After a lengthy wait, due to a monsoon rain shower that hit the Sepang International Circuit directly at the end of FP4, the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP teammates were happy to get underway in qualifying. With no prior track time in wet conditions, they had to judge the limit to perfection in the 15-minute shoot-out. Valentino Rossi used his experience to put in a late charge to secure third position on the grid. Although Maverick Viñales made steady progress throughout the session, he will start tomorrow’s race from eleventh place.
Rossi opened his qualifying challenge with a 2’13.917s, for a provisional fourth place, but soon found himself in seventh position as the pace picked up. He didn’t improve on his next two tries and returned to the pits with slightly more than four minutes remaining.
A lightning fast stop later, the Doctor resumed his time-attack. He was able to put in one more hot lap, and he made it count. He had dropped down to eighth place, but made a brilliant comeback on his final try, shooting up to second with a 2’13.009s, 0.848s from first. Though he was pushed back to third position after the chequered flag went out, he still looks forward to starting tomorrow’s race from the first row.
Viñales was thankfully OK after he got caught out at the end of FP4 by the sudden rain, but due to the incident he needed a couple of laps to get back into the groove in Q2. He was on a no-stop strategy, allowing him to use the available track time to the fullest. He held tenth place for the first half and consistently topped his personal best time on his final three attempts, as his feeling improved. However, he wasn’t able to make progress in terms of grid position. He ended the session in eleventh place, with a 2’14.856s fastest lap, 2.695s from pole.
Pole sitter Marc Márquez was later penalised by Race Direction, following an incident in Q2 involving Andrea Iannone. He was demoted to seventh position, meaning Rossi moves up to second place on the grid.
Tomorrow’s time schedule has been amended to prevent similar delays as the MotoGP field experienced today due to weather and track conditions. MotoGP’s Warm Up will be held from 08:40 – 09:00 (local track time: GMT+8) and the race will get underway at 13:00.