And sure enough, the three started to stretch away. The gap on Lap 2 was already up to 0.7 over Morbidelli and it was Viñales leading the way, but not for long. Quartararo was right behind his fellow Yamaha rider and getting a good run out of Turn 10, the Petronas grey and blue dived underneath Monster Energy black and blue as a rookie led at Misano. Marquez wasn’t going to waste any time, Lap 3 saw the 93 set the fastest lap of the race as Quartararo started to pull away. Seeing this, Marquez dived under Viñales at Turn 10 on Lap 4 and locked his radar onto a rapid Yamaha at the front, with the third-place Yamaha of Viñales struggling to hold the pace. Further back, Espargaro was frustrating Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and second in the Championship Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) for P5.
Back up front, Quartararo had a 0.8 lead as Viñales slipped to 1.5 seconds back on Lap 6. Quartararo’s advantage wouldn’t stay above half a second for long though, the Repsol Honda reeled the Petronas Yamaha in as the reigning World Champion and MotoGP™ rookie faced off. Unexpectedly, Viñales was now out of range. The gap to Marquez and Quartararo was nearly three seconds – what was going on for one of the weekend’s leading contenders?
In the battle for sixth, Rins was given a long lap penalty shortly after finally dispatching Espargaro’s KTM. But then, it didn’t matter for the Silverstone winner. The Suzuki man was down at Turn 4, while further up the road, Rossi was hitched onto the back of compatriot Morbidelli. At the front, Quartararo was faultless. There was no sign of the 20-year-old buckling under the pressure from a seven-time Champion as the gap between the two remained at 0.2.
The laps ticked by and still there was no change. Marquez was fierce on the brakes coming into Turn 10, but ‘El Diablo’ was a demon at picking the bike up onto the straight. There was simply nothing splitting Quartararo and Marquez, with Viñales at this point now closing the gap ever so slightly to the leaders. Surely it was too late for the Spaniard? Into the final 10 laps, still nothing. No hint of an overtake from Marquez, no signs of a mistake from Quartararo. Lap after lap, the consistency was frightening as Viñales got the gap down to two seconds. There was a sense of inevitability in the air as we headed onto the final five laps, but we’d have to wait until the last lap before Marquez pounced.
Quartararo was understandably disappointed after such a titanic performance, but the rookie’s time will come. Viñales didn’t quite have enough on Sunday afternoon for Marquez or Quartararo, but a fifth podium of the season continues his consistent form of late to edge clear of teammate Rossi in the Championship. Speaking of ‘The Doctor’, it wasn’t a home GP podium Rossi would have been looking for, but a great fight with close mate Morbidelli and a third consecutive P4 shows signs the nine-time World Champion isn’t far away from returning to the rostrum. For Morbidelli, a strong and consistent weekend ends with a fourth P5 of the year for the Italian, who took the chequered flag just a tenth off Rossi. A nice way to celebrate his 100th Grand Prix race, while all four Yamahas inside the top five at Misano is promising for the Iwata factory.
Dovizioso could do no more than sixth at the venue he won at last season, he now sits 93 points adrift of Marquez as Ducati suffer on home soil. On the other hand, Espargaro’s P7 was just reward for KTM’s continued hard work as the Austrian factory enjoy a very successful weekend at the San Marino GP. Upon his return from injury, Joan Mir was the sole Team Suzuki Ecstar finisher in P8, with Pramac Racing’s Jack Miller recovering from P16 on the grid to grab ninth ahead of fellow GP19 rider Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) in P10.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol), teammate Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), Michele Pirro (Ducati Team) and Pramac Racing’s Francesco Bagnaia crashed out of the race – riders ok.
Marquez vs Quartararo: something we should start getting used to as Misano is just the first installment of what could become one of the all-time great rivalries. For now, Marquez has the bragging rights and the number 93 heads to his home Grand Prix at MotorLand Aragon with 93 points over his rivals. Can anyone beat Marquez on Spanish soil next week? Quartararo will be fired up to do just that.
1. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team)
2. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.903
3. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 1.636
4. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 12.660
5. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 12.774
6. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) + 13.774
7. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 20.050
8. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 22.512
9. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) + 26.554
10. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) + 31.456