Italy’s Innea Bastianini will start Sunday’s Austrian MotoGP from pole on his Ducati-Gresini bike, while compatriot Francesco Bagnaia kept the pressure on series leader Fabio Quattararo by posting the fastest qualifying time.
Bagnaia has won the last two MotoGP’s to close the 49-point gap between himself and world champion Quattararo.
Bagnaia will start on the front row of the grid on the Ducati with Australian team-mate Jack Miller, while Yamaha rider Quattroro will start on the back row.
UFC 278: Usman vs Edwards 2 is live on Kayo and Foxtel, Sunday 21 August at 12pm AEST. Order now >
Enhancing Bagnayan’s spirit even more, Ducati dominated the Austrian MotoGP in 2014. After returning in 2016, he won five in a row before Brad Binder ended his run on KTM.
For Bastiani, his first pole position is good to get back on track after winning three races earlier in the campaign – the last being the French MotoGP in May.
“We had a good start to the weekend,” said the 24-year-old.
But today we took a step further by arriving well prepared for the qualifying session.
‘Stupid’: Debate over MotoGP schedule change
It comes after MotoGP announced it would follow Formula One’s lead and introduce racing weekends on Saturdays, a move condemned as “stupid” by world champion Fabio Quattararo.
Unlike F1, which is running just three races this campaign, MotoGP plans to have one on the eve of every grand prix in 2023.
And in another notable exception, half the normal race distance will not make the grid for the following day’s grand prix, which is close by half a point.
By coming, a rider who wins the race and the race itself can collect 37 points – as opposed to the 25 currently offered.
“It’s time to give (MotoGP) more exposure, not only on television, but also to the fans,” FIM president Georges Vegas said at this weekend’s Austrian MotoGP press conference in Spielberg.
“We need more fans, we need a better show and we will fill Saturday,” he added.
The new weekend sprint schedule has been tweaked, with just two long, practice runs before the traditional two-part qualifying session.
Q2 includes the 10 best combined practice times and the two fastest drivers from Q1.
Qualifying will take place 24 hours later for both the Sprint and Grand Prix grids.
The proposal has not received universal approval from the insiders, however, with Quatararo leading the opposition.
“I find it completely stupid,” said the Yamaha star, who raised the issue of the rider addition.
“It would be interesting if we had the same race every time as in Formula One, but every Saturday.
“There are definitely districts pushing us.” Like many other riders, the sport’s authorities sanctioned the move and struck out “without asking the riders’ advice”.
They first heard about it on Friday evening.
“We were all told about the change at the Security Commission meeting,” he said.
“We let them know as much as possible that there would be some changes in the spirit of the race,” said Hervé Poncharal, president of the International Association of Road Racing Teams.
Quattararo’s skepticism is not shared by all, with Innea Bastianini suggesting the new format “could be a good thing, another reason to do things well”.
The Italian rider spoke before heading out to claim pole for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix.
The Moto2 and Moto3 championships are unaffected by the changes coming in 2023, with the competition only involving MotoGP.