The first Indonesian Grand Prix in 25 years proved memorable in more ways than one and only some of them positive. Following news that Marc Marquez was declared unfit to participate due to a head concussion sustained in a nasty high side in warm up, it seemed that the weather gods did not appreciate the development and sent a heavy downpour before riders got a chance to leave pitlane. With slow motion footage of lightning hitting the track and a local lady kindly performing some rain-chasing ritual in pitlane, it was quite a surreal build-up to the already shortened 20-lap race. Over an hour later than planned, the ritual paid off, rain turned to light drizzle, the marching band came out and riders lined up on a soaking wet grid. Another 40 minutes later, Miguel Oliveira claimed the rain master crown after a faultless race spent mostly at the front of the pack and although Fabio Quartararo missed out on victory, he had a pretty impressive comeback in tricky conditions to claim second. Despite the gaggle of Ducatis on the first few rows of the grid, only Johann Zarco managed to make it onto the podium.
Poleman Quartararo had made a decent start but it was Oliveira who stole the show straight away, going from seventh on the grid to second into turn one, the top two men quickly stretching a half second gap over the rest of the pack led by Jack Miller, fast starting Alex Rins and Zarco. Quartararo’s Indonesian reign came to an abrupt end before completing the opening lap, when he lost momentum going onto the kerbs at the final corner, which allowed Oliveira to get past and also gave Miller an opportunity to claim second going into turn one. Miller then went one better at turn 10, overtaking Oliveira to claim the lead. The KTM man was the only rider holding onto the leader by lap four, with Quartararo dropping over one second back and into the clutches of Rins, Zarco, Joan Mir and Franco Morbidelli, who had swiftly made up for the grid penalty. Meanwhile, Jorge Martin and Pecco Bagnaia were over four seconds behind their leading Ducati colleague, with Pol Espargaro also joining them in the top 10, while round one winner Enea Bastianini dropped to the bottom of the top 20 as he figured out the tricky conditions.
Oliveira decided that lap five was the right moment to reclaim the lead from Miller at turn 12 and the KTM man quickly extended a one second gap over the Ducati, while Rins was determined to close the two second gap to the man ahead, with Zarco in tow but not within striking distance. Quartararo settled in fifth position and Mir had to find eight tenths of a second if he was to challenge for his place. Meanwhile, Martin lost some ground due to a scary wiggle on the kerbs and then hit a wet patch heading into turn one and crashed out of seventh position at the start of lap 8. Colleague Bagnaia had a moment of his own at turn 1 but managed to save his wildly shaking machine and re-join in 12th place. White paint also punished Pol Espargaro with an off-track excursion and it helped Bagnaia back into the top 10 by the halfway mark of the race.
Back at the front, Oliveira was having considerably more fun, having extended his advantage to 2.5 seconds going into the second half of the race, while Rins was not making that much progress to catch up with Miller. However, Zarco was the fastest man on track at that stage and soon deposed Rins of third and had a go at reeling in Miller. Quartararo was less than a second behind the duo and there didn’t seem to be any challenge from behind, with Mir and Morbidelli running pretty lonely races in the top 7. Luca Marini did admirably to fend off Brad Binder and Bagnaia in the rest of the top 10, while Bastianini picked up the pace in the second half of the race to join the top 15.
With 8 laps to go, Oliveira was four seconds ahead and Miller had an eager Zarco breathing down his neck and looking for a way past. Rins was no longer a threat from behind, the Suzuki man suddenly dropping behind Quartararo after a mistake at turn 16, leaving the Yamaha man over a second behind the battle for second. Although Zarco was glued to Miller’s rear wheel, much of the action at that stage of the race came from the battle for 8th, where Marini faced the Binder and Espargaro brothers, Darryn particularly impressive and eventually spending a significant amount of time leading that group.
Change was afoot with six laps remaining, when Quartararo caught up with the two Ducatis ahead, helped by their occasional exchanges, and the world champion picked up second place at turn 12. As the fastest man on track, the Frenchman distanced the red bikes over the next lap, leaving Zarco and Miller to fight it out for third. With three laps to go, Quartararo found some more speed and got within three seconds of Oliveira, but the Portuguese rider quickly responded with a personal best and kept the Yamaha at a safe distance all the way to the chequered flag. Zarco also closed in on his compatriot, but it was too late to challenge and he settled for third. Miller, Rins, Mir and Morbidelli took the rest of the top 7 places in a pretty uneventful race end for the quartet, while the fight for eight place was a great deal more exciting. After a slow start, Bastianini found his speed to rejoin the top 10 in the closing stages and had a few spicy exchanges with top rookie Darryn Binder, but experience won out in the end and both Brad Binder and Aleix Espargaro got ahead of the youngsters. Darryn still kept a well-deserved top 10 position, while 11th place was enough for Bastianini to keep the lead of the championship.
Despite the difficult Sunday, Bastianini continues to be the championship leader by two points from Brad Binder, Quartararo climbing into third, with a three-point deficit and closely followed by Oliveira. Meanwhile, Pecco Bagnaia heads to round three with only one point on the board, after fading badly in the last few laps.
|18||49||Fabio Di Giannantonio||Ducati||47.915|