The incessant heat of Barcelona was always going to cause some drama in the premier class but it was not quite the kind we expected to have. Despite all the talk about tyre preservation ahead of the 24-lap race, Fabio Quartararo set an impressive pace at the front of the field to take a dominating victory by over six seconds. Poleman Aleix Espargaro seemed to have the speed to take second place but a rookie mistake saw him celebrate one lap too early and allowed the Pramac Ducati duo of Jorge Martin and Johann Zarco to join Quartararo on the podium.
Although the bulk of the race was not particularly action-packed, it was bookmarked by significant events, starting with Quartararo getting the holeshot into turn one over Espargaro while just behind them, Takaaki Nakagami lost the front on the brakes and unluckily tagged both Pecco Bagnaia and Alex Rins, taking them into the gravel with him. That left the Pramac boys with the task of chasing the two race favourites left in contention, with Pol Espargaro and Joan Mir close behind – the Suzuki man particularly impressive coming from 17th on the grid. Luca Marini, Maverick Viñales and the Gresini boys completed the top 10 after the opening lap, with the factory KTMs knocking at the doors as well.
Quartararo’s early pace gave him half a second of advantage straight away, while Martin attacked Aleix Espargaro to lead the pursuit by lap three, dropping Zarco one second back. Another second behind the Frenchman, the younger Espargaro was under pressure from Mir and Marini, the duo quickly getting ahead of the Honda and frequently swapping places in the lead of the group, while Espargaro lost more positions to Bastianini and Viñales, dropping into the clutches of the factory KTMs and continuing to fade. However, Bastianini’s comeback did not last much longer, as he crashed out of seventh position on lap eight, swiftly followed by his teammate, Fabio Di Giannantonio, replicating the mistake at turn 13 by the end of that same lap.
Back at the front, Quartararo extended his advantage to over 2.5 seconds on lap eight, Martin leading the pursuit with Espargaro in tow. The Aprilia man managed to overtake the youngster at the start of lap 10 but had a 3.3-second gap to close if he wanted to challenge Quartararo as well. Although Zarco had rejoined the podium party and was close behind his teammate, didn’t really swap paint and were biding their time to retaliate against Espargaro. Meanwhile, Mir was dropping Marini in the fight for fifth and Alex Marquez had admirably joined the top 10 party as the standout Honda, with Nakagami and Bradl having crashed out and Espargaro steadily fading to the back of the field.
Although the pace started to settle at the halfway point of proceedings, Quartararo still managed to increase his advantage to four seconds, while Aleix Espargaro could not quite shake off Martin and Zarco. The status quo was maintained in the top 10 for the next few laps, with significant gaps from fifth place onwards, Espargaro the only rider under pressure at that stage. With nine laps remaining, Martin pulled alongside the Aprilia man into turn one and deposed his compatriot of second, but Espargaro was not keen to give up just yet, glued to the Ducati’s tail. Zarco kept close but was saving his first attack, hoping that the harder rear tyre would present an advantage at the right time.
With Quartararo off in the distance by five long seconds, all the attention was on the battle for second, where Espargaro returned the favour to Martin at turn one with four laps remaining. The poleman picked up the pace in an attempt to shake off the Ducatis and it seemed to work, Martin quickly dropping half a second back and out of overtaking range for the next couple of laps. There was still a smidgen of drama in store though, Espargaro’s maths failing him as he entered the final lap, disgruntledly waving to the fans and unintentionally gifting Martin and Zarco the remaining podium positions. By the time the Spaniard realised his mistake, Mir had gone past as well and although he snatched fifth back from Marini, it was a massive own goal in the world championship standings. Teammate Viñales came home in seventh position, ahead of the KTMs of Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira, while Alex Marquez rounded out the top ten as the top Honda, coming from last on the grid and after a massive tumble in practice.
Quartararo’s undisputed victory and Espargaro’s rookie mistake helped the Frenchman extend a 22-point advantage in the world championship standings, while Bastianini drops a sizable 53 points back, as the headliner of Ducati’s title bid, with Bagnaia dropping to fifth, 66 points back.
|49||Fabio Di Giannantonio||Ducati||14:56.8140|