Repsol Honda’s 21 year-old rider produced a gritty performance to take maximum points despite breaking his leg in the preseason and missing the last two MotoGP tests.
In further drama Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo crashed out of the race lead at turn 15 on the first lap, meaning his season starts with a DNF after he had struggled with grip issues throughout the weekend. After eight laps the race was also over for Stefan Bradl, who had led the contest for several circulations.
Indeed, Marquez and Rossi then went on to have a great fight which went down to the last lap and saw the Spaniard outpace the Italian by 0.25s – with Pedrosa three seconds back to complete the podium.
An excellent ride for Aleix Espargaro saw him take fourth on his debut for NGM Forward Racing on their ‘Open’ Yamaha. Espargaro cashed in on the crashes of Alvaro Baustista (GO&FUN Honda Gresini) and Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) as they fell out of the podium hunt.
Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow did well in fifth and sixth respectively for Ducati Team, though Crutchlow finished 16 seconds behind his teammate after almost running out of fuel on his debut for the Italian factory.
A good first premier class race for Scott Redding (GO&FUN Honda Gresini) saw him beat fellow ‘Open’ Honda equipped rider Nicky Hayden (Drive M7 Aspar) to seventh by a 0.035s margin.
The top ten was rounded out by Hayden’s compatriot Colin Edwards (NGM Forward Racing), riding his first race as a 40 year-old, and Andrea Iannone (Pramac Racing) who recovered well from a fall on the last corner of lap two.
A mistake from rookie Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) with five laps to go saw him drop down to 15th and then pull into pits shortly after.
Rossi had the following to say after his clash with Marquez:
“I’m very happy but a little bit upset because I lost. Marc is very strong and I enjoyed very much the whole race. It was a great race, very funny from the beginning, I started from behind and I had to risk in the first laps. I was very precise and didn’t make any mistakes. At the end I played my card with Marc but he was stronger than me so he won and he deserved it. It’s the first time it looked like an old race from MotoGP from ten years ago, all together on the same pace, some mistakes, going wide and so on. Maybe Dorna had a great idea! The Yamaha is always good in Qatar and I worked very hard in the practice for the race. I’m very happy with the work of my team and the bike was great in the race too. But anyway I am so happy for this start to the year, now we have to continue like this. Usually Jorge is so fantastic and so strong in the first laps so I don’t understand what the mistake was.”