Ducati’s Pecco Bagnaia secured the fastest time of MotoGP’s Styria practice in a frantic finish to Saturday’s FP3, as just over a tenth separated the top-three riders at Spielberg.
Monster Energy Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo and Maverick Viñales battled it out for team and session honours before the Italian stole the show with his final effort, 1’23.114 the time to beat. All four Ducati’s guaranteed Q2 places with the entire KTM squad missing out at their home track.
Jorge Martin was in charge as the first free practice fired up for the premier class with a time worthy of second overall and just 0.029s behind Friday hero, Takaaki Nakagami - despite never riding a prototype around the Red Bull Ring until yesterday. The LCR man maintained his impressive run, in second, with the Repsol pair of Pol Espargaro and Marc Marquez siting third and fourth.
Viñales was back on form as he entered the top-three before setting the benchmark lap, a 1’23.781, on his seventh attempt. His Monster teammate sitting sixth, and spitting the Repsol machines, with half-an-hour to go. Joan Mir continued his strong showing as he advanced to third, almost mirroring his Friday best, with the second Suzuki of Alex Rins holding eighth just three-tenths adrift.
Dani Pedrosa continued his skilled wildcard return in 10th, as his KTM colleagues circulated in 15th and 16th. Miguel Oliveira battling the pain of Friday’s highside with his hand heavily strapped after the turn-three collision.
Mir took over at the top at the halfway stage, 1’23.5 now the time to beat as Brad Binder entered the top-10. Nakagami and Aleix Espargaro the only riders maintaining Q2 contention thanks to Friday’s performance with Martin the only Ducati so far going through.
Marquez fired up as the final 10-minutes approached. The Spaniard demoting his compatriots with a 1’23.513 before the timing screens came to life. Viñales struck back to regain control with another flying lap under his belt as Quartararo bailed out for the fourth time at turn three, the Frenchman sitting precariously on the edge of the promotion zone.
The Ducati’s arrived in the closing minutes, Bagnaia heading Martin in third and fourth as Johann Zarco made his way up to sixth. Jack Miller the only one adrift with seven minutes remaining.
The final five minutes saw Espargaro drop the championship leader to 11th as the Aprilia advanced, first to ninth before claiming fifth as Quartararo looked to take second - his relief, however, was short-lived as the time was deleted due to track limits. A display of Pramac power saw Zarco and Martin sitting second and third before Bagnaia improved.
Harnessing the pressure, Quartararo’s 23rd lap saw him head the standings but it was Bagnaia who reigned supreme as the flag came out. Viñales settled for third behind his factory teammate with Martin claiming an impressive fourth with his final effort. Mir sat fifth from Zarco and Marquez with the elder Espargaro, Miller and Nakagami concluding the top-10.
Pedrosa completes FP3 as the fastest KTM rider, narrowly behind the second Repsol of Espargaro, with Rins joining the duo for the Q1 battle.