Marini snatches pole, Bagnaia heads Martin

Having taken a maiden pole last month in Indonesia, Marini added a second to his career tally when he fired in a 1m51.762s at the end of Q2 on his VR46 Ducati.

He denied Gresini’s Fabio Di Giannantonio, who Marini is now also likely to beat to the vacant factory Honda seat for 2024, a second career pole, while Alex Marquez completed the front row.

The championship challengers will start alongside each other in Saturday afternoon’s sprint and Sunday’s grand prix, with championship leader Francesco Bagnaia heading Jorge Martin in fourth.

Di Giannantonio set the early pace in the 15-minute pole shootout session, the Italian posting a new lap record of 1m52.188s as his opening effort.

Bagnaia had Honda’s Marc Marquez in tow but went fifth, while Martin was third after his second flying lap, having been forced to abort his first when he almost hit Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro into Turn 12 while following him.

With just under three minutes to go, Di Giannantonio began lighting up the timing screens again and produced the first-ever sub-1m52s tour of the newly resurfaced Losail circuit.

Di Giannantonio’s 1m51.829s looked like it would be enough to keep him on pole for the first time in 2023.

However, a 1m51.762s from Marini on the VR46-run 2022-spec Ducati gave him his second pole of the season.

Fabio Di Giannantonio, Gresini Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Fabio Di Giannantonio, Gresini Racing

Alex Marquez had to come through Q1 but was able to make the front row on the second Gresini Ducati, beating factory Ducati rider Bagnaia by 0.138s.

Martin ended up just 0.022s shy of Bagnaia in fifth, with Q1 pacesetter Johann Zarco rounding out the top six on the sister Pramac Ducati.

Marc Marquez was seventh having used Bagnaia as a reference for his second run, with Aprilia’s Maverick Vinales eighth ahead of RNF counterpart Raul Fernandez.

Espargaro completed the top 10 on the sister factory Aprilia, but faces a stewards investigation for slapping Yamaha’s Franco Morbidelli during third practice earlier on Saturday.

Brad Binder was the lead KTM in 11th ahead of Tech3’s Augusto Fernandez, while VR46’s Marco Bezzecchi just missed out on Q2 and will start 13th.

Fabio Quartararo couldn’t lift himself out of Q2 and will go from 14th on his Yamaha, while last year’s Qatar winner and last week’s Malaysian GP victor Enea Bastianini could do no more than 15th on his factory Ducati.

Jack Miller was 16th on the second factory team KTM from RNF’s Miguel Oliveira and Morbidelli, while Pol Espargaro (Tech3), Joan Mir (Honda) and LCR duo Iker Lecuona and Takaaki Nakagami rounded out the field.

Lecuona will also be facing a stewards investigation for blocking Bastianini on one of the Italian’s flying laps in Q1.

Qatar GP – Qualifying results:

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