The battle for pole position unfolded on the grey backdrop of heavy clouds but rain did not disturb the action and drama was allowed to unfold freely. It all started with Marc Marquez sniffing for a tow and getting a premium one from Fabio Quartararo on their first run, but the Spaniard got a taste for it and chased the Frenchman out of pitlane for the final time attack as well. Marquez was glued to Quartararo’s tail and the frustrated youngster could not shake him off - the duo also collecting a sizeable group of pursuers as they were playing cat and mouse on the outlap. It is rare that Marquez is outfoxed but this time it was of his own doing, the Honda man viciously spit off by cold tyres at turn two on the next flying lap.
While this drama was unfolding and replays of the world champion’s crash craved airtime, Maverick Viñales and Franco Morbidelli got some time at the top of the timesheets but Quartararo was quick to bounce back and secure a tremendous pole position on Petronas Yamaha’s home soil. Viñales was pretty magical on mediums before swapping to a fresh soft rear but the Spaniard had to settle for second, in the middle of a Petronas sandwich with Morbidelli completing the front row of the grid, only a tenth of a second off pole.
Jack Miller was best of the rest and lead Ducati in fourth, ahead of pal Cal Crutchlow, who blasted through Q1 on his way to fifth on the grid. Valentino Rossi showed once again that he found some extra tenths overnight to join the second row of the grid, while Alex Rins also improved his qualifying game to start seventh. The Suzuki man opens row three ahead of Danilo Petrucci and a fairly impressive Johann Zarco on the LCR machine.
Andrea Dovizioso had a thoroughly anonymous qualifying, unlike Marquez, whose strategy backfired spectacularly, but the two old rivals finished the day only five thousandths of a second apart and will share fourth row with Pecco Bagnaia – in what is Marquez’s worst qualifying in a couple of years. Joan Mir was unlucky to miss out on Q2 after leading the way for most of Q1 but the Spaniard will be in familiar company from the Espargaro brothers on row five.