A minute’s silence for the heart-wrenching loss of Moto3 rider Jason Dupasquier was the most touching and unsettling way to start the premier class race and it was equally poignant to see Fabio Quartararo stop at turn 9 to dedicate his outstanding victory to the Swiss rider. The poleman was untouchable throughout the 23 laps, after his only rival on paper abandoned the fight early on and Ducati were left to ponder “what if...”. The rest of the podium positions were settled after a game of musical chairs due to track limits infringements for both podium men on the final lap. In the end, Miguel Oliveira turned his best qualifying of the season into second place on the podium and the best placement for a KTM around Mugello, while reigning world champion Joan Mir makes his return to the podium in third.
After a bit of pre-race track action that saw Enea Bastianini bump into the back of Johann Zarco as they were lining up on the grid, the race got underway without the Italian and with the Frenchman pencilling in an appointment with race direction. Blissfully unaware of all that, Quartararo put his brand new holeshot device to good use but it was still no competition for the Ducati, Pecco Bagnaia arriving at San Donato ahead of the poleman. Oliveira had also made an excellent start to trail the favourites ahead of Zarco, Jack Miller, Brad Binder, Mir and Alex Rins, while second row starter Aleix Espargaro dropped to 9th, ahead of Marc Marquez. Having started 13th after the underwhelming drama of qualifying, Maverick Viñales dropped to 16th after the start. The other party to that story didn’t get much luckier either, Marquez tumbling out of contention on the second lap at turn three and giving his shoulder some extra rest.
Before the replays could catch up with the former world champion’s adventures, Pecco Bagnaia unwittingly decided to follow his elder's example and crashed out at Arrabbiata 2 on that same lap, with much bigger repercussions on the world championship. Despite watching his main rival abandon ship early on, Quartararo did not have the win handed on a plate, as Zarco picked up the baton for Ducati and immediately challenged his compatriot. The Frenchmen traded places over the next couple of laps, with Oliveira, Miller and the Suzukis as patient observers for the time being. Aleix Espargaro and Binder dropped about a second back, with the rest of the field almost two seconds behind, which was particularly worrying for Viñales, who was still 12th and about six seconds off the lead already.
Quartararo seemed to have the upper hand in the battle of the Frenchmen, stretching an eight-tenth gap by lap 6, but Zarco kept reducing the distance on the main straight. Oliveira seemed to be the only rider able to keep up with the leaders in the early stages, as Miller dropped a second back while under attack from the Suzukis and relying on straight line speed to get back ahead of them after every overtake. Rins eventually made a move stick early on lap 8 and Mir followed his example later in the lap, encouraging Binder to come through as well. Left down in 7th position and behind a rapid KTM, Miller couldn’t reply going into turn 1 next time around. While losing them ground on the leading trio, the exchanges also allowed Binder and Aleix Espargaro to join the fun.
Meanwhile, Quartararo extended his advantage at the front to over two seconds from Zarco and Oliveira by lap 10, while the Suzuki-led chasing group had another two seconds to find to join the podium festivities. Other than the occasional swap between Mir and Rins, status quo was maintained for the next few laps and the Suzuki men were still steadily closing the gap to the podium positions, leaving Binder, Miller and Aleix Espargaro behind.
Quartararo looked like he was running away with it by the halfway stage of proceedings, his gap always increasing and comfortably over three seconds ahead of the enlarging battle for second, where Zarco and Oliveira were soon to be joined by Mir and Rins. The Suzukis completely bridged the gap with 8 laps remaining and Oliveira promptly moved into second as he sensed the threat. Zarco held onto the final podium position only one more lap, until Mir attacked at turn 11 but the Pramac man was slightly more successful in keeping Rins at bay for the next couple of laps, the Spaniard only making a move stick with 5 laps remaining. Once he got that job done, Rins pushed to catch up with his teammate but didn’t get to complete that lap and crashed out at the final corner.
With Quartararo almost entering another time zone at the front, all eyes were on the battle for second for the final couple of laps, where Mir was looking for a way around Oliveira while Zarco didn't seemed completely out of podium contention just yet. The final lap came and went without any opportunity for Mir to attack and the trio maintained position until the checkered flag. The track limits curse hit the podium in all three classes today and saw Oliveira get demoted one position for exceeding track limits on the last lap but then Mir was found to have committed the same minor infraction so the original order was reinstated. Zarco missed out on the podium by half a second, with Binder, Miller and Aleix Espargaro crossing the line with considerable distance between them. Benefitting from a late crash from Takaaki Nakagami, Viñales advanced to eighth place, with Danilo Petrucci and Valentino Rossi completing the top 10 in an underwhelming day for the home team.
Quartararo’s joy and Bagnaia’s despair means that the Frenchman heads into round 7 with a 24 point advantage and with Zarco as his main challenger. Bagnaia drops 26 points back, with Miller fourth on a 31 point deficit and Mir climbing into fifth at minus 40.
|30||Takaaki Nakagami||Honda||4 Laps|
|42||Alex Rins||Suzuki||5 Laps|
|63||Francesco Bagnaia||Ducati||22 Laps|
|93||Marc Marquez||Honda||22 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|23||Enea Bastianini||Ducati||0 Lap|