider becomes the first 2022 rookie to move through to Q2, with several heavy hitters falling by the wayside.
Marc Marquez pushed his RC213V to the absolute limits in order to find a time but crashed twice. First at Turn 13 before rushing back to the garage and back out, and then at Turn 12 after having overtaken Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) on a last ditch push. Teammate Pol Espargaro will join him in down the pack, and so will Mir, with the 2020 Champion preparing to launch from P18 after a difficult qualifying that also ended in a crash.
Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) was right in the mix for a Q2 place and right up there in FP4, but a crash in the final sector put paid to those plans moments after he slipped out of the top two.
As Q2 began, both Bagnaia and Di Giannantonio crucially had two fresh soft rear tyres to throw on. Quartararo was the fastest rider once the first runs were completed though, a 1:31.227 proving the first benchmark, before his teammate Franco Morbidelli crashed unhurt at Turn 5. As the riders boxed for fresh rubber, it was a provisional front row of Quartararo, Bagnaia, and Martin. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) was P4 ahead of Di Giannantonio and his teammate Enea Bastianini, meanwhile fellow Ducati star Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) had failed to set a time with six minutes to go.
Bagnaia came out for his second run and improved his time, but Quartararo was lapping quicker just behind. El Diablo set a blistering 1:31.067, Martin climbed to P2 to demote Pecco to P3, and then Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) grabbing P4. Next, Aleix Espargaro crashed at Turn 10 unhurt and the yellow flags came out to put paid to a few lap, but the incident was cleared in time for the riders to get one last shot at pole.
There was late movement on the timesheets too, Zarco, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Bastianini all put in their personal best times on the last lap to go P3, P4, and P5 respectively, pushing Bagnaia down to P6. No one was able to beat Quartararo though, and the Frenchman took his first pole since the 2021 Catalan GP.
Behind Quartararo on pole and with pace, the Pramac duo of Martin and Zarco get ready to duel it out in a bid to outgun the Yamaha into Turn 1. Brad Binder’s late lap sees the South African spearhead Row 2, just ahead of Bastianini as the top two from Qatar start side by side in Mandalika. P5 for Bastianini is a good result for the Italian, and joining Binder and The Beast on Row 2 is Pecco – he’ll likely take that after having to deal with Q1.
Oliveira starts P7 ahead of Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Miller. Aleix Espargaro had to settle for P10 after his crash and the Spaniard starts ahead of Di Giannantonio.
Morbidelli had qualified 12th but after qualifying had finished, the Italian was handed a three-place grid penalty for failing to comply with the notice given to all MotoGP™ teams regarding the staged practice start. That means Bezzecchi, Marini and Marc Marquez move up a position each on the grid, with Morbidelli now starting P15.
If that didn’t whet your appetite for the first Indonesian GP in 25 years on Sunday, then we don’t know what will! It promises to be an absolute stunner in Mandalika, so tune in at 15:00 local time (GMT+8) to see who claims victory!