Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales will start the first race of the season in the best way possible: from pole position. Viñales waited at the start of the Q2 session, to be ensured of some clear space on track for his hot laps. The strategy worked out perfectly for him. He positioned his YZR-M1 firmly in the lead after his first try, with a 0.741s advantage over his closest rival.
Viñales timed perfectly his ultra-quick pit stop to re-enter the track on his own again with five-and-a-half minutes left on the clock. The pace was heating up, with multiple rivals flashing red sectors, but the Spaniard responded. He found another 0.298s, posting a 1:53.546s. This stunning lap earned him the first pole position of 2019, with a 0.198s gap to the rider in second place.
Here is the starting grid for #QatarGP
— Michelin Motorsport (@Michelin_Sport) March 9, 2019
“I was surprised”, Viñales admitted
“I didn’t expect that everyone was going to be so fast. We’ve made good steps forward with the bike, but we need to keep working, because we still need to improve the exit of the last corner. If we can do that, we are going to be ready to fight for this race. I will push my hardest tomorrow, no fear, I will go for it. I’m able to hit good lap times and I’m fast straight away. I will give my all. The team prepared a really good bike for me, so now it’s in my hands to push and be at the front. I think it will be a group of five to six riders that will battle at the front in the first laps.”
Andrea Dovizioso proved once again his prowess on the Qatari track, where he took the win last year, to post a 1:53.744 that granted him second position on the grid
“I’m very happy because we managed to improve significantly over the weekend. The tests here left us with a few doubts, but we stayed calm and focused, which in the end is always the best approach. We have great chemistry within my team and we knew how to react. We posted a really fast lap, which wasn’t even perfect, so I’m even more confident about our possibilities. That said, the lap times don’t necessarily show how the race will unfold, since the wind and low track temperatures can still change the picture. At any rate, I’m really happy to start from first row”, Dovizioso said.
— MotoGP™ ?? (@MotoGP) March 5, 2019
Meanwhile, Marc Marquez overcame cold conditions in Qatar to secure a spot on the front row as Jorge Lorenzo battled through the pain barrier for 15th
“It’s one of the circuits where we usually struggle so I had to work on the strategy to get a front row. This was the target and I am happy to have achieved it. Especially today where it was incredibly cold and windy, if it’s like this tomorrow we need to survive. Yesterday I felt really strong with the bike but today it was tougher and it was so easy to crash and we had to limit the risks. Tomorrow we will see what happens, the temperature could change a lot”, Marquez said.
— Marc Márquez (@marcmarquez93) March 9, 2019
Lorenzo crashed heavily at Turn 6 in free practice, shortly followed by Marquez who lost the front at Turn 14. Both fortunately avoided any serious injuries. After a medical check, Jorge Lorenzo was deemed fit and returned to ride in Free Practice 4. He pushed from the off in Q1, unfortunately unable to improve his time after joining a number of riders in falling at Turn 2. Two heavy falls left Lorenzo with pain in his back, arms and legs, the five-time world champion hoping to be as pain free as possible for tomorrow’s race.
“I have some pain in my back and I need to rest and then see how I wake up tomorrow. It hasn’t been a great day today, very unlucky with the first crash. There were a combination of factors that made me have a very nasty crash which has created a lot of pain. Then in qualifying I crashed because it was too cold, it wasn’t a good day for us. It will be a race of survival, especially for me with my experience with the bike and also my pain”, Lorenzo explained.