MotoGP championship leader Pecco Bagnaia will have to battle through Q1 in the final qualifying of the 2023 campaign, after a Friday afternoon practice session in which he was targeted by title rival Jorge Martin.
- Martin plays with Bagnaia, eases into Q2
- Vinales gets new lap record
- Miller crash causes red flag
Bagnaia looked off his game through much of the session, and a late yellow flag for a Pol Espargaro crash denied him one final chance to force his way into the top 10.
With Martin very comfortably securing a Q2 spot in the meantime, it means Bagnaia faces a massive 15 minutes in the first segment of qualifying on Saturday morning.
The 60-minute session featured four crashes within the opening 10 minutes, with Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) and Alex Rins (LCR Honda), both already nursing injuries, down at Turn 1, Augusto Fernandez crashing at Turn 14 and Marco Bezzecchi having a fast roll through the gravel at Turn 8.
The falls abated until a brutal Jack Miller highside at Turn 4 with 15 minutes left in the session, the KTM rider landing hard and being hit by his bike's rear tyre as it slid into the gravel, with the bike leaving an aero winglet on the track in the process.
This necessitated a red flag, with the session resuming for a final 14-minute dash shortly afterwards.
In that mini-session, Bagnaia - desperately needing a quick lap - was hounded relentlessly by Martin.
The Spaniard was already behind him on the first run after the red flag, and threatening to overtake, and then tucked in again behind Bagnaia for the second run - even following the reigning champion down the escape road during an outlap.
As a result, Martin was right behind Bagnaia on the latter's fastest lap, and posted the second-quickest effort of the session in the process.
Martin was still all over Bagnaia for the pair's respective final laps, and even briefly threatened to overtake - but the question of whether he would or not was left unanswered by Pol Espargaro crashing up ahead of them, bringing out the yellow flags and leading to both cancelling their laps.
Despite Martin's gamesmanship, he still wound up quick enough that he trailled only Maverick Vinales.
The Aprilia rider is the new Valencia MotoGP lap record holder, his 1m29.142s replacing Jorge Lorenzo's previous record that had stood since 2016 - Michelin's first season as the control tyre supplier in the premier class.
Johann Zarco was next up behind his Pramac team-mate Martin, with Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Ducati) in fourth, having led most of the session.
Marco Bezzecchi (VR46 Ducati) made it four Ducatis in the top five.
Brad Binder (KTM), Marc Marquez (Honda), Raul Fernandez (RNF Aprilia), Miller and Aleix Espargaro were the other riders to book spots in Q2.
This was despite Miller having an apparent second crash after the red flag he'd caused.
Bagnaia's works team-mate Enea Bastianini was just 0.002s off making the top 10, so will join Bagnaia in Q1.
Also participating in Q1 will be the likes of Alex Marquez and Yamaha works duo Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli.
Luca Marini (VR46 Ducati) will compete in the first segment, having crashed shortly after the red flag.