It looked like the 4.6km long track in Barcelona took no prisoners as 25 riders started the race but only 17 made it across the finish line. Despite having a top speed deficit, Fabio Quartararo shot to the top of the line on the opening lap on his M1 and finished the race with a lead of 6.473 seconds. The second and third positions were secured by Prima Pramac Ducati riders Jorge Martin and Johann Zarco, respectively. Alexi Espargaro of Aprilia Racing was racing on his home soil and had been dominating the charts on Friday and Saturday. His happiness turned bitter at the end of the race due to a confusion regarding the last lap.
The high temperature on the track meant that grip levels were low and rider fatigue was a concern. This resulted in a lot of people crashing, crucially the crash at the first turn of the very first lap of the race. Aleix had a great start off the line but was overtaken by Fabio Quartararo going into the first corner. The flying Frenchman was braver with the brakes and managed to take pole position. Both riders would have been thanking the gods as they missed an early-race scrap that took out three riders from the race – Takaaki Nakagami, Alex Rins and more importantly Francesco Bagnaia, the man who won the last race and was a strong contender in the Rider’s Championship.
Nakagami lost the front as he went into the first corner a bit too aggressively. His head banged against the rear tyre of ‘Pecco’ Bagnaia while his bike slammed into the back of the GSX-RR of Alex Rins so hard that he flew off the seat and landed on the tarmac, injuring his left wrist. This is the second race where Alex has not been able to finish the race and this time it was due to no fault of his own. Joan Mir, the other Suzuki rider used the confusion of this chaos to jump from P17 to P7 and was soon in the top 5.
Then in Lap 2, Stefan Bradl, stepping in for Marc Marquez, also crashed (seems a bit appropriate considering who he is filling in for). Further up the line, Quartararo was getting away from Aleix Espargaro while Jorge Martin made the best of the situation and jumped into P3. Martin had his sights set on Aleix and his teammate Johann Zarco was not too far behind in fourth place. In the next lap, Martin managed to snatch P2 from Aleix at Turn 1, a prime spot for overtaking.
Another person to crash was Marco Bezzecchi, who was running in P13. Turn 10 during Lap 5 saw him slide off the track with his bike. In Lap, 8 Enea Bastianini became the other Ducati rider to not finish two consecutive races. The Italian rider could not complete Turn 5 as his Ducati went sliding straight into the gravel trap. Just a few corners later, the other Gresini Ducati rider, Fabio Di Giannantonio also crashed and was out of the race, one which the team would very well like to forget. Di Giannantonio had started the previous race in pole position and even at Catalunya, managed to start in fifth place. Sadly, the track proved to be a bit much for the rookie.
Tired of following, Aleix finally made a brave move on martin at Turn one on Lap 10 of the race. The Spaniard tested the limit of braking late, got very close to the Ducati and pulled out of the corner in P2. Part of the reason was also that Martin was probably losing grip and was going slower lap after lap. The two KTMs of Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira started the race together in P15 and P16, respectively and climbed up into P8 and P9 eventually. Both riders were running a solid race and were mostly competing against each other.
Aleix and Jorge traded places once in Lap 16 and then in Lap 21 while Quartararo kept extending his lead. Zarco was consistently riding in fourth position, the rest of the riders a few seconds behind him.
Two riders that really seemed to be struggling in the heat were Jack Miller of Ducati Lenovo Team and Pol Espargaro of Repsol Honda. Miller had not been very impressive in the last race either and started the race in Barcelona in P11 but finished in P14. Things were much worse for the younger Espargaro who finished dead last in P17, dropping down seven places and scoring no points at all. Alex Marquez was Honda’s best rider for the day as he fought his way from the back of the grid to finish inside the top 10.
Lap 13 saw Jorge Martin fight back and try and gain a few tenths of a second on Aleix and by Lap 15 it was apparent that Aleix was coming under pressure and making small mistakes. Martin saw an opening at Turn 1 in the very next lap and used it to overtake him at Turn 1 on the next lap.
While I thought that the horrible crash in the opening lap of the race was going to be the biggest disaster of the race, there was a bigger blunder awaiting Aleix in the last lap. After crossing the line, Aleix who was in second place suddenly slowed down and started slapping the tank of his RS-GP. At first, it looked like he had a mechanical issue causing him to fall back but then seeing him wave his hands at the crowd made it apparent that the Spaniard thought he had crossed the chequered flag. A few corners into the lap, he finally realised his mistake and went on attack mode again. By now he was in P6 and had a close tussle with Luca Marini. Fifth place was all he could manage and finished the race with his head in his hands.
An interesting battle was brewing between Luca Marini and Mir for fifth place even though Mir was given a penalty for overtaking under Yellow Flags and had to give up one spot. This battle continued till the end of the race and it was only in the last lap that Aleix slotted himself between the two due to his late-race mistake. Joan Mir displayed a great race performance and earned a good chunk of points that to his fourth-place finish.
Quartararo crossed the finish line with a healthy lead between him and Martin. The blunder from Aleix did not just affect his position in the race but a lot more. Johann Zarco who had spent the entire race in fourth position managed to finish on the podium. Also, Quartararo is now 22 points clear of Aleix, his closest competitor in the world championship, a lead that would have been much smaller had Aleix finished the race in P2. The aftermath of the crash saw Alex Rins suffer a fracture in his left wrist that will require an operation and a resting period. Maverick Vinales’ gamble on the soft rear tyre did not pay many dividends as he finished the race in the seventh position, only one place above his P8 start.
2022 MotoGP: Catalan GP results (Top 15)
|1||Fabio Quartararo||Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP||40’29.3600|
|2||Jorge Martin||Prima Pramac Racing||+6.473|
|3||Johann Zarco||Prima Pramac Racing||+8.385|
|4||Joan Mir||Team Suzuki ECSTAR||+11.481|
|5||Aleix Espargaro||Aprilia Racing||+14.395|
|6||Luca Marini||Mooney VR46 Racing Team||+15.430|
|7||Maverick Vinales||Aprilia Racing||+15.975|
|8||Brad Binder||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||+21.436|
|9||Miguel Oliveira||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||+26.800|
|10||Alex Marquez||LCR Honda CASTROL||+30.460|
|11||Remy Gardner||Tech3 KTM Factory Racing||+32.443|
|12||Darryn Binder||WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP Team||+32.881|
|13||Franco Morbidelli||Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP||+33.168|
|14||Jack Miller||Ducati Lenovo Team||+34.693|
|15||Raul Fernandez||Tech3 KTM Factory Racing||+37.844|