It took over half a season to finally get a proper battle between the two title challengers of the intermediate class and it was worth the wait. Bagnaia vs Oliveira was the story of the day at the picturesque Red Bull Ring, the Italian claiming bragging rights in the final corner, stealing the win from his Portuguese rival. Oliveira had led for almost the entire race and will have been disappointed to relinquish the win and the championship lead to Bagnaia so late in proceedings. Five seconds behind that battle, Luca Marini was best of the rest as he continued to go from strength to strength and claim the final podium position.
Bagnaia had started from pole position but a poor launch allowed Oliveira past and the SKY rider then tangled with Fabio Quartararo. The Frenchman came off the worse as he went off the circuit and dropped outside the top 20. Meanwhile, Jorge Navarro demoted Bagnaia another place and set off for Oliveira but the leader already had half a second in hand by the end of lap one. The few incidents at the start caused one second’s gap to appear between the three leaders and the rest of the pack, led by Alex Marquez, who had a push of his own with Marcel Schrotter. The Spaniard quickly separated from the chasing group but had a bit of work to do to bridge the gap to Bagnaia.
By lap five, Oliveira’s advantage stretched to one second and Bagnaia picked up the task of cutting that gap once he made it past Navarro. Marquez was faster than the leaders at this point so he managed to tag along to the lead three and lined up Navarro. Mattia Pasini was another seven tenths of a second back, stuck in no man’s land, one second ahead of the youngsters’ battle between Marini, Brad Binder and Joan Mir. The Spaniard had a dismal qualifying but got up to speed real fast to join the top eight. Both Schrotter and Iker Lecuona showed good speed throughout the weekend and were completing the top ten but with a bit of a gap to the men ahead. Meanwhile, Quartararo was up to 11th by lap ten.
Marquez finally made a move on Navarro to claim third on lap ten and Pasini also followed him through, but the Marc VDS rider was already two and a half seconds down on Oliveira and Bagnaia. And bringing down that gap looked difficult with Pasini, Navarro, Marini and Binder waiting to pounce right behind him. Teammate Mir was no longer an issue as he had dropped a second on the group.
Back at the front, Bagnaia looked like he was biding his time behind Oliveira, while Pasini took his turn on provisional podium ahead of Marquez. Marini was also in that battle but was hit with a penalty for repeatedly exceeding track limits and had to drop one place. That did not lose him too much time and the Italian soon made it back past Marquez and Pasini to claim a provisional podium with seven laps to go, four seconds behind the victory battle.
Oliveira finally saw a rear tyre ahead of him with five laps remaining, when Bagnaia showed intentions but could not make it stick. The Italian had to put something together on the final lap and he held his nerve to make it happen in the final turn after a bit of pain swapping with his rival. Marquez and Marini were embroiled in a battle of their own for the final podium spot but that ended in the runoff of the final corner when Marquez attacked overenthusiastically and slid out of contention. Pasini settled for fourth, with a best result of the season for Navarro in fifth. Positions five to ten went to Binder, Schrotter, Mir, Quartararo and Lecuona.
Bagnaia’s impressive win puts him back ahead in the title battle, leading Oliveira by three points. Marquez loses further ground, 76 points down but keeps third position.
|9||20||Fabio QUARTARARO||Speed Up||+16.250|
|12||52||Danny KENT||Speed Up||+17.716|
|16||89||Khairul Idham PAWI||Kalex||+28.493|
|22||64||Bo BENDSNEYDER||Tech 3||+42.766|
|73||Alex MARQUEZ||Kalex||1 Lap|
|22||Sam LOWES||KTM||8 Laps|
|21||Federico FULIGNI||Kalex||8 Laps|
|24||Simone CORSI||Kalex||22 Laps|
|87||Remy GARDNER||Tech 3||22 Laps|
|40||Augusto FERNANDEZ||Kalex||22 Laps|