The MotoGP circus came to Mugello this weekend – arguably the crown jewel of the championship calendar. Sunday’s race highlighted the unpredictability of modern day MotoGP. The track with the highest top speeds of the year was most recently the stronghold of the strongest motorcycle in the starting field – Ducati. The Italian manufacturer has won the last three races at the legendary Italian venue and flexed its muscles on the long home straight. The flip side of the coin is that his bike doesn’t have the best handling on the market and often struggles on narrower, twistier tracks like Jerez and Le Mans.
And yet Ducati has reached the top step of the podium at Jerez and Le Mans this year and not a single motorcycle has made it onto the podium at Mugello. Instead, it was Fabio Quartararo aboard a Yamaha – the lowest-speed manufacturer – who this time received the highest accolades. So it went down:
The Frenchman Fabio Quartararo took a commanding victory on board his Yamaha
Championship contender Francesco Bagnaia fell out of the lead on lap 2
With Zarco 4th and Miller 6th, Ducati failed to get a motorcycle on the podium
Well started is half done
The Frenchman started the race from the best possible position and took pole position with a record lap in qualifying. But that’s only half the battle – you have to go back to 2014, the last time the pole sitter won in Mugello.
To carry out the second half of the fight, he then used Yamaha’s newly updated holeshot device (now on both the front and rear suspensions) to catapult himself towards Turn 1, keeping almost the entire grid behind him. Almost, because Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia used his own excellent holeshot device, combined with the massive firepower of his motorcycle, to grab first place from second on the grid. But Ducati’s hopes of a fifth straight win on the track were hit hard when the home hero used a little too much curb on lap 3 and fell unharmed from the lead.
The last hopes of the Italian designer now rested on the shoulders of the newly appointed runner-up Johann Zarco in the independent Pramac team. The Frenchman fought for the lead for a few laps with his compatriot Quartararo and used his top speed advantage on the straight to counter the superiority of the Yamaha in handling the rest of the route. But with a brave pass in the right section of the track, Quartararo managed to break free from the shackles of Zarco and set a breakneck pace that the rest of the field found simply unmatched. In a Lorenzo-like performance, the 22-year-old hammered lap after lap with metronomic, unerring consistency and finally won the race with a 2.6 second lead.
The best of the rest
While victory in the first third of the race was as good as taken for granted, a brilliant race unfolded behind Quartararo. Just before Bagnaia’s motorcycle became part of the Tuscan countryside, Marc Marquez got tangled up with Brad Binder and crashed out of the race, forcing Morbidelli to evade and dropping back to last place. Jack Miller, who had consecutive victories in the last two laps, was fighting for the pace in fourth place and acted as a mobile roadblock for the two Suzukis behind him. The men in blue clearly had the better pace but were struggling to overtake as Miller opened the taps on his Ducati and zoomed past them every time they drove down the home straight. They eventually got past him – first Rins and then Mir – and then set out to chase Zarco and KTM rider Miguel Oliveira for the remaining podium spots.
What followed was an exciting four-way battle, which then lost a member when Rins hit the deck in agony just five rounds to go. This was his fourth DNF in a row, a somewhat unenviable value that the Spaniard experienced for the first time in his Grand Prix career. His speed is undisputed, but he currently cannot achieve it with consistency and often loses the front of his Suzuki when he pushes hard for the podium.
Oliveira overtook Zarco and secured 2nd place – a position he had to stubbornly defend against a hard attacking Mir. He did this admirably, holding his position and taking the flag behind Quartararo, giving KTM their first podium of the season. The Austrian manufacturer is immediately reaping rewards for a new chassis it drove for the first time at Mugello, with teammate Brad Binder cementing the improvements with a strong top 5 result. It was even more difficult for the South African when you consider his airbag deployed after his scuffle with Marquez on Lap 2, which forced him to endure some challenging laps of restricted breathing.
Mir’s 3rd place pushed Zarco to 4th and robbed Ducati of a coveted podium in his home race. Finally fading Jack Miller to 6th place didn’t help either. Further down the field, Aleix Espargaro finished seventh on his Aprilia after qualifying in a good 4th place, which is a good weekend the Italian manufacturer can hope for at the moment. Vinales paid the price for a bad qualifying, only made it to 8th place and lost decisive ground in the overall standings. Valentino Rossi had his best result of the year and completed the top 10. It’s hard to believe that the legendary Italian is happy with this result, especially with the number of falls ahead, and his resignation seems imminent.
A dark cloud on a sunny day
It is impossible to escape the fact that the races at Mugello are under a mourning blanket for the Swiss Moto3 rider Jason Dupasquierwho tragically died in a freak accident in qualifying on Saturday. Our righteous thoughts and prayers go to his family.
Quartararo was really making hay under the bright Italian sun and scored a maximum of 25 points, while the next championship rival Bagnaia left his home race empty-handed. Throw in Miller and Vinales’ relatively modest bounties of 10 and 8 points respectively, and it is Johann Zarco who takes 2nd place in the championship thanks to his 13 points for 4th place. This means that he is now the only man at the top of a Quartararo race win.
|1||Fabio Quartararo||41m 16.344s|
|2||Miguel Oliveira||+ 2.592s|
|3||Joan Mir||+ 3,000s|
|4th||Johann Zarco||+ 3.535s|
|5||Brad Binder||+ 4.903s|
|6th||Jack Miller||+ 6.233s|
|7th||Aleix Espargaro||+ 8.030s|
|8th||Maverick Vinales||+ 17.239s|
|9||Danilo Petrucci||+ 23.296s|
|10||Valentino Rossi||+ 25.146s|
|11||Iker Lecuona||+ 25.152s|
|12th||Pol Espargaro||+ 26.059s|
|13th||Michele Pirro||+ 26.182s|
|14th||Alex Marquez||+ 29,400s|
|fifteen||Lorenzo Savadori||+ 32.378s|
|16||Franco Morbidelli||+ 37.906s|
|17th||Luca Marini||+ 50.306s|