A roaring and radiant Jerez set the scene for the premier class race, the warmth of the asphalt matching the welcome from the packed stands and hills around the beloved Spanish circuit. Although the 25-lap race was not exactly stuffed with overtakes, the crowds were rewarded with some spectacular performances in the podium battle and a fifth different winner of the season. Although he spent the race under constant pressure from the reigning world champion, Pecco Bagnaia withstood all of that to lead the way from start to finish and return to the top step of the podium. Fabio Quartararo came within two tenths of a second of victory and although he could not find a way around the faultless Italian, he managed to extend his hold on the championship standings. Meanwhile, Aleix Espargaro showed the patience of a saint in the race-long battle for third and eventually found the perfect opportunity to lose Aprilia their concessions with another podium.
Bagnaia was on a mission from the moment the lights went off on the grid, as Ducati’s holeshot was not to be defeated and helping him keep prime position from pole, ahead of Quartararo, while fellow front row starter Espargaro dropped behind Jack Miller, Takaaki Nakagami and Marc Marquez. Keen to find some clean air, Quartararo was immediately looking for a gap around Bagnaia but was unable to challenge the Ducati in the early stages. However, the duo built up a half second advantage over the pursuers led by Miller over the first couple of laps, the gap growing to a full second by lap four. While Miller pushed to bridge that gap, Marquez quickly picked up Nakagami for 4th and the Japanese rider started losing ground to the likes of Aleix Espargaro and Joan Mir, finding himself one second behind the pursuit by lap six. Having started outside of the top 10 of the grid, Enea Bastianini and Alex Rins were still stuck there after the first few laps, but at least were still in the game, unlike Jorge Martin, who took a tumble on the opening lap.
The calm before the storm set in after the first handful of laps, Bagnaia and Quartararo with a pace of their own and a comfortable advantage over the pending battle for the final podium position between Miller, Marquez and Espargaro, Mir losing a bit of ground on lap six by going wide at the first corner. As predicted, Bagnaia and Quartararo were untouchable at the front, the Frenchman keeping close but biding his time for an attack, while also dropping Miller four seconds back by lap 10, the Australian under pressure from a very determined Marquez. While Aleix Espargaro was keeping a close eye on the battle for that final podium position, Mir lost even more ground, soon to be challenged by Nakagami for sixth place. Marco Bezzecchi was leading the fight for eighth position, with Bastianini finally joining the top 10, helped by a crash from Johann Zarco. Meanwhile, Rins was around two seconds behind the top 10 places but a big moment at turn 12 took him on the scenic gravel route and he rejoined outside of the top 20, only recovering a couple of positions by the time the chequered flag waved.
As the race entered its second half, Bagnaia seemed to put some space in between himself and Quartararo, the Yamaha man dropping almost a second behind the leader, but Quartararo heeded the warning and quickly picked up the pace to close the gap, while giving himself some space to spare his tyres. Six seconds back and counting, Marquez wiggled around trying to find a solution to the Miller conundrum but didn’t appreciate the Ducati’s speed, with Espargaro keeping close and saving his bid for the podium for the closing stages of the race. Marquez finally made his move with five laps to go, Miller taking his turn to apply pressure on the Honda but then Aleix Espargaro saw an opportunity to take two for the price of one at the final corner, attacking Miller while Marquez was distracted with an old-style elbow-scraping save. Miller also demoted the unsettled Spaniard by turn one and the shenanigans briefly allowed Mir to join the podium party, but it was more of a taster than a rave. Once Aleix Espargaro hit clean air, he quickly put a second’s gap into the rest of the group, while Marquez was once again stuck staring at Miller’s exhaust.
All that metaphorical cloud build-up but the storm never arrived, Bagnaia entering the final lap with a half second advantage and although Quartararo got closer throughout the lap, the Italian was untouchable until the chequered flag. The Frenchman will find some consolation in the ten second gap over the rest of the pack and the fact he is once more the sole leader in the world championship. Aleix Espargaro’s impeccable timing and sliver of luck secured him back-to-back podiums, while Marquez couldn’t sit still until he got past Miller for fourth on the final lap, to the delight of the fans sat around turn eight. Mir very briefly looked like a podium contender towards the end but settled for sixth, ahead of Nakagami, while Bastianini eventually found a way past Bezzecchi to take eighth place. Brad Binder saved a top 10 for KTM, while Rins’ 19th position lost him significant ground in the title chase.
Quartararo’s second place leaves him with a seven-point advantage over Aleix Espargaro in the championship standings, with Bastianini climbing into third and tied with Rins on a 20-point deficit. Bagnaia jumps into fifth following his impressive victory, 33 points behind the leader, same as Mir.
|18||49||Fabio Di Giannantonio||Ducati||35.361|