After their younger colleagues set high expectations for the local crowds, the premier class had a tough task to complete the home hero hat-trick and it soon proved nearly impossible. In a bit of a déjà vu from last time out in Misano, Enea Bastianini chased his future teammate all race long, but this time around he took the chequered flag four hundredths of a second ahead, to claim a fourth victory of the season. Although he was denied a win, Pecco Bagnaia’s second place sealed the deal on Ducati’s title in the Constructors’ championship, while Aleix Espargaro climbs back onto the last step of the podium after a long wait since Mugello.
The 23-lap race was mostly a tame affair but bookended by some real drama with consequences in the title battle. While poleman Bagnaia and his fellow front row starters Jack Miller and Bastianini made a great launch off the line to maintain position in the first few corners, their main challengers quickly became Brad Binder and Marc Marquez, both of whom had rocket starts from the fourth and fifth row respectively. Things soon started to unravel for Marquez though, as he had a moment out of turn three and, in the usual congestion of the opening lap, got hit from behind by Fabio Quartararo. The unlucky Frenchman looked bruised and battered and probably really annoyed but escaped any damage other than that in the championship standings. The drama did not stop there for Marquez, as he picked up some damage to the bike in the incident, which caused further trouble accelerating out of turn eight and sent the Spaniard into a tangle with Takaaki Nakagami, the LCR man abandoning ship in pretty scary fashion, while Marquez was forced to retire.
The leaders kept calm while replays were running, but Miller and Bastianini soon managed to reclaim their positions from Binder, who had climbed into second by the end of the opening lap. The South African then found himself fending off Espargaro for the remainder or the race, followed by the Pramac boys, Miguel Oliveira, Luca Marini and Alex Marquez, who made up the early top ten. Meanwhile, Alex Rins and Maverick Viñales were pushing to recover after getting caught in the early drama and dropping out of the top 15.
Bastianini truly started his charge on lap six, when he attacked Miller for second at turn 15 and was left with seven tenths of a second to recover on Bagnaia. The leader lost his wingman for good when Binder and Espargaro attacked Miller over the next lap, dropping the Australian to fifth. Only two laps later, Bastianini launched his first attack on Bagnaia but a messy lap from the Gresini man, including a mistake running wide at turn 12, allowed the poleman back past and with an eight tenths’ advantage. Bastianini regrouped over the next few laps to reel in Bagnaia once more, while ditching Binder one second behind, with Espargaro, Miller, Jorge Martin, Johann Zarco and Luca Marini not too far behind. A few more seconds back, Rins was charging through field and rejoining the top 10 by lap 15.
Status quo was maintained going into the final ten laps, Bagnaia and Bastianini in close proximity and a safe distance from Binder, who was under pressure from Espargaro and Miller in the battle for the final podium place. Martin, Zarco and Marini were keeping each other company for sixth position, while Rins was trying to bridge a two-second gap to the trio after getting past Oliveira and Alex Marquez.
Bagnaia started the final three laps with a mere tenth of a second of advantage but as much as Bastianini sniffed around his rival, he could not find a real gap until the final lap, when the Gresini man squeezed out Bagnaia at turn seven and defended beautifully until the finish line. Meanwhile, Espargaro had robbed Binder of third at turn one on the penultimate lap, the KTM man settling for fourth. Miller completed the top five, while Martin fended off Marini for sixth and Zarco held back Rins’ late charge for eighth place, with Marco Bezzecchi rounding out the top 10.
After the drama bookmarking the 23-lap race, Quartararo heads to Japan with 10 points of advantage in the championship standings, alongside all the bruising, while Espargaro closes in to 17 points and Bastianini keeps an outside chance, 48 points behind the leader.
|19||49||Fabio Di Giannantonio||Ducati||31.595|