It wasn’t until around halfway through the 45-minute Saturday morning session that the first change from Friday’s provisional top 10 order was made, as Cal Crutchlow surged to the head of the FP3 times.
With 13 minutes left on the clock, home hero Johann Zarco took over the top spot with a time just 0.004 seconds faster, which remained the quickest effort of the morning until the final five minutes.
At the start of his final run, Marquez suffered a low-side crash at the Dunlop chicane, damaging his new aerodynamic fairing in the process – his works Honda shedding its left-hand side winglet.
That didn’t stop the reigning champion from moving to the top with three minutes remaining with a lap of 1m32.011s, moments after Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo had beaten Zarco’s time.
With just one minute left on the clock, Zarco became the first rider to beat Andrea Dovizioso’s record-breaking Friday benchmark with a 1m31.866s, but that was quickly surpassed by the works Yamaha of Valentino Rossi, who moved ahead on a 1m31.810s .
As the checkered flag fell, Marquez set a new benchmark of 1m31.774s, but that wasn’t enough to top the session as Vinales – who fell 0.001s short of teammate Rossi’s time on his penultimate lap – found a further two tenths to end up on a 1m31.619s and establish a new record.
It marks the first time Vinales has led a session during a race weekend since he qualified on pole at Aragon last September.
Marquez was demoted to second ahead of Rossi, with Zarco moving down to fourth, 0.247s adrift, after being unable to improve on his final lap.
Dovizioso stayed fifth in the combined times by dint of his Friday lap, ahead of factory Ducati teammate Lorenzo, Jack Miller (Pramac Ducati), Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) and Tito Rabat (Avintia Ducati).
Grabbing the final automatic Q2 spot was lead Suzuki man Andrea Iannone, who shaded Crutchlow by 0.083s for 10th in the combined times.
Joining Crutchlow in Q1 will be the second Pramac bike of Danilo Petrucci, Suzuki’s Alex Rins and Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, who was one of four riders to not improve on Saturday morning.
Pol Espargaro was another one of the quartet after crashing early in the session, but still ended up as KTM’s best finisher in 14th overall, two places ahead of Pedrosa – who also crashed at Turn 12.