An overcast cathedral invited premier class riders to a very noisy flare-filled sermon and the first to arrive was poleman Pecco Bagnaia, who rode a flawless race and was not intimidated by title rivals, rookies or rain flags on his way to his third victory of the season. The winner wasn’t even the loudest man in parc fermé, a delightfully joyous Mooney VR46 team celebrating their and Marco Bezzecchi’s first podium, the rookie securing a well-deserved second place ahead of Maverick Viñales, who takes his first podium for Aprilia.
With Bagnaia setting off in the distance as soon as the lights turned off on the grid, churchgoers had to focus their attention on the battle for best-of-the-rest, where Jorge Martin and Aleix Espargaro were making Fabio Quartararo’s life harder on the opening lap. While the Frenchman was finding a way past the Spaniards, Bagnaia extended a gap that nudged nine tenths of a second by the end of the first lap. Espargaro hinted at reducing that gap to half a second on the second lap, with Quartararo in tow, while Bezzecchi attacked Martin and Jack Miller served his long lap penalty, inviting Brad Binder into sixth position early on. The penalty dropped the Australian to the bottom of the top 10, ahead of the big losers of the opening lap, Johann Zarco having dropped to 11th position and Alex Rins to 16th, while Enea Bastianini found a couple places into 13th and Joan Mir lingered in 14th after a troubled start.
With Bagnaia attempting to stretch a healthy gap at the front, Quartararo was keen to pick up the pursuit – perhaps too keen – and made a rare mistake, losing the front at turn five while overtaking Espargaro and taking both of them through the gravel trap. Both riders were able to rejoin, Espargaro in 15th position, eight seconds off the lead, and Quartararo last, nine seconds behind his teammate. The early drama left Bagnaia with a generous one second advantage over Bezzecchi only five laps into the race, but the rookie, under pressure from Martin, set a hot pace and was finding a tenth here and there, to keep the gap manageable. Another second and a half behind, Binder led the pursuit from Viñales, while Miller was catching up once more after serving his penalty, with Taka Nakagami and Miguel Oliveira in tow. Helped somewhat by the incident ahead, Zarco and Mir joined the top 10 positions, with the Gresini duo knocking on the doors while Espargaro was pushing to bridge the one second gap to the two Ducatis. With not much movement at the front, the cameras were busy following Quartararo’s quick pitstop before re-joining the action one lap down and promptly getting thrown off again at turn five – the Frenchman looking annoyed and bruised but generally okay.
Although Bagnaia was under no immediate threat, Bezzecchi and Martin were keeping him on his toes until the hallway point of proceedings, when the leader picked up the pace and increased his advantage to 1.5 seconds over the next couple of laps. Another second behind the youngsters, Viñales had picked up the pursuit from Binder and Miller, while Nakagami dropped from 7th to 11th after serving a long lap penalty for exceeding track limits, leaving Oliveira in a rather lonely seventh position but soon to have company from a charging Aleix Espargaro, who made quick work of Mir and Zarco with 11 laps remaining.
As if the early drama was not enough, white flags started waved with 10 laps left, with sparse spots of rain showing on cameras. The Pramac riders were the first to blink, both of them losing a handful of positions over the next lap, Martin dropping to 6th and Zarco to 13th, but the rest of the field did not seem to be too bothered. Bagnaia maintained a one second gap over Bezzecchi, who in turn had the same advantage over Viñales, but with our usual rain enthusiasts battling it out for fifth just behind him, Miller attacking Binder with six laps remaining. Martin maintained position in sixth, with a just-about comfortable gap over Espargaro, while Mir, Oliveira and Rins settled the remaining top 10 positions.
With the rain flags proving to be a storm in a teacup, Bagnaia entered the final couple of laps with nearly two seconds’ advantage, while his rookie VR46 Academy colleague cruised home to secure the second step on the podium. However, Viñales’ third place was still under threat from Miller and the Ducati man attacked at the GT chicane before the start of final lap but ran wide and allowed Viñales to escape while Miller himself dropped into Binder’s clutches. Aleix Espargaro, who had robbed Martin of sixth on the penultimate lap, patiently watched the squabble between Miller and Binder and saw an opportunity to slide past both of them at the final chicane to claim fourth. Binder took fifth ahead of Miller, while Martin faded to seventh and Mir, Oliveira and Rins completed the top 10. An anonymous Bastianini came home in 11th position, ahead of the lead Honda of Nakagami in 12th.
Despite Quartararo’s blunder, Espargaro recovered to reduce the gap in the world championship to 21 points, so the Spaniard quite enthusiastically accepted his friend's apologies. Zarco lost further ground with a 58-point deficit, while victor Bagnaia is 66 points behind.
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