Marc Marquez will start the German Grand Prix from pole for the 8th year in-a-row after a late push put him just out of Danilo Petrucci’s reach in a rain-affected qualifying.
The fight for grid positions started with a wet Q1 that saw Danilo Petrucci and Pol Espargaro top the session before attention then turned to Q2. The rain had stopped but despite the new surface drying quickly the track was still wet as the riders headed out for the top-12 shootout at the Sachsenring.
Petrucci’s experience in wet conditions from Q1 proved to be an advantage, helping the Italian push from the beginning and take an early lead at the top of the times, with his first lap-time 1.7 seconds ahead of Dani Pedrosa who also started well straight out of the box.
The lead then swapped quickly between Jonas Folger and Dani Pedrosa, before Danilo Petrucci headed back to the top with 5 minutes left. With two podiums and two front row starts in the last few races and with his Pramac contract extension announced minutes before the session started, Danilo must’ve thought today was finally his day to start on pole. But on a last lap push it was World Champion Marc Marquez that took qualifying honours by 0.16 ahead of Petrucci, with Dani Pedrosa rounding out the front row.
While Marquez showed his usual Sachsenring dominance in practice and qualifying on Saturday, it’ll be interesting to see what happens in the race. He has been unbeaten for the last 7 years (across all classes), with each previous win also coming from pole position. He’s happy with the setup and pace in both wet and dry conditions, which makes it hard to bet against him. But this MotoGP in 2017, the weather should be dry for much of Sunday but there’s certainly no guarantees and even then there are other riders ready to challenge the previously crowned SachsenKing.
Team-mate Dani Pedrosa has performed much better than last weekend in Assen, no doubt helped by the new track surface and the ability to get temperature into his tyres. Like Marquez, he’s confident they have a good setup for whatever the weather throws at them and is definitely a strong podium contender.
The Ducati of Danilo Petrucci simply can’t be ruled out, he starts from second and he’s riding in the best form of his career. Petrux wants a win, and while he’s slightly stronger in the wet at Sachsenring, in dry conditions he should still be fighting at the front.
Fellow Ducati rider and championship leader Andrea Dovizioso starts from 10th, sandwiched between the Yamahas of Valentino Rossi in 9th and Maverick Vinales in 11th, who have been suffering from wheelspin in the wet conditions. Dovi showed good pace in practice on Friday, topping FP1, but ran out of tyre at just the wrong point during qualifying, leaving him further down the grid.
Dovi’s team-mate Jorge Lorenzo performed far better, qualifying in 6th and backing up his previous comments about feeling strong on the Ducati in full-wet conditions. Joining Jorge on the second row is Cal Crutchlow who rode well to 4th and Jonas Folger who gets his best MotoGP qualifying in 5th.
Pol Espargaro joined Petrucci in moving up from Q1 and the extra track time seems to have benefitted the Spaniard in the same way, with Pol putting the KTM into 7th on the grid, his best qualifying of the year and just ahead of his brother Aleix on the Aprilia in 8th, who has been performing well throughout the weekend so far and should be strong in tomorrow’s race. Rounding out the top 12 is Alvaro Bautista, another rider who has shown good pace in Sachsenring and should be able to get a good result.
The 30 laps around the East German track will be influenced by the weather, which could do anything, and the tyre choice, which could be quite open as all options are deemed “raceable” by Michelin. It’s important to say the French tyre supplier has done a good job so far this weekend; they were working with no data on a new surface and the allocation is working quite well. Also in stereotypical German fashion, the asphalt itself is a perfect job, with excellent grip even in the rain and no bumps to be seen, so a “well done” also needs to go to the circuit.
Who will win the German Grand Prix is impossible to say but I would be very surprised if there wasn’t at least one Repsol Honda on the podium. Petrucci should continue his good form and Crutchlow has put himself in a decent position to run at the front. If it’s dry I expect the Yamahas of Rossi and Vinales, along with Dovizioso on the Ducati to move through the pack without too much trouble, assuming that Rossi’s M1 doesn’t have any more technical gremlins, of course.
30 laps of mostly going left around Sachsenring await on Sunday; the championship is tighter than ever and it’s Marc Marquez on pole, but who will be on top as MotoGP heads into the summer break? You’ll just have to watch and find out…