Pramac Racing’s Jorge Martin stormed into Qatar Grand Prix sprint victory to cut Francesco Bagnaia’s world championship lead to seven points after the Ducati rider came fifth at the Lusail International Circuit yesterday.
Martin, who started fifth on the grid, was at his aggressive best as he finished ahead of Gresini Racing’s Fabio Di Giannantonio while polesitter Luca Marini of VR46 Racing took the final place on the podium under the floodlights. Martin’s victory ensured that MotoGP will have back-to-back final round title deciders for the first time in history, with the season concluding in Valencia next weekend.
Bagnaia seemed to be struggling with grip on his rear tyre and he could do nothing to catch up with the leaders, finishing behind Gresini’s Alex Marquez. “I felt I was going to be strong today. I was behind Marquez and Pecco (Bagnaia) and they’re amazing riders, but I had the pace,” Martin said after winning his eighth sprint of the season.
“I thought and knew I could go fast. I felt I had the potential to win, but you never know how far a race will start. I felt good this weekend and now even better. The management of the rear tyre was important, which allowed me to catch up and overtake them. It was very important to win because we recovered points. Tomorrow will be the big day and we hope to do the same job,” the Spaniard said.
Polesitter Marini led into turn one and Martin quickly moved up to third, but Bagnaia took his place to sit behind second-placed Marquez. Bagnaia and Martin had jostled for position from turn one and made contact a few times before the Pramac rider elbowed his fellow title contender out of the way to move up to third on the second lap.
Di Giannantonio also took advantage to overtake the slower factory Ducati bike, leaving Bagnaia searching for answers as the top four pulled away. Martin quickly set his sights on Alex Marquez and Marini, taking the lead after two well-timed overtakes on one lap. Di Giannantonio did not back down either and the Gresini rider, who had set a lap record in qualifying that was later broken by Marini, overtook his Italian compatriot to put pressure on Martin.
“I tried to push a lot to close the gap but they were faster than me today,” Marini said. “We need to find something for the race tomorrow, I was struggling for grip with the rear tyre. Every time there is no grip, Jorge does well. I tried to give my best to get on the podium, which is a fantastic result. “
With two laps to go, Di Giannantonio was right on Martin’s tail but the Spaniard kept his cool to take the chequered flag. “Jorge was doing a great job in sectors two and three. Incredible race, I was pushing so hard to catch him,” Di Giannantonio said.
Behind the podium, Alex Marquez was fourth ahead of Bagnaia, who only just kept Aprilia’s Maverick Vinales at bay. Brad Binder was seventh on the factory team KTM from Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo and Tech3 GasGas rider Augusto Fernandez, while Pramac’s Johann Zarco missed the points in 10th. Marc Marquez slid to 11th after running on at Turn 1 when battling for the final points-paying positions in the closing stages. Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro and RNF’s Miguel Oliveira failed to finish after a lap-one tangle that also involved Ducati’s Enea Bastianini and Yamaha’s Franco Morbidelli.
Marini takes pole for
today’s Grand Prix
Earlier, Bagnaia and Jorge Martin, qualified fourth and fifth for today’s Qatar Grand Prix, setting the tone for a white-knuckle ride. Italy’s Marini took his career-second pole position, pulverising the track record with his compatriot Giannantonio and Alex Marquez second and third.
Frenchman Zarco recorded the fastest time in the first qualifying and ended up sixth after round two, taking his place on the second row. Honda’s former champion Marc Marquez hugged Bagnaia’s back wheel several times and took seventh place ahead of Maverick Vinales of Aprilia and Raul Fernandez of Aprilia-RNF.
The Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) announced that Espargaro had dropped six places on the grid and received a 10,000 euro ($10,900) fine for hitting Franco Morbidelli’s helmet during Saturday’s free practice. In a statement, the FIM said the Spaniard’s sanction was due to “aggressive behaviour” and for having hit the Italian.
Qatar GP Sprint Results
1. Jorge Martin (ESP) Prima Pramac Racing; Time: 20m 52.634s; 2. Fabio Di Giannantonio ((ITA)) Gresini Racing +0.391; 3. Luca Marini ((ITA)) Mooney VR46 Ducati (GP22) +2.875s; 4. Alex Marquez (ESP) Gresini Ducati (GP22) +3.370s; 5. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA) Ducati Lenovo (GP23) +3.957s; 6. Maverick Vinales (ESP) Aprilia Racing (RS-GP23) +4.239s; 7. Brad Binder (RSA) Red Bull KTM (RC16) +5.761s; 8. Fabio Quartararo (FRA) Monster Yamaha (YZR-M1) +6.454s; 9. Augusto Fernandez (ESP) Tech3 GASGAS (RC16)* +8.285s; 10. Johann Zarco (FRA) Pramac Ducati (GP23) +8.314s; 11. Marc Marquez (ESP) Repsol Honda (RC213V) +9.596s; 12. Jack Miller (AUS) Red Bull KTM (RC16) +10.173s; 13. Marco Bezzecchi (ITA) Mooney VR46 Ducati (GP22) +10.646s; 14. Raul Fernandez (ESP) RNF Aprilia (RS-GP22) +11.117s; 15. Franco Morbidelli (ITA) Monster Yamaha (YZR-M1) +12.163s; 16. Pol Espargaro (ESP)Tech3 GASGAS (RC16) +12.745s; 17. Iker Lecuona (ESP) LCR Honda (RC213V) +19.285s; 18. Takaaki Nakagami JPN LCR Honda (RC213V) +26.238s; 19 Joan Mir (ESP) Repsol Honda (RC213V) +28.446s; 20. Enea Bastianini (ITA) Ducati Lenovo (GP23) +35.553s
Did not finish: Aleix Espargaro (ESP)Aprilia Racing (RS-GP23); Miguel Oliveira POR RNF Aprilia (RS-GP22) DNF
Gresini Racing’s Italian rider Fabio Di Giannantonio (left), Prima Pramac’s Spanish rider Jorge Martin (centre) and Mooney VR46 Racing’s Italian rider Luca Marini celebrate after the Sprint race at the Lusail International Circuit yesterday.
Abdulrahman bin Abdul Latif al-Mannai, President of the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) and Lusail International Circuit met with team principles of the MotoGP teams yesterday.
Prima Pramac’s Spanish rider Jorge Martin leads the sprint race during the MotoGP Grand Prix of Qatar at the Lusail International Circuit yesterday. PICTURES: Noushad Thekkayil