Fabio Quartararo flew to a fourth MotoGP pole of 2021 with a blistering lap record in qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello ahead of title rival Francesco Bagnaia.
The Frenchman elected to head out on track focussing only on his own lap and not searching for a tow down the long Mugello front straight, a strategy that worked well in the early stages of Q2 as he posted a 1:45.481s to complete the opening runs quickest ahead of a surprise Aleix Espargaro’s Aprilia.
Quartararo elected to follow the same pattern as he headed out for his final run, finding a nice section of empty Italian tarmac with which to strive for his fourth successive premier class pole position of the term.
The series leader lit up the time screens on his penultimate lap as he shattered the Mugello lap record-a 1:45.456s set by Bagnaia in FP3 on Saturday morning-with a 1:45.187s effort leaving him nearly half-a-second clear of anyone else at that juncture.
His biggest threat looked to be from the Ducati armada, Bagnaia stringing together a strong final gambit though eventually taking the chequered flag second quickest, 0.230s down on Quartararo’s benchmark.
Johann Zarco fired in a late improvement to complete the front row for Pramac, the two-time Moto2 world champion denying Aleix and Aprilia a dream front row start for its new RS-GP, the Spaniard at least still achieving his best qualifying result with the Italian marque of fourth despite having had to contest Q1.
Espargaro impressively managed to escape the clutches of the opening qualifying session despite not utilising a slipstream, his best effort enough to hang on behind Marc Marquez after Maverick Vinales ran wide on his best lap.
Marquez stuck to the rear of Vinales like glue as he used the tow from the back of the Yamaha to post his session leading 1:45.924s, the latter visibly frustrated as he tried in vain to shake off the Honda.
Despite his problems Vinales looked good to still lead the session with a final last gasp tour as Marquez returned to the pits, though his hopes were dashed after he ran on at the final bend-gifting Aleix the final automatic Q2 spot and leaving him a lowly 13th.
Jack Miller meanwhile will start sixth for the Italian GP on the second factory Ducati ahead of KTM duo Brad Binder and Miguel Oliviera, the pair enjoying the new chassis the Austrian manufacturer brought to Mugello for this weekend.
Alex Rins ended up as the quickest Suzuki in eighth ahead of team-mate Joan Mir, while Franco Morbidelli completed the top ten on his year-old Petronas SRT Yamaha.
Marc and Honda team-mate Pol Espargaro completed the 12-strong field in the pole shootout.
Takaaki Nakagami missed out on a Q2 berth despite looking strong throughout the event so far, the LCR man having to settle for 15th on the grid after failing to put together a strong final tour in Q1 just behind fastest rookie Enea Bastianini.
Pramac replacement rider Michele Pirro ended up 16th, while Valentino Rossi’s continual struggles failed to subside as he could only capture the 19th best starting slot on the grid at the first of his two home races of the year.