Fabio Quartararo claimed his second MotoGP pole of 2021 at Jerez this afternoon from fellow Yamaha rider Franky Morbidelli and Ducati’s Jack Miller.
The Frenchman claimed his fourth consecutive pole at the Angel Nieto Circuit while the Petronas rider fought through from Q1 to take the second-place spoils. Australian Miller fended off Lenovo team-mate Pecco Bagnaia in the closing seconds to take his first front row start of the season.
MotoGP qualifying got underway after a spate of crashes dogged the riders in FP4, thanks in part to the building strong winds. Pol Espargaro had emulated Marc Marquez’ morning turn-seven crash with Alex Rins and Danilo Petrucci also falling foul of the final practice session.
A second late-deleted FP3 time saw Morbidelli forced to face the opening Q1 battle after his original P7 lap was removed due to track limits - his previous P1 effort having been taken immediately during the session - Miller the lucky recipient of an unexpected direct promotion.
As the session began, Repsol Honda’s power duo dusted themselves off from their earlier 100mph crashes to control the promotion zone, Marquez heading his new team-mate by just half a tenth, before Brad Binder stole the show with a 1’37.350 on the following lap. Morbidelli swooped into second moments later as he too demoted the Honda riders, with a ’37.3 impressively set on medium rear tyres and the pack regrouped in the pits ready for the second runs.
Five minutes left on the clock and the action resumed with Marquez looking to tail Binder on track before the South African untangled himself, Espargaro battling solo on his rise to third as Enea Bastianini found sixth. Morbidelli, now utilising the soft rear Michelin, advanced his time to lead with a dominant 1’36.916, his teammate Valentino Rossi in hot pursuit, as the second Petronas slotted in behind the Avintia in seventh. Miguel Oliveira held fifth despite a lap deletion, with the KTM rider looking for a final flourish as the flag came out, the Portuguese man followed his team-mate through for third, just 0.022 adrift of the needed time, before the lap once again disappeared from the timing screens.
Morbidelli and Binder sailed through to Q2 with Espargaro and Marquez in third and fourth, Bastianini took fifth from the demoted Oliveira, with Rossi ahead of his younger brother in seventh and eighth. Petrucci trailed Luca Marini in ninth with Alex Marquez, Iker Lecuona for company while Lorenzo Savadori and Tito Rabat completed the standings and the back of Sunday’s grid.
The top-12 prepared to roll out for the final 15-minute shootout with 40℃ track temperatures somewhat offset by the prevailing winds. Quartararo was firmly in charge after the first shots were fired, his 1’36.807 almost half a second ahead of Miller in second place. Morbidelli was back in contention with his third lap, 0.005 behind the Frenchman, with FP3 hero Takaaki Nakagami marking his provisional place on the front row moments later, two-tenths down on the leading Yamaha’s. Maverick Viñales sat fifth at the mid-session lull, ahead of Aleix Espargaro and a pair of Suzukis with Pecco Bagnaia, Johann Zarco, Stefan Bradl completing the standings, Binder having yet to set a time due to tyre allocation.
The bikes returned to the track with five minutes remaining, Quartararo thwarting Espargaro’s bid to follow his flying M1 as the Ducati pair worked together to boost their positions. The strategy proved successful for Miller as he found the end of the front row, Quartararo improving his pole time further with a 1’36.775 while Morbidelli held on to second despite an impressive late-session save at the last corner.
Bagnaia was the only rider left to challenge as the flag came out but the Portimao podium-man was ultimately forced to settle for the front of the second row, neatly behind his teammate, in fourth and leading Nakagami and Zarco into Sunday’s 25-lap race. Viñales finished seventh ahead of Espargaro, and Rins with Joan Mir, Binder and Stefan Bradl completing the 12 fastest times.