There was tension in the air even more than usual in Mugello, perhaps because of the numerous contenders on paper, the temperatures heating up tarmac more than at any point during the weekend or it might have just been the yellow flares blurring the horizon. Either way, the lively audience was served a battle of Moto3 proportions and a popular victory for local boy Danilo Petrucci, who takes home his first win in MotoGP and does it with a fever, on home ground and by holding off two feisty championship contenders. Marc Marquez crossed the line glued to his rear tyre while Andrea Dovizioso was in no mood for friendship on track on his 300th Grand Prix start but both of them had to settle for smaller trophies.
Ducati got their victory in their back yard but it wasn’t as easy as they might have hoped. Not even their notorious holeshot device could contend with Marquez into turn one, the poleman showing the way out of San Donato to colleague Cal Crutchlow. However, Dovizioso had made an excellent start from ninth on the grid to make quick work of Crutchlow and chase his main title rival. The Italian brought the backup dancers too, Jack Miller and Petrucci having his back, at least for the moment. One lap later and Alex Rins had advanced from 13th on the grid to fifth, further demoting Crutchlow, who seemed to struggle early on and it never really got any better for the LCR man. Meanwhile, all Yamahas were recovering from either poor grid positions or dreadful starts. Fabio Quartararo, teammate Franco Morbidelli and factory colleague Maverick Vinales all dropped a handful of positions at the start, while Valentino Rossi had progressed only a couple of places on lap one.
By lap four, Rins’s Suzuki brought some diversity at the front of the race, closely stalking Marquez’s Honda and Dovizioso’s Ducati as if he never screwed up in qualifying. No such luck for his Q1 buddy and local deity Rossi, who made slight progress from 18th position at the start but then went wide at turn four and ended up last. Things soon got worse for the adoring audience, Rossi completing another couple of laps before losing the front at turn nine.
The fans’ obvious disappointment was soon at least partially forgotten as the battle for victory provided proper entertainment and the Ducatis were starting to make some noise. Petrucci attacked Marquez in the final turn at start of lap six and in an ambitious attempt to fight back into turn one, Marquez allowed the rest of the Ducati brigade past. Dovizioso hit the front soon after and guided Petrucci and Miller over the line the next time around but with Marquez being the hunter right behind, the order in the lead group had little opportunity to settle. Friendly fire saw Dovizioso and Petrucci exchange the lead on several occasions while Rins, Marquez and Miller also kept busy on the playground, with Crutchlow, Pecco Bagnaia, Takaaki Nakagami and Quartararo biding their time just behind. A second down the road, Vinales was finding some pace as half race was approaching and the Spaniard was edging ever closer to the sizeable lead pack.
At the halfway mark, Petrucci crossed the line in the lead from his teammate, with Rins and Marquez keeping each other entertained, the Honda flying past the Suzuki into San Donato. The other six podium contenders preferred to keep their noses clean, although Bagnaia’s Ducati did make some noise as it scraped the tarmac at the last corner and abandoned the fight with 11 laps remaining.
With Petrucci at the front, the pace was starting to heat up and Marquez provided an increasingly less rare onboard of a Honda slipstreaming Dovizioso’s Ducati into turn one as the Spaniard went on to chase Petrucci. As laptimes were dropping, only Rins and Miller seemed able to keep up with the leaders while Nakagami and Crutchlow dropped two seconds back and were working hard to fend off Quartararo and Vinales.
With eight laps remaining, the lead group reduced further as Miller, having just set the fastest lap of the race, slid out of contention and put an end to a tough day for the Pramac team – a big shame for that beautiful yet unlucky livery. Meanwhile, the leading quartet seemed to have calmed down while sorting out their battle plans, Petrucci kept closely in check by Marquez, Dovizioso and Rins. Nakagami had disposed of his teammate and was running in a lonely fifth, a luxury Crutchlow was not afforded as he soon got overtaken by the resurging Vinales.
The factory Ducatis resumed formation at the front with five laps remaining, Dovizioso showing some close combat skills to the world champion into turn one and then following the same recipe with teammate Petrucci one lap later. If Petrucci had any suggested mapping it didn’t really show, Ducati’s men swapping places without swapping paintwork for the last handful of laps. Marquez and Rins were keeping a close eye on the battle but the Suzuki was struggling to find a way past the three rockets ahead.
The final lap might as well have arrived with the Jaws theme tune playing, Dovizioso first at the penultimate crossing of the line, Marquez first into turn one and Petrucci first by turn two. Petrucci then pulled off another miracle and held off Marquez for the rest of the lap. The Honda took the checkered flag only four hundredths of a second after the Ducati and Petrucci made it three wins in a row for his team in Mugello. After surviving the forceful turn one embrace between Petrucci and Marquez, Dovizioso lost his chance at a last lap attack and almost lost third place to Rins in the final turn. The Suzuki man settled for a hard fought fourth, while Nakagami was nearly as happy as the winner, fifth on a year-old Honda and joining parc ferme as lead independent rider. Vinales was top Yamaha in sixth place, ahead of wildcard Michele Pirro and a fading Crutchlow. Pol Espargaro continued a fine run for KTM with a ninth spot, one ahead of rookie revelation Quartararo.
The hat-trick evaded Marquez but the Spaniard heads into his home race with a 12 point lead on Dovizioso. The rest of the contenders are over a race win’s worth of points away, Rins third and 27 points back, Petrucci fourth with 33 points less and Rossi fifth but trailing Marquez by 43 points.
|43||Jack MILLER||Ducati||8 Laps|
|63||Francesco BAGNAIA||Ducati||12 Laps|
|55||Hafizh SYAHRIN||KTM||14 Laps|
|46||Valentino ROSSI||Yamaha||16 Laps|
|21||Franco MORBIDELLI||Yamaha||18 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|53||Tito RABAT||Ducati||0 Lap|