Australian MotoGP: Marquez takes pole, Rossi slumps to 15th

Marc Marquez dominated qualifying at Phillip Island, while Valentino Rossi slumped to his worst starting position in five years.

Australian MotoGP: Marquez takes pole, Rossi slumps to 15th
Aleix Espargaro, Team Suzuki Ecstar MotoGP
Tito Rabat, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS
Hector Barbera, Ducati Team
Andrea Dovizioso, Ducati Team
Jack Miller, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS
Aleix Espargaro, Team Suzuki Ecstar MotoGP
Loris Baz, Avintia Racing
Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing

Marquez was in a class of his own during qualifying, the World Champion playing a strategic masterstroke by sitting out the first part of Q2 despite the constant threat of rain.

Having assessed conditions on his out lap at the very beginning of the session, Marquez elected to return to the pits and play the waiting game until the track was dry enough for slicks.

It was ultimately a cracking decision, Marquez emerging from the pits with nine minutes to go and going fastest with a 1m32.239s. Cal Crutchlow had an answer for that time, but he had nothing for the 1m31.555s that Marquez rolled out with four minutes to go.

He then lowered the benchmark down to 1m30.670s, before laying down a 1m30.189s the next time around just for fun.

It was enough to leave him nearly eight tenths clear of Crutchlow, the Q1 star securing second after being one of the last to make a tyre switch, going for a slick rear but sticking with the intermediate front for his final run.

Pol Espargaro rounded out the front row, he and Aleix Espargaro both improving right at the flag to finish third and fourth respectively.

That was a heartbreaker for Jack Miller, who went within seconds of securing a front row start after being one of the earliest to take on slick rubber (although opting only for the rear). He was third as he went past the flag, only to be dropped to fifth by the Espargaros.

Danilo Petrucci was next, ahead of stand-in rider Nicky Hayden on the Repsol Honda, Andrea Dovizioso, Hector Barbera, and Scott Redding.

Lorenzo, who scraped into Q2 through Q1, couldn’t make any sort of impact on the second session on slick tyres, finishing up more than six seconds wide of pole. He starts 12th.

Rossi, Vinales crash out of Q1

Crutchlow dominated the first segment of qualifying, effectively leaving the rest to scrap over the second and final Q2 spot.

In a session where conditions continued to improve the entire time, Crutchlow laid down the marker when he went top with a 1m41.165s on his first run. He backed it up straight away with a 1m40.060s, before heading back out a minute from the end to land the killer blow with a 1m38.752s.

Not that he even needed that final lap; Lorenzo was next best with a 1m40.452s, set just 20s from the flag.

While it was the best part of two second slower than Crutchlow’s best, Lorenzo did book himself a Q2 spot at the expense of Maverick Vinales, who had jumped into P2 just seconds before Lorenzo improved. That means the Suzuki rider will start 13th, ahead of Bradley Smith, who had been second quickest before binning his Tech 3 Yamaha at Turn 8 with a minute to go.

Valentino Rossi will start just 15th, having gambled on an unusual tyre strategy late in the session. The Yamaha rider didn’t emerge from the pits for his final crucial crack at a Q2 spot until there was just over two minutes left, going with an intermediate on the rear and a full wet on the front.

The gamble failed, Rossi not improving and instead securing his worst grid spot since the Sachsenring in 2011.

Results – Q2

ClaDriverBikeTimeGap
1   Marc Marquez  Honda 1'30.189  
2   Cal Crutchlow  Honda 1'30.981 0.792
3   Pol Espargaro  Yamaha 1'31.107 0.918
4   Aleix Espargaro  Suzuki 1'31.673 1.484
5   Jack Miller  Honda 1'31.754 1.565
6   Danilo Petrucci  Ducati 1'32.420 2.231
7   Nicky Hayden  Honda 1'32.944 2.755
8   Stefan Bradl  Aprilia 1'33.015 2.826
9   Andrea Dovizioso  Ducati 1'33.090 2.901
10   Hector Barbera  Ducati 1'33.914 3.725
11   Scott Redding  Ducati 1'34.682 4.493
12   Jorge Lorenzo  Yamaha 1'36.840 6.651

Results – Q1

ClaDriverBikeTimeGap
1   Cal Crutchlow  Honda 1'38.467  
2   Jorge Lorenzo  Yamaha 1'40.452 1.985
3   Maverick Viñales  Suzuki 1'40.744 2.277
4   Bradley Smith  Yamaha 1'41.129 2.662
5   Valentino Rossi  Yamaha 1'41.368 2.901
6   Eugene Laverty  Ducati 1'41.532 3.065
7   Yonny Hernandez  Ducati 1'41.766 3.299
8   Alvaro Bautista  Aprilia 1'41.850 3.383
9   Mike Jones  Ducati 1'42.261 3.794
10   Loris Baz  Ducati 1'43.128 4.661
11   Tito Rabat  Honda 1'44.096 5.629
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Australian MotoGP: Marquez fastest, big names dumped into Q1
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