Maverick Vinales overcame a stunning debut performance from Romano Fenati to win the inaugural Moto3 Grand Prix in Qatar. The top two were in a class of their own but the Spaniard's relative experience told in the end to give him victory by just over four seconds.
Fenati made a lightning getaway from the second row to lead into turn one but Australian teenager Arthur Sissis came from even further back to follow him through turn one. Polesitter Sandro Cortese was demoted to third while Louis Rossi pushed Vinales down into fifth.
Despite taking part in his first grand prix, Fenati stormed clear of the rest of the field forcing Vinales into hasty action and halfway around lap two, the Avintia Blusens rider had dispatched Rossi, Cortese and Sissis to grab second, albeit 1.6 seconds off the lead.
Once he'd found some clear air, Vinales took chunks out of Fenati's advantage and by the time they entered the home straight on lap five, he was tucked in the slipstream of the FTR-Honda and breezed past into turn one. Many would've expected Fenati to drop back but the 16 year old showed great tenacity and had the nerve to retake the lead on lap ten, outbraking Vinales into turn one.
Two laps later, Vinales returned the favour and slipped past the Team Italia rider on the brakes and that appeared to be one challenge too many for Fenati who faded away to finish a distant second. The battle for the final podium place was far less clear-cut though as Moto3 showed it could create the same kind of drama as the old 125cc class.
No fewer than seven riders had a shot at third place heading into the closing stages as Miguel Oliveira and Louis Rossi slugged it out with a swarm of KTMs. The Portuguese rider held the prized position at the start of lap 14 but a couple of laps later, Cortese and Sissis motored past him on the pit straight while Luis Salom and Zulfahmi Khairuddin used their KTM power to muscle in on the action.
After a slipstreaming session to start the final lap, Khairuddin emerged in front but the AirAsia rider left his braking far too late and promoted Salom into P3. Cortese also took advantage and in the final few corners, the fight for third was a two-horse race. The German followed Salom until the high-speed turn 13 where he scythed up the inside and although leading onto the pit straight had been a disadvantage earlier on, Cortese held on to claim the final place on the rostrum.
Oliveira got the better of Khairuddin on the last lap to snatch fifth while Sissis slipped to seventh after such a promising performance. Danny Kent managed to haul himself into the group despite dropping to 14th on the first lap but the Briton had left himself too much to do and had to make do with eighth, achieved after outdragging Rossi on the run to the finish line.
Reigning Spanish 125cc champion Alex Rins claimed the final place in the top ten while Alan Techer completed a sensational day for the GP rookies by beating Hector Faubel, ten years his senior, to 11th. Danny Webb also raced strongly after a poor qualifying session but his progress could only take him up to 18th.