On a hot, sunny Saturday at Mugello, the qualifiers were incredibly tight in which the top seven finished within less than 0.3 seconds of each other. Reigning champion Marc Marquez could do no better than sixth place on the grid.
The stage was set for Rossi who waited for most of his rivals to leave pit lane before taking to the tracks. His initial lap moved him into fourth place. He then improved his time but not his position on his second attempt, but was pushed back to fifth as his rivals upped their speed.
With seven and a half minutes of the session remaining, the Italian headed back to the pit box and was out one and a half minutes later. With 0.399s to the benchmark pole position, he knew what he had to do. Cheered on by the passionate Italian fans, the local hero completely went for it and pushed out four red sectors to clock a 1:46.208. The lap was unbeatable for the rest of the MotoGP rider field, giving the fans’ favorite his 65th career pole position, with a 0.035s margin. “It gave a great emotion, especially facing the crowd the lap after the pole was fantastic. It’s great, because it’s also a surprise. This year in qualifying I always suffered, but today the lap was great and I thought it would be enough for the front row, but in the end it was pole position,” expressed Rossi.
Lorenzo had set a time of 1:46.782 to slot into third place in the combined times of earlier session. He went straight into Q2, obviously. The Ducati rider is usually quite consistent at Mugello and his qualifying results proves it. Team mate Andrea Dovizioso was seventh quickest time, which meant a row 3 start.
Third place was Vinales who had to qualify for Q2 via Q1. He was one of the top riders in Q1 and qualified without an issue. In Q2, he set the sixth fastest lap on his first try and held on to this position as he bettered his lap time on his second flyer. With a good six minutes left he started his second run. Multiple riders were in contention for pole position and the Yamaha rider was keen to put his name into the mix. On his sixth attempt he set two red and two personal best sectors, to temporarily secure third place. As the pace quickened, the number 25 rider raised his game. He set a 1:46.304, 0.096s behind his teammate, to keep his third position.
After topping FP3 and ending FP4 in a very close fourth place, Marquez set the provisional pole record at the end of his first run in qualifying, but a small mistake during his second attempt, when he was further improving his performance, dropped him to sixth overall, though just 0.246s off the top.
On the other side of the garage, Dani Pedrosa faced a very tough qualifying day. After missing the passage to Q2 by just 0.141s in the first session, he suffered a crash in FP4 and had to switch to his second bike for Q1. Not at ease with a different setup, and having only managed to finish 10th in Q1, he will have to start the race from the seventh row of the grid.
Behind seventh place Dovizioso were Cal Crutchlow, Yamaha Tech 3’s Johann Zarco and Suzuki’s Alex Rins; who completed the top ten.
The Italian Grand Prix, held over a distance of 23 laps, gets underway today afternoon at 14.00 CET.
2018 MotoGP Mugello qualifying Q2
1 ROSSI Valentino Yamaha MotoGP 1:46.208
2 LORENZO Jorge Ducati +0.035
3 VINALES Maverick Yamaha MotoGP 0.096
4 IANNONE Andrea Suzuki 0.139
5 PETRUCCI Danilo Pramac 0.237
6 MARQUEZ Marc Repsol Honda 0.246
7 DOVIZIOSO Andrea Ducati 0.292
8 CRUTCHLOW Cal Honda 0.605
9 ZARCO Johann Yamaha Tech 3 0.622
10 RINS Alex Suzuki 0.701