Yamaha rider Franco Morbidelli secured his first-ever MotoGP win at the San Marino Grand Prix. Starting second, he almost immediately pulled into the lead and didn’t look back to allow anyone to challenge him throughout the duration of the race.
Valentino Rossi followed Morbidelli from fourth place, and the two riders were able to secure a considerable gap over their competition right from the start. Championship leader Fabio Quartararo, who had worked his way up to third place, began the hard charge to catch the leaders.
Unfortunately, he was racing far above his abilities. Quartararo crashed coming into turn 4. It wasn’t a crash bad enough to put him out of contention, so after a quick trip to the pits, he rejoined the track in 20th place.
But cold tires caught him out. Quartararo crashed again, this time in turn 6, which put an end to his day.
By lap nine, Morbidelli had almost guaranteed himself a win, leaving Rossi to battle his way up closer to the lead.
But it wasn’t to be for the veteran rider. As the race wound to a close, Rossi was left battling with Francesco Bagnaia, Alex Rins, and Joan Mir for podium positions. When they crossed the line after Morbidelli, it was with Bagnaia and Mir taking second and third, respectively. Polesitter Maverick Vinales came home sixth.
While the on-track action was exciting in and of itself, it was a race that had far wider implications. Morbidelli became the fifth winner in the span of six races, with Quartararo taking home the first two wins of the season being the only repeat winner.
Quartararo also lost his championship lead for the first time in the season as a result of his crashes. Now, Andrea Dovizioso heads the championship charge. At 76 points, he’s sitting six ahead of Quartararo.
But that’s not all: the top nine riders in the championship are separated by a mere 23 points—fewer points than the race-winning rider earns. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect that we might start watching these riders swap the championship lead as we head into the next event at Misano.