Valentino Rossi needed the last available minute to study the trajectories of Marc Marquez, a certain antagonist for the win that is up for grabs tomorrow who lost the front end at Bucine, staying up with one of his usual miraculous elbow saves. The crowd was already going wild, certain of the hometown hero’s result.
In fact, Rossi had already cinched pole position, thanks to a perfect lap at the limit, done in 1’46”208 which means two things: the Mugello record and Valentino’s return to pole position – his first since Motegi 2016: “I enjoyed the lap – number 46 explained – I know the race will be hard, but… we’ll think about that tomorrow.” This is his fifty-fifth time starting from the first spot on the grid. Fitted with the new Öhlins carbon forks, his M1 proved to be a precision machine, as if riding on rails.
Jorge Lorenzo did his best to treat the fans of the ‘Red’ – also playing on home turf – with a first place, but he settled for second, 35 thousandths behind his former teammate. The two soft Michelin tyres were not enough to let the Majorcan snatch pole position from Valentino, but Jorge demonstrated once again today that he is still an extremely fast rider on the flying lap and, as long as the Ducati’s tyres hold out, he has the potential to finish in the top spots.
After his difficulties in practice and having to go through Q1, Maverick Viñales found a spot on the front row, concluding this outstanding Saturday for the factory Yamaha. Maverick reacted in the first qualifying session, returning to his spectacular riding style that he had already demonstrated last year and on a few occasions early on this season.
The Spaniard finished ahead of Andrea Iannone – extremely fired up – highly determined to make Suzuki regret their decision and with the goal of finding the best open seat possible for 2019. Today, the Italian rider was once again significantly faster than his teammate Rins, already confirmed by team Ecstar.
Danilo Petrucci did well and will start from the second row with less than two and a half tenths behind Rossi. The team Pramac Italian rides the Desmosedici 2018 with his elbows out, just as he did in Superstock. The podium in Le Mans places him in the running as a contender for a top five finish in the Grand Prix race tomorrow.
A rider who wanted much more – but who was a victim of his own mistakes – was the Honda World Champion, battling with the Italian kerbs at Mugello, perhaps a bit too much: Marquez rode with his usual brash style which did not pay off the way Rossi’s clean riding did.
Seventh place went to Andrea Dovizioso on a weekend that has still not gotten entirely off the ground for him and his number 04 factory Desmosedici, fitted with smaller winglets than those used by Lorenzo on his number 99 bike. His blown engine yesterday, some uncertainties in qualifying today and a few mistakes on his flying lap relegate the runner-up champion to a position that means he will need to make a great start tomorrow.
Cal Crutchlow will start from the eighth spot and Johann Zarco from the ninth. To be fair, the Englishman and the Frenchman were never really first row material today. Rins finished tenth with a crash on top of everything in FP4, while Jack Miller – who had to go through Q1 – rode his Pramac Ducati to the eleventh spot on the grid.
Franco Morbidelli was twelfth on the fourth row with a gap of eight tenths behind Marquez ahead of Rabat and Syahrin. The first KTM on the grid will be Spaniard Pol Espargaró’s, with Bradley Smith seventeenth;
An evanescent Dani Pedrosa will start from the twentieth spot on the grid, struggling more than he ever has before in qualifying. This Mugello session is his worst yet in his long MotoGP career. Behind the number 26 bike is the Aprilia ridden by Aleix Espargaró who, on his team’s home track, was hoping for more. Scott Redding - penultimate - even ended up in the gravel during FP4.