There are news and new rules in the Motorcycle World Championship. However, the protagonists are the same again at the Portuguese GP after the return of Marc Márquez to the tracks. The Catalan said a day before that he did not quite understand where the limits of the Honda were, nor how to improve it and make it to his liking, since he lacked hours and laps with the motorcycle. He hasn’t forgotten to pilot, however. As much as he accused the fatigue in his right arm, the one whose injury has had him without competing since July. On his return to MotoGP, Márquez will start (this Sunday, at 2:00 p.m., on DAZN and Movistar MotoGP) from sixth on the grid after a somewhat controversial qualifying session.
The controversy is explained because there are, finally, illuminated panels distributed throughout the circuit that inform about whether there is a yellow flag or a red flag with much more efficiency than only the commissioners waving a flag from the road. There are also sensors that define the limits of the track in those areas where it is considered that going off the pianos helps to improve the times. So more penalties have also been stipulated. For example, a driver who improves his own times when passing through a section affected by a yellow flag – it is required to reduce speed after an accident has occurred on a certain section of the circuit – will have that lap canceled. And that was exactly what happened to Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati) this Saturday during the last minutes of qualifying. With the bad luck that the Italian has just signed a heart attack lap at the Algarve circuit. Far from celebrating the pole, Bagnaia fell from first to 11th on the starting grid. Viñales will start from 12th position, discarding his times, which brought him close pole, for going half a millimeter out of the allowed margin.
Once the irregularity was reviewed, Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) appeared in his place at the top of the time table. The Frenchman, winner of the last race in Doha, had also ridden quite fast, setting a new record on the Portuguese track: 1m, 38’862s.
In the first row of the grid he will be accompanied by Alex Rins (Suzuki), second, and Johann Zarco (Ducati Pramac), third and current overall leader thanks to their two second places in the first two races of the course in Qatar.
Very close to them, just a few meters behind, will be Marc Márquez, sixth in a long-suffering qualifying session. The second row is an award for the Repsol Honda rider, classified behind Jack Miller (Ducati) and Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha), who was forced to reduce his efforts at the end of the day and went to the qualifying session when there were less than four minutes to go. He had time to take a single quick lap. And he nailed it: 1m, 39′121s, less than three tenths of Quartararo.
Márquez, who was seen making multiple gestures to loosen the muscles of his right arm, whose humerus accumulated three operations between July and December of last year, had to go through Q1 first. But he solved it with solvency. And thanks to the Joan Mir wheel, who insistently sought to help him squeeze out the last tenths. When he went to Q2 he followed the same strategy and waited to find the reference of another Suzuki, Alex Rins, to return to the track after a hard day.
The Catalan rider did 47 laps of the Portuguese circuit, this is about 215 kilometers. And the overload was noticeable in his right arm. The end result, however, was fantastic. Starting from the second row and trying not to lose track of the guys who have fought to win the first two races is a magnificent setting to return to racing after nine months out.