The glorious sunshine of Saturday morning was replaced by rain and thunder by the time the premier class came out to fight for pole, injecting some extra adrenaline into Q1 and adding a red flag, a dramatic background and a surprise Ducati on pole in Q2. It’s not often than the same rider headlines both qualifying sessions but Fabio Di Giannantonio did just that on Saturday afternoon, the rookie taking on the dodgy conditions of Q1 on slick tyres and then answering every challenge posed by his rivals to secure a maiden pole position in the premier class on home soil. Even without Rossi in the picture, the home crowd still got a dream front row headed by two rookies, Di Giannantonio ahead of Marco Bezzecchi and with Luca Marini joining them in the parc fermé limelight.
As expected, Ducati machines locked-out the top five in qualifying, albeit not in the order they perhaps predicted, with Johann Zarco and Pecco Bagnaia down on the second row, about three tenths off pole. The five men were the featured actors in Q2, the rest of the cast demoted to occasional cameos or mere extras, but never threatening pole position. Fabio Quartararo was best of the rest and will be starting from the back of the second row, while a frustrated Aleix Espargaro had to make do with seventh place, on third row and in the company of Takaaki Nakagami and Pol Espargaro as top Hondas.
Although only half a second off pole, Enea Bastianini had to settle for fourth row, ahead of Jorge Martin, both riders unable to match the pace of their sister machines. If the two went a bit under the radar throughout qualifying, Marc Marquez didn’t enjoy much anonymity, first robbing Miller of a Q2 place with a perfect tow and then causing a red flag at the start of Q2, with a big high-side-turned-Honda-barbeque at turn two. Thankfully unharmed, Marquez was able to rejoin the action but all the shaking and wobbling on his spare machine did not make him any quicker than 12th. However, he will start from the middle of the fourth row, promoted one position by a 3-place grid penalty for Martin, after impeding another rider in FP3.
The penalty also promotes Jack Miller to fourth row, the Australian quick in Q1 but with Marquez and Di Giannantonio hot on his tail and robbing him across the finish line. Martin drops to the middle of fifth row, in between Michele Pirro and Miguel Oliveira. Although Brad Binder was the trendsetter in Q1, as the first rider to brave going out on slicks while rain flags were waving, he eventually got demoted to 16th on the grid – still not as bad as the Suzukis, with Joan Mir in 17th, Alex Rins in 21st and neither looking like a threat for Q2 positions.
|1||49||Fabio Di Giannantonio||Ducati||1:46.156|
|Q2||49||Fabio Di Giannantonio||Ducati||1:47.219|