until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

MotoGP

Bagnaia on Mugello MotoGP pole despite raging at Marquez

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

MotoGP championship leader Pecco Bagnaia set a new Mugello premier-class lap record in Italian Grand Prix qualifying, despite finding himself absolutely incensed at Honda’s Marc Marquez.

A big crash for Tech3 Gas Gas rookie Augusto Fernandez at Biondetti – the Gas Gas-coloured RC16 getting shredded and scattering debris all over the circuit, but with Fernandez thankfully already away from the bike at that point – had caused a red flag delay in Saturday morning practice that meant a minor qualifying postponement, too.

That delay heightened the threat of rain for the second and final qualifying segment specifically, and with precipitation recognised as an any-minute-now inevitability it added an extra urgency to the early runs in Q2 already (even though rain never really came before the chequered flag).

For Bagnaia, that urgency was intensified by a mediocre lap on his first run, and the championship leader was absolutely beside himself when he came up to start a second-run flying lap and saw Marquez, coming out of the pits, slowly making his way through Turn 1.

Though the six-time champion was still too far ahead to have conclusively hindered Bagnaia, the Ducati man lashed out, before gathering himself to push on the next flying lap – with Marquez now in tow.

“I hope race direction will do something, otherwise we don’t really understand what the rules are,” said Ducati’s Paolo Ciabatti about the run-in, claiming that Marquez had timed his pitlane exit to tuck in behind Bagnaia and then gone deliberately slowly through Turn 1 as part of that plan.

“Honestly speaking, this time I was not looking for Pecco,” Marquez insisted – and said he was grateful for Bagnaia deciding to remonstrate with him because this created the opportunity for him to follow the Italian after all.

“He decided to stop at my side and speak with me,” Marquez continued, booed loudly by the local crowd. “Then, in that moment, I said ‘OK, thanks’. The tyres were new and still in not correct temperature. If he kept pushing that lap [instead of raging] I wouldn’t be able to follow him.”

Despite Bagnaia’s anger – or perhaps even because of it – the result of the next flying lap was a record-breaking 1m44.855s, with Marquez just a tenth off – having lost out to Bagnaia in the final sector.

Those two laptimes would not be surpassed over the remainder of the session, although Marquez’s brother Alex lapped just 0.152s off on his Gresini-run Ducati, after having dominated Q1. He will start the sprint in third but the main race in sixth thanks to a grid penalty carrying over from Le Mans.

Luca Marini, nursing a thumb injury, placed 11th in the original classification but had a cancelled laptime good enough for fourth place reinstated, meaning the VR46 Ducati man is due to line up on the front row on Sunday.

The young Marquez’s fellow Q1 graduate Jack Miller grabbed fifth place, followed by Pramac Ducati’s Jorge Martin – who had led after the opening runs – and VR46 Ducati’s Marco Bezzecchi.

Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia’s sole representative in Q2 and riding with a “destroyed” heel after crashing his bicycle while distracted on his phone, was eighth, followed by Pramac Ducati’s Johann Zarco and LCR Honda’s Alex Rins.

There were Q2 crashes at Biondetti for Brad Binder (KTM) and Enea Bastianini (Ducati), the pair completing the Q2 order.

One place away from advancing directly to Q2 on Friday, Aprilia’s Maverick Vinales again missed out by one place in Q1, bested by 0.032s by Miller as he came up short in the final sector on his last attempt.

The Spaniard will be joined on row five by his former team, the factory Yamaha outfit – with Franco Morbidelli 0.001s ahead of Fabio Quartararo, the 2021 champion left to rue a very poor first sector on his fastest lap.

Takaaki Nakagami, Honda’s sole Q1 participant after the withdrawal of Joan Mir, qualified 16th, followed by Ducati wildcard Michele Pirro and RNF Aprilia’s Miguel Oliveira, the latter persevering with the weekend despite a lack of strength in his shoulder following his injury lay-off.

Row seven is to comprise Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Ducati), Raul Fernandez (RNF Aprilia) and Augusto Fernandez, all riders who had crashed in the pre-qualifying practice session – with RNF rider Fernandez then also falling during Q1 as he barrelled into the barriers at, again, Biondetti, thankfully without major injuries.

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