Maverick Viñales accomplished a solid victory in the Qatar Grand Prix after an intense fight with Andrea Dovizioso, who finished second. Rossi was third while world champion Marc Márquez could only be fourth. His Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa finished fifth, after a nice fight with sixth-placed Aleix Espargaró. Redding, Miller, Rins and Folger closed the top 10. Lorenzo finished eleventh.
When everything was ready for the start of the race, it started to rain, forcing the Race Director to delay the start of the 2017 MotoGP championship. After half an hour of uncertainty, the race length changed from 22 to 20 laps.
Iannone made a great start and was leading, followed by the debutant Zarco and the world champion Marquez. From behind, Lorenzo made a mistake that made him lose several positions on the board. After an intense first lap in the lead, Zarco crossed the line as the leader, followed by Marquez and Iannone. Dovizioso marched fourth, with Viñales, Pedrosa, Rossi and Bautista behind him.
After three laps, the race stabilized, forming leading group with four riders (Zarco, Márquez, Dovizioso and Iannone). Viñales, fifth and Rossi, sixth, who had just overtaken Pedrosa, started to reduce distance with the leaders. Cal Crutchlow suffered the first crash of the year.
With fourteen laps ahead and having opened a two-second gap with Dovi, who was now second, Zarco fell in turn two, which forced him to abandon the GP. The Ducati rider was leading, followed by Marquez and Iannone. Just behind, at just over a second, the Yamaha drivers struggled to shorten the gap.
Bautista suffered an accident in the eighth lap as Iannone and Marquez intensified their fight for second place, allowing Viñales to get closer to the podium fight and Dovizioso to open a gap of one second in the lead.
Just as the race reached its equator, Iannone fell in turn 5, losing any option to fight for the podium. Dovizioso held the first place, while Rossi joined the fight for the podium with Marquez and Viñales. Closing the top 10 were: Pedrosa, Redding, Miller, A. Espargaró, Lorenzo and Petrucci.
It was not going to take long for Yamaha drivers to overtake for Marquez. The poleman, Viñales, began to make fastest laps to approach Dovizioso. The Spaniard outperformed the Italian with 7 laps ahead. However, the power of the Ducati in the straights prevented him to maintain the first position.
Maverick Viñales crossed the finish line ahead of Dovizioso after beating him with two laps to go. Rossi closed the podium, followed by the two Honda of Marquez and Pedrosa. The top 10 was closed by: A. Espargaró, Redding, Miller, Rins and Folger. Jorge Lorenzo achieved a discrete eleventh place in his debut with Ducati.
The Catalan rider was thus able to get his second victory in the premier class, in a race in which he had to recover from a bad start. He leads the MotoGP World Championship for the first time in his career. Dovizioso’s second place, compared to Lorenzo’s eleventh, shows that the Spaniard still has a lot of work ahead of him to get used to his new team. The Honda, as usual in the first race of the season, had a correct but discreet performance. We will see if in Argentina, in two weeks, Marquez can maintain his impeccable record in that circuit, where he has always won.
Rossi: “I would not have bet to get the podium here, but we never gave up. I was good at braking and I hope we can continue like this.”
Dovizioso: “It was difficult, but it was a good decision to ride the soft tire in the back. I led and was comfortable but did not push hard to keep the tire. I could not follow Maverick to the end. My forte was the straight, but it was not enough. I want to thank the team for their effort.”
Viñales: “I feel fantastic. I was very careful the first few laps, but then I started to push, being careful with the tire. The bike worked fantastically, so I want to thank the team for the fantastic work they have done.”