The premier class race couldn’t quite match the drama of their lightweight counterparts, which is pretty challenging at the best of times, but it still provided some light entertainment for the large crowds around the Algarve circuit. First of all, they got to see Pecco Bagnaia finish what he started one week ago, the Italian taking a dominant victory and securing Ducati the constructors’ title. Then they witnessed the return of Joan Mir to the podium and Jack Miller getting saved by the bell – the red flag to be precise – and taking the final podium spot.
Although Bagnaia made a less-than-ideal start from pole position and allowed Miller to lead the way into turn 1, the Italian immediately retaliated at turn 2 to retake control of proceedings. Right behind the red bikes, Mir was doing some early paint scrubbing with Jorge Martin but the Suzuki swiftly recovered to get past both Martin and Miller. Behind the overwhelmingly-Ducati brigade, Alex Marquez made a rocket launch from a best qualifying position of 8th to join top 5 straight away, ahead of Fabio Quartararo and Iker Lecuona.
An impeccable Bagnaia attempted an escape at the front and only Mir managed to keep up with him early on, Miller and Martin dropping a second back by lap 5. Marquez and Quartararo closed in on the Ducatis and the Honda man had a go at Martin at turn 3 but the Bologna bullet was not easy prey and the exchange allowed Miller a bit of breathing room. Marquez spent the next few laps trying to reel in Miller, while fending off Martin and Quartararo – although the duo were not making much noise at that stage and had a reasonably comfortable one second gap to Johann Zarco. The Frenchman kept Pol Espargaro at a safe distance, while Miguel Oliveira got stuck in 9th after a very impressive start in front of the home crowd.
By lap 6, Bagnaia’s rapid pace looked like too much for Mir, the Suzuki man dropping eight tenths behind and the same gap keeping him ahead of Miller. Mir tried to manage that gap over the next few laps, but he was a full second behind Bagnaia by lap 10. While the Suzuki man still posted personal best sector times, in an attempt to stay in victory contention, there was little to worry from behind, where Marquez admirably beat the Ducati of Miller to turn 1 to join the provisional podium with 14 laps remaining. However, the LCR man was a second and a half behind Mir and with Miller sticking close behind, while ditching Martin. There were small changes in the rest of the top 10 too, a moment for Quartararo losing him 6th to compatriot Zarco, while Alex Rins attacked Oliveira for 9th.
Bagnaia continued his rule at the front, over two seconds ahead of Mir with 10 laps remaining, while Marquez was finding a tenth here and there to get within a second of the Suzuki. The progress stopped there, as Marquez seemed to settle for third and focused on defending that, with Miller still breathing down his neck. Another two seconds behind, Quartararo started making some noise with 8 laps remaining, back past Zarco and chasing Martin for 5th place.
With Bagnaia impeccable at the front and Mir out of reach in second, all eyes were on the fight for the final podium place, where Miller started his attack on Marquez and the Spaniard defended admirably until the final 5 laps, when a mistake from Marquez allowed Miller past. The Australian tried to extend a gap straight away, but Marquez was not ready to give up just yet. While that battle was unfolding, Quartararo was putting up a fight to the Pramac boys but all the reward he got was a first DNF of the season, courtesy of a crash at turn 5 with 5 laps remaining.
The cameras quickly moved from the gravel trap back to the third place battle but before Marquez could make another attack, the red flag started waving following an incident at turn 13 with Iker Lecuona and Miguel Oliveira, making a bad weekend for KTM even worse. Both riders were thankfully conscious and the results at the end of lap 23 were declared final, confirming Bagnaia as the convincing victor ahead of Mir and Miller. Marquez settled for fourth as his best result of the season, while Zarco secured top independent rider with fifth place. A late charge from Pol Espargaro handed him sixth, ahead of Martin and Rins, while Enea Bastianini and Brad Binder joined the top 10 after the late crashes.
|88||Miguel Oliveira||KTM||1 Lap|
|27||Iker Lecuona||KTM||1 Lap|
|20||Fabio Quartararo||Yamaha||3 Laps|
|41||Aleix Espargaro||Aprilia||16 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|9||Danilo Petrucci||KTM||0 Lap|