Given the rollercoaster of emotion in the first two races of the day, the premier class should have brought some sense to the insanity but that’s not how they roll, is it? At the end of a fairly dramatic 27-lap wait, a world champion was crowned, overshadowing Marc Marquez’s third victory of the season and a somewhat unexpected but long-awaited Honda one-two. The Spaniard’s fast start and his rivals’ mistakes combined to helped Marquez snatch victory, with Pol Espargaro joining his celebrations five seconds later and then stepping on the podium for the first time in Repsol Honda colours. It wasn’t the rider Ducati expected to see on the podium, but Enea Bastianini’s excellent comeback from 16th on the grid ended with a last lap attack on the champion elect to rob him of the final podium spot. That being said, the podium was the last thing on Fabio Quartararo’s mind as he took the chequered flag to become France’s first MotoGP world champion and somewhat steal Valentino Rossi’s thunder in his final tango on home soil.
The story of the race started with slightly different actors, poleman Pecco Bagnaia making a great launch to lead into turn 1 ahead of an equally fast-starting Miguel Oliveira from the second row, but Jack Miller was quick to reclaim wingmanship. Having started seventh on the grid, Marquez was also ahead of Oliveira after the first few turns, while Quartararo recovered a few positions from his fifth row start on the first lap, defending 13th from Johann Zarco and Joan Mir early on.
Bagnaia followed up his rocket start with a strong push at the front, only Miller and Marquez able to keep up with the Italian, while Pol Espargaro led the pursuit a second and a half down, in a group including Oliveira, Franco Morbidelli and Aleix Espargaro. Meanwhile, front row starter Luca Marini dropped to 8th, fending off a big group with Iker Lecuona, Jorge Martin, Alex Rins, Quartararo and Zarco. A long way down the road, Mir crashed out at turn 2 and took birthday boy Danilo Petrucci with him, before the former world champion even got a chance to serve a double long lap penalty for a jump start.
The surprises started on lap four, when Miller crashed out of second position at turn 15, leaving Bagnaia without a wingman and with Marquez half a second behind. It also left Ducati with some question marks, as their two factory boys were the only ones on the hard front tyre. Given the rapid pace of the leading duo, Pol Espargaro had dropped over two seconds behind, while Quartararo joined the top 10 by lap 7, dropping Zarco and eyeing up Rins and Martin. The trio were almost 9 seconds off the victory battle but kept each other entertained over the next few laps.
In a flashback to Aragon, Marquez bided his time and/or pushed to stay with Bagnaia at the front of the race, while teammate Espargaro had a one second gap over Oliveira. Aleix Espargaro was almost five seconds behind and under attack from Morbidelli and Marini, with Rins and Quartararo closing the gap too, while Martin crashed out at turn 1 on lap 13. Although 9th on the timing screens at that stage, Quartararo had a realistic chance at fifth place with half a race remaining, him and Rins animating that battle for the next few laps.
Although Bagnaia continued on a red hot pace at the front, including a fastest lap, Marquez was unshakeable heading into the final 10 laps. While the Italian was busy solving a problem like Marquez, his championship rival had quickly climbed into fifth and shook off the elder Espargaro, but the next man up the road was Oliveira, over 8 seconds ahead.
The Marquez problem started seeming less complicated with 6 laps remaining, when his gap to Bagnaia extended to almost one second over the course of one lap. Just when the Spaniard looked like waving the white flag, Bagnaia was suddenly in the gravel at turn 15 with 4 laps remaining, with Oliveira immediately following his example with a crash out of fourth place, the two incidents promoting Quartararo to the provisional podium and crowning him a champion.
Despite the tears of both joy and sorrow in pitlane, there was still a race to be won and Marquez was left in prime position, 8 seconds ahead of teammate Espargaro, bringing Repsol Honda their first one-two finish since their Pedrosa days. Another 9 seconds behind, Quartararo was still unsure of whether he would get to celebrate on the podium because Enea Bastianini’s under-the-radar but almost trademark charge through the field placed him only three tenths off third place at the start of the final lap. The pair lighted up the timing screens on that last lap and the Italian made a brave move at turn 14 to push the champion off the podium. Fourth place didn’t make Quartararo’s celebrations any less sweet, fifth place finisher Zarco the first to congratulate his compatriot. Rins secured sixth ahead of the Aprilia duo of Aleix Espargaro and a fairly impressive Maverick Viñales, while Marini finished just ahead of his brother, Valentino Rossi bidding a fond farewell to his loving home crowd with a fine top 10 placement.
|63||Francesco Bagnaia||Ducati||5 Laps|
|88||Miguel Oliveira||KTM||5 Laps|
|89||Jorge Martin||Ducati||15 Laps|
|27||Iker Lecuona||KTM||17 Laps|
|73||Alex Marquez||Honda||18 Laps|
|43||Jack Miller||Ducati||24 Laps|
|9||Danilo Petrucci||KTM||25 Laps|
|36||Joan Mir||Suzuki||25 Laps|