The Austrian Grand Prix is always a show, no matter what the weather at the Red Bull Ring is! And Spielberg once again confirmed the reputation of the Ducati motor track, but the hero of the day was Fabio Quartararo on Yamaha.
First, the most important point: all the rubber configurations that the teams selected and tested on Saturday were marked by the pilots after the introductory lap of the Austrian Grand Prix.
14 of the 25 drivers completely or partially, but significantly changed the tires on the starting grid: Pol Espargaro put Hard/ Soft; Nakagami, Joan Mir, and Jorge Martin – Hard / Medium; Pecco Bagnaia and Jack Miller, as well as Joan Zarco took Soft / Medium; Quartararo, Morbidelli, Darrin Binder and Dovizioso rearranged their Yamaha M1 from a much softer set to Hard/Medium. The race was expected to be long and hot, not literally, but figuratively.
Rain was no longer expected in Spielberg, but at the start of the race, the asphalt temperature was only +23. In general, playing with hard front slicks was dangerous by definition, taking into account the features of the new chicane.
And three more important events happened, which in general violated the original scenario.
First: before the start, the locking device on the Holeshot device did not work for Aleix Espargaro, and he could not start the race normally! MotoGP pilots have forgotten how to start without gadgets… The Aprilia pilot, even before entering the first turn, moved to the 9th position, from where he then got out for a long time… Aleix immediately dropped out of the fight for the podium. Second: peloton passed the 1st turn without incident, a new chicane, and a treacherous 3rd turn, but when he reached the 4th, he caught a high side on cold tires and dropped out of the race Joan Mir. Finally, the third: pole-sitter Enea Bastianini had the front brakes jammed on the 6th lap, which is why the Gresini pilot plowed through the gravel of the 3rd turn, almost reaching the bump. Enea failed to return to the race normally, and he decided to retire.
Banya was moved from the first position immediately at the start by Pecco Bagnaia, and Jack Miller invariably followed his partner. After the departure of Bastianini, they led the race and controlled the race for a long time. In the Ducati camp, everything should have been calm: Jorge Martin covered the rear of the factory colleagues, and Maverick Vinales and Aleix Espargaro pushed Fabio Quartararo from behind.
According to the plan, a pair of Ducati Lenovo was just supposed to drive away from the rest on their soft slicks, while Quartararo had a tense defensive operation – not to let Aprilia go ahead.
If Aleix Espargaro’s Holeshot device had not failed, and Enea Bastianini had not come off after five laps, the race would have been exactly in favor of Ducati, or rather, in favor of a 100% Ducati podium. But everything that happened, so the second half of the race turned out differently – the dominance strategy leaked. Fabio Quartararo accelerated with titanic efforts, reduced the gap from Martin by almost half in 4-5 laps, pushed the Pramac pilot, and forced him to make a mistake.
The turning point of the whole race was the 17th lap. Jorge Martin missed the entrance to the chicane and went for a cut, letting the Yamaha go ahead. It was Fabio’s key leap to the podium. In addition, Aprilia began to lag behind and soon found themselves 2 seconds behind Quartararo and Martin. Vinales and Espargaro were attacked by the pursuers, and they no longer posed a threat to the leaders.
It took 3 more laps for Quarararo to catch up with Miller and Bagnaia. At the entrance to the chicane, Quarararo carried out an unexpected attack on Miller, which the Australian definitely did not expect. Yamaha’s super-turnability suddenly defeated Ducati’s torque – Miller could not respond to this attack either at the exit of the chicane or at the entrance to turn 3.
Jorge Martin also played a role here. After the cut, he did not go anywhere: the stewards decided not to penalize the Spaniard, accepting that he had already lost his position. But Martin really wanted her back.
And when Quartararo passed Miller, Jorge also attacked his Ducati colleague, thus restraining his counterattack on Yamaha. Quartararo can only thank Jorge for this small but valuable help: during the jerk, Martin and Miller’s motorcycles came together hard, which slowed both down!..
The heat still let Martin down when entering the last lap: the Pramac Ducati was on its side in turn 1, and although he managed to return to the race, Pecco, Fabio and Jack had already rolled to the finish.
Quartararo performed a small racing miracle, for which he will be paid 10 million euros in 2023, and then the same amount in 2024: he overcame the weaknesses of Yamaha at the Red Bull Ring and minimized possible losses from losing the race.
He couldn’t get Pecco. But the attack on Miller was a shock from which Jack did not recover. Of course, Martin’s vehemence played a role, but it was Quarararo who made the first move!
Read also: Fabio Quartararo led the morning warm-up of the Australian MotoGP Grand Prix | Results
In general, he can record the Austrian Grand Prix to his credit: the position of the leader of the MotoGP championship has not shaken; but the position of Aleix Espargaro, who lost 10 points during the day, has seriously suffered – now he loses 32 points to Quartararo, and Bagnaia approached Aleix by a dangerous distance of 12 points.
Bagnaia is also a big hero: he became the first Ducati driver after Casey Stoner to win three Grands Prix in a row during one season.
Another hero of the day, however, who remained without an Oscar, at the Red Bull Ring was Luca Marini, who managed to beat Aprilia and get into 4th place. Joan Zarco closed the TOP 5 in front of Aleix Espargaro. For Maverick Vinales, the second half of the race did not work out: he began to slide and soon lost 7 positions, finishing 13th. Alex Marquez was the only Honda in the points zone at the finish, 14th, and closed the TOP 15 Dovizioso.
Pol Espargaro and Stefan Bradl did not earn a single point for the 16th-17th places this time, and Nakagami took off at the very beginning of the race – another depressing weekend for Honda…
And Suzuki: as it became known later, a fall on the 1st lap led Joan Mira to injury – the Majorcan native broke his ankle and will now miss 3-4 weeks.