The habitual thrill of MotoGP qualifying attracted some unwelcome gloomy visitors over the scenic Italian circuit but the clouds behaved themselves long enough for us to enjoy two standout sessions – for very different reasons. It was hardly a surprise to see Fabio Quartararo at the top of the timesheets as soon as he was unleashed on track and because he had no real challenger, the Frenchman challenged himself to improve the all time lap record once sat on provisional pole. He promptly achieved that with one minute left on the clock and claimed his fourth consecutive pole position of the season. However, a late charge from Pecco Bagnaia and Johann Zarco ensured that the Yamaha man won’t be too comfortable going into turn 1 on Sunday, with the fast-starting Ducatis waiting to pounce from the front row of the grid.
Aleix Espargaro made the best of his escape from Q1 and turned it into a fine second row start, having spent much of Q1 inside the top three positions. He will be in familiar company from Jack Miller and Brad Binder, who pushed teammate Miguel Oliveira to row three. The Portuguese rider opens a strong third row featuring the Suzuki duo of Alex Rins and Joan Mir, while Franco Morbidelli rounded out the top ten on home soil.
Meanwhile, Maverick Viñales watched from his garage with a face like thunder as the TV director turned the camera towards public enemy number one: Marc Marquez. Fully aware that he needs a solid reference to tackle Q1, the Honda man had left pitlane superglued to the back of his compatriot. The chosen target was unhappy but after an underwhelming first run, Viñales had little time to shake off the unwanted attention from both Marquez brothers on his second run, as much as he tried to. Marquez played his cards and claimed top spot in the session, while Viñales was set free for one final flying lap that he ultimately messed up. And that, kids, is the tale of how Marquez joined his teammate on the fourth row of the grid and Viñales, with solid race pace, has to mount a comeback from 13th grid position.