Marc Marquez secured his 70th Grand Prix pole position at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, further strengthening his position at the top of the records sheet ahead of Jorge Lorenzo with 65 GP poles and Valentino Rossi with 64.
Track conditions were close to perfect for MotoGP qualifying and after Danilo Petrucci and Dani Pedrosa made it through Q1 it was time for the top 12 shootout.
Marquez was one of the first riders to head out and led early on before being replaced briefly by both Karel Abraham and Maverick Vinales. On his third flying lap, Marquez returned to the top of the times ahead of Andrea Dovizioso before riders headed back to the pits for a change of rubber ahead of their final run.
Back on track and on his second flying lap with a new set of tyres, Marc Marquez put pole position further out of reach for his rivals with a stunning 1’23.235 with Dovizioso securing second on his final lap and Jorge Lorenzo rounding out the front row in third.
Maverick Vinales headed row two in front of Danilo Petrucci and Johann Zarco, while Valentino Rossi, who is recovering from illness, finished in 7th on row 3 joined by Dani Pedrosa and Cal Crutchlow. The top 12 was then completed by Andrea Iannone, Karel Abraham and Loris Baz, with Iannone only having one Suzuki available to him after an apparent engine blow-up in FP4.
In terms of race pace, Marc Marquez has shown great form on a number of different tyres and has to be the man to beat tomorrow, despite Ducati’s previous dominance. Whether the Italian team have been holding something in reserve for Sunday remains to be seen, but if Marquez gets a clear track and keeps the lead for the first couple of laps he could be very hard to catch. Dovizioso and Lorenzo should be able to put up a strong podium fight, although Lorenzo needs to work on braking to really give himself the best chance.
Yamaha aren’t too far behind and Vinales, Zarco and Rossi have shown good pace and shouldn’t be ruled out. Tyre choice will again be crucial, and with the soft option being the key to Iannone’s win last year some may be tempted to try to recreate that.
Ahead of tomorrow’s Austrian Grand Prix there are some concerns over safety with a number of riders saying they don’t wish to race if it rains as the track becomes too slippery and a number of walls are just too close, with not enough gravel run-off (this was shown in a crash-filled Moto2 session on Friday). Thankfully, it should be dry on race day but in 2017 it is ridiculous that we have a MotoGP circuit that isn’t deemed safe by some riders.
What will actually happen in the race is anyone’s guess, as usual for MotoGP, but Marc Marquez does look to be the favourite to take the win. Ducati and Yamaha will both be there but how close they will be will only be known when the lights go out at the Red Bull Ring.