Without jinxing it, sunshine was almost breaking through as the premier class had their go on Saturday morning, making the surface nearly fully dry but not any more predictable in terms of temperatures and wind. That meant both that riders were about a second off Friday’s best in the early part of the session and a few riders’ practice got cut short by more or less scary early crashes.
Marc Marquez set camp at the top of the timesheets while sampling a new hard rear tyre but a small tip-off at turn four on a midsession outlap limited his running and allowed Andrea Iannone to steal the spotlight. The Italian already had his name down as fastest of the weekend but his best on Saturday was over seven tenths off. Maverick Viñales put in fresh rubber in the final ten minutes of the session and climbed into the lead ahead of the usual shootout.
In the cool windy conditions, the final attack did not quite light up the timesheets as it normally would, only Valentino Rossi, Jack Miller and Marquez improving on their Friday benchmarks. The Repsol Honda man had the usual superfan spurring him on for the shootout, Iannone chasing the world champion as he recovered top position and kept it to the flag. Viñales was half a tenth off and with strong pace on both the soft and hard tyres, with Miller another two hundredths of a second slower. Despite the select tour guide, Iannone could not improve his early lap time and dropped to fourth on the timesheets but the Italian had excellent rhythm on the soft-hard tyre combination.
Rossi rounded out the top five two and a half tenths off the leader and with a sizeable gap keeping him ahead of Pol Espargaro in sixth, the Spaniard half a second slower than Marquez. Despite the top six position in FP3, the KTM rider was the first under the Q2 line by half a tenth. He was followed on both classifications by Dani Pedrosa, whose final lap was his fastest of the weekend but still not enough to sneak into Q2. Johann Zarco finished eighth on the day but fifth overall due to his significantly faster Friday, while Alvaro Bautista and Andrea Dovizioso rounded out the top ten of the session, eight tenths down on Marquez. While Bautista was quite a way off the combined top ten and will have to challenge the likes of Pedrosa and the Espargaros in Q1, Dovizioso had fourth place assured on combined standings and was free to trial the hard tyre with comparable results to his rivals.
With Cal Crutchlow withdrawn from the race weekend following his unfortunate accident on Friday, Hafizh Syahrin got promoted to a top ten position as the session got underway. The Malaysian rider managed to keep that position despite a hefty fall at turn one barely 15 minutes into the session but his participation in qualifying looked uncertain as he was stretchered away from the place of the incident.
Then there were the odd cases of Danilo Petrucci, who was 17th in FP3 but second on combined standings, and Alex Rins, who finished the morning hitchhiking at the side of the track while 13th but also ensured a Q2 position from eighth overall. The duo will join Iannone, Viñales, Dovizioso, Zarco, Marquez, Miller, Rossi and Syahrin in the direct shootout for pole position.