MotoGP Qualifying Cancelled In Qatar

Maverick Viñales awarded pole position for Sunday’s season-opening MotoGP race.

2017 MotoGP qualifying in Qatar
“From FP1, I’ve felt really good,” Movistar Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales said. “I did a great lap time, riding much faster than qualifying from last year. It was difficult today. It wasn’t okay for wet or dry tires—too risky to go out.”Photo: MotoGP

Qatar GP Qualifying Order
1. Maverick VIÑALES (25) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YAMAHA
2. Andrea IANNONE (29) Team Suzuki Ecstar SUZUKI
3. Marc MARQUEZ (93), Repsol Honda Team HONDA
4. Johann ZARCO (5) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YAMAHA
5. Andrea DOVIZIOSO (4) Ducati Team DUCATI
6. Scott REDDING (45) Octo Pramac Racing DUCATI
7. Dani PEDROSA (26) Repsol Honda Team HONDA
8. Jonas FOLGER (94) Movistar Yamaha Tech 3 YAMAHA
9. Cal CRUTCHLOW (35) LCR Honda HONDA
10. Valentino ROSSI (46) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YAMAHA
11. Danilo PETRUCCI (9) OCTO Pramac Racing DUCATI
12. Jorge LORENZO (99) Ducati Team DUCATI
13. Alvaro BAUTISTA (19) Pull&Bear Aspar Team DUCATI
14. Loris BAZ (76) Reale Avintia Racing DUCATI
15. Aleix ESPARGARO (41) Aprilia Racing Team Gresini APRILIA
16. Jack MILLER (43) Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS HONDA
17. Karel ABRAHAM (17) Pull&Bear Aspar Team DUCATI
18. Alex RINS (42) Team Suzuki Ecstar SUZUKI
19. Tito RABAT (53) Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS HONDA
20. Hector BARBERA (8) Reale Avintia Racing DUCATI
21. Sam LOWES (22) Aprilia Racing Team Gresini APRILIA
22. Pol ESPARGARO (44) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM
23. Bradley SMITH (38) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM

Maverick Viñales will lead the 23-rider MotoGP field toward Turn 1 on Sunday night under the flood lights in Qatar, following the cancellation of final practice and both qualifying sessions due to circuit conditions that suited neither slicks nor rain tires.

Team Suzuki Ecstar Andrea Iannone
“It’s important to start from the first row,” said Suzuki-mounted Andrea Iannone. “Maverick and Marc [Marquez] have good pace, as we saw from the test. The practice before the race is important because we need the information to improve.”Photo: Team Suzuki Ecstar

Thunderstorms have pounded the region—average annual rainfall in Qatar is less than 3 inches—leaving standing water on and around the 3.34-mile racetrack. Like a few other tracks on the GP calendar, the Losail International Circuit is flat and drains poorly.

Opened in 2004, Losail has never held a wet MotoGP race. In ’09, the race was postponed one day due to weather. This year, for the first time, Michelin brought soft- and medium-compound rain rubber. Intermediates are no longer available.

Marc Marquez
“Starting on the front row is good, though this was not the best way to achieve this result,” admitted defending MotoGP world champ Marc Marquez. “I would have liked to have time today to work more for the race, but you must think of safety.”Photo: Repsol Honda

Race officials appeared to have exhausted all options to get in qualifying. Brooms, rakes, and shovels magically materialized. Jet dryers roared to life. Trucks siphoned floodwater from run-off zones. Vehicles splashed around the circuit. All to no avail.

Shortly after 8 p.m., officials called it a night, announcing that Sunday’s starting grids will be based on combined practice times, putting Vinales, Franco Morbidelli (Moto2), and Jorge Martin (Moto3) on pole for their respective races.

Dorna representative Loris Capirossi answered questions. “We are thinking we can solve [the problem],” he said. “But in the end, we understand that the problem is bigger than what we think. We had a lot of rain, and we don’t have any drainage.”

MotoGP riders suited up only briefly, soon slipping back into team attire. “It was too risky to go out,” Viñales said. Andrea Iannone, second quickest, agreed. “Safety is more important. Today was too dangerous.”

“Some riders will be disappointed,” added Viñales, whose teammate, Valentino Rossi, will start 10th. The riders did well to maintain their composure, repeatedly answering essentially the same question: “Can you race here in the rain?”

Each class will have a 30-minute warm-up session on Sunday. “The plan to prepare for the race—full tank, used tires—was FP4,” Vinales said. “We want to try some adjustments in the warm-up. It will be important to end that with a good feeling.”

Filling out the front row, Marc Marquez echoed Viñales’ comments. “On the first day I felt good with one base. Yesterday I tried a lot of things, and today was the time to look at it all and prepare for the race. But we can’t do anything about the weather.

“Warm-up will be important,” he added, “but we’ve done more than 300 laps during the test and this weekend. Everyone knows the possibilities for the race—a podium would be a great result for us. We can find the feeling again and start the season well.”