Maverick Viñales takes pole position in the Austrian mountains as Andrea Dovizioso announces his shock departure from Ducati at the end of the 2020 season.
Viñales takes his first pole position since the Australian Grand Prix in 2019 ahead of Jack Miller in second and championship leader Fabio Quartararo with less than a tenth splitting the top three and the top 12 being covered by a mere half a second.
Q2 got off to a speedy start as the riders quickly filed out of the pits to put in their laps in case of approaching rain with Yamaha’s Viñales flying to the top of the timings before being knocked off by future teammate Quartararo. It wasn’t long before the Spaniard claimed back the top spot however, his lap time was scrubbed due to exceeding track limits and Quartararo took control of the timings once again. It wasn’t long before Viñales improved and went back to the top of the timings with Brno podium finisher Franco Morbidelli joined the party to make it a historic Yamaha 1-2-3.
Headline making Dovizioso threw his hat into the ring as he briefly topped the timings before a determined Viñales once again went top with a tenth of a second gap between himself and the pack. Pramac’s Jack Miller and KTM’s Pol Espargaro weren’t backing down from the fight for pole position, throwing everything at their laps. Both riders improved in sectors 1 and 2 but Espargaro lost time in sector 3 and sector 4 and he was unable to improve on his time whilst Miller slotted himself into second position. Viñales will be hoping to capitalise on his superb qualifying position to get the jump on Miller in second position and Quartararo in third.
Dovizioso will start the race from fourth ahead of P.Espargaro in fifth and Suzuki’s Joan Mir in sixth. Dovizioso had already made headlines before he had even put on his leathers for the afternoon sessions as it was announced he would be parting ways with Ducati at the end of 2020. The news comes after months of talk and speculation regarding the Italian’s future at the Bologna outfit and several disappointing recent results. Whilst the results have apparently had no bearing on the matter, the decision seems to have purely come from Dovizioso’s camp after they failed to reach a salary agreement that both parties were happy with.
On the third row, Morbidelli lines up in seventh position with Alex Rins and Johann Zarco for company in eighth and ninth respectively. Taka Nakagami was again the highest placing Honda powered rider in tenth position ahead of Miguel Oliveira in eleventh and Valentino Rossi who advanced with Zarco from Q1 in twelfth.
Late drama in the Q1 session saw a normally calm and collected Danilo Petrucci lose his temper at Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro. The pair had a run in towards the end of the Q1 session as Petrucci believed Espargaro impeded his flying lap, causing him to lose time, after slowing down to catch a tow off Rossi. A number of exaggerated hand gestures on track were followed by a not so subtle ‘flipping of the bird’ in pitlane to the Aprilia man and his outfit. Hopefully the pair will be able to put their qualifying squabbles to bed before lights out on Sunday as they line up, side-by-side on the grid.
After struggling last weekend in Brno, Quartararo will be hunting down his third victory of the season to extend his championship lead but, with the Austria circuit famously being a ‘Ducati friendly’ circuit, will it be one of the Bologna bullets on the top step?