The Aprilia star pinches top spot from Miller as The Doctor claims P10 to earn automatic Q2 promotion on his final Saturday appearance
Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) is the fastest rider heading into the final MotoGP™ qualifying sessions of 2021 after setting a 1:30.529 in FP3 at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) and Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) are within a tenth of Espargaro in second and third, as Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) earns an automatic Q2 spot for his last qualifying dance in MotoGP™.
0.2s splits top 10 – The Doctor dazzles
Thankfully, no surprise rainfall occurred on Saturday morning and the premier class were able to get straight down to business under the Valencian sun. There were some earlier improvers, most notably Aleix Espargaro and LCR Honda Castrol’s Alex Marquez, before the former and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) then penetrated the top four. With 20 minutes to go, the top four – Miller and Pol Espargaro’s (Repsol Honda Team) times still standing from FP2 – were split by just 0.025s. The top five, down to Bagnaia, were covered by 0.068s!
Morbidelli then shot up to P5 to make it 0.068s separating the top six on the combined standings, with FP3 now ferociously busy. Pol Espargaro then suffered a vicious highside at Turn 13, the Spaniard was conscious but had to be stretchered away, with compatriot Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) briefly going top. It was brief because Miller slammed in a 1:30.547 to go 0.3s clear of the pack, the goalposts well and truly moved by the Aussie.
Morbidelli reduced Miller’s advantage to 0.067s with five minutes to go, Nakagami returned to the top three, Mir climbed to P4, before Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) went P3. Shadowing close friend Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team), Rossi climbed into the top 10 in his final FP3 session with the likes of Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) just going shy of the top 10, as did Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini).
Aprilia’s Espargaro beat Miller’s time by 0.018s to go fastest in the closing stages and with no other improvements incoming, The Doctor held onto a top 10 – just. Nine-time World Champion Rossi picked up P10 in his last FP3 shootout to head directly into Q2, a phenomenal job from the Italian.
Pecco set his personal best time on his final flying lap of the session to earn P4, as fellow GP21 rider Martin is fifth fastest ahead of qualifying. Mir is sixth, Nakagami is seventh, Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) was a late improver as the Frenchman leads compatriot Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) in P8 and P9 respectively, with Rossi 10th.
Final qualifying of 2021 coming up
You don’t need us to tell you that the final MotoGP™ qualifying session of the season, in Valencia, is simply unmissable. It will be the last time we’ll see Rossi competing in a MotoGP™ Q2 session, is a fairytale result on the cards? Find out at 14:10 local time (GMT+1).
Top 10 combined:
1. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) – 1:30.529
2. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 0.018
3. Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.085
4. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 0.123
5. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) + 0.185
6. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.233
7. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) + 0.248
8. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) + 0.257
9. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.262
10. Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.296