20 laps in Qatar with unusual circumstances that would have a drastic effect on the podium.
As the lights went out, possibly more than once, several riders visibly twitched on the grid, bringing the new jump start rules to the fore. Jonas Folger got to the first turn first and set about breaking away from Taka Nakagami, Sam Lowes and Thomas Luthi. Lowes and Luthi got past Nakagami and at the end of the first lap, Folger had over a second of a lead from the fight behind him and the jump start notices started coming in.
Sam Lowes, Alex Rins, Johann Zarco and Marcel Schrotter all got issued ride through penalties for jumping the start, while Franco Morbidelli avoided one in spite of lurching just as obviously as other riders. His team were working on the assumption that he would get a penalty, but instead, he settled into third place directly behind Luthi who was over a second and a half behind Folger.
On the third lap, Morbidelli's luck doubled down and Jonas Folger lost adhesion and crashed out unharmed but unable to get back into the race. A lap later, the riders with penalties took their long slow ride through the pits and rejoined out of the points.
Morbidelli and Luthi swapped places a few times, breaking away with a two second gap to third place, a battle between Sandro Cortese and Simone Corsi, and the race settled down.
The jump start rules this year have reverted to the old rules only with the new technology. If you move and don't gain an advantage, you do not get a penalty, unlike last year when the slightest twitch would get you penalised. To add to the controversy, Alex Marquez, having crashed out, made the comment in an interview that he saw the lights flicker at the start, which would explain why so many riders prematurely lurched at the start.
On lap twelve, Morbidelli took the lead from Luthi but the Swiss rider showed no intention to take the lead back over the next few laps, with a five second cushion to Corsi and Cortese behind the leading pair. Five laps from the end, a second clanger was dropped and Morbidelli and Cortese were placed under investigation for jump starts, with the pair getting handed 20-second penalties as Luthi's team tried to work out how to convey this information to their rider.
Luthi apparently didn't get the message and, as the last lap started, he blasted past Morbidelli, finally making use of the slipstream move he'd been saving up, and he led into turn one. Behind them, Luis Salom had bridged the gap, having passed both Danny Kent and Hafizh Syahrin, and he joined in the Cortese and Corsi fight.
Thomas Luthi rode the last lap without giving up an inch and sailed to a hard-earned victory that would have been his even if Franco Morbidelli's last ditch efforts had worked. Luis Salom took third place on the track from Simone Corsi, but the pair filled the podium with Folger as the penalties were calculated.
Needless to say this story is developing and we haven't heard the last of it, but the results are in and places have been settled.
|3||24||Simone CORSI||Speed Up||+9.665|
|19||32||Isaac VIÑALES||Tech 3||+46.543|
|49||Axel PONS||Kalex||4 Laps|
|97||Xavi VIERGE||Tech 3||5 Laps|
|19||Xavier SIMEON||Speed Up||6 Laps|
|73||Alex MARQUEZ||Kalex||14 Laps|
|94||Jonas FOLGER||Kalex||18 Laps|
|60||Julian SIMON||Speed Up||19 Laps|
|57||Edgar PONS||Kalex||19 Laps|