Franco Morbidelli Takes First Ever MotoGP Pole In Barcelona, Valentino Rossi Signs For 2021

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Photo: Mirco Lazzari (Getty Images)

It’s been a year of firsts for the MotoGP series, and qualifying for the Catalan Grand Prix has been no different. Yamaha rider Franco Morbidelli secured his first-ever pole position in Barcelona after a battle with his fellow Yamaha riders as well as future teammate Valentino Rossi.

Rossi has been rumored to join the Petronas SRT Yamaha team for months, but the deal is finally confirmed. He and Fabio Quartararo have effectively swapped seats. The Italian rider intended to use the first few months of 2020 to determine if he was still competitive enough to maintain a place in MotoGP, but the COVID-19 pandemic put his plans on hold. He ultimately decided that, yes, he was going to continue. And now he’ll be doing so with the Petronas squad.

But it was current Petronas SRT Yamaha rider Morbidelli who nabbed the coveted pole position in Barcelona. He wasn’t always the fastest rider of the Yamaha squad, with Rossi and Quartararo both providing significant challenge. But Morbidelli was consistently able to wipe out their lap times.

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“To beat Fabio in a hot lap is always great because it means you are very, very fast because Fabio is really good,” Morbidelli said of his teammate after qualifying. “Today, I was feeling great with the bike and I was wanting to make a really good lap time. Finally, I was able to make that impressive lap… Tomorrow we will try to make a good race as well.”

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Quartararo had similarly positive comments about his teammate Morbidell.

“I’m happy for second place because if Franco made the pole position for some little distance, I would have been angry. But he went really fast today. He deserves it. Today was the best we could do,” he said. “We are good to fight for the podium and the victory tomorrow.”

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Rossi himself sounded pleased with his result after what has been a fairly difficult season:

It’s a great result to stay in the front row, especially today. It’s a special day with the contract for next year. We worked well from yesterday, and today in FP4 I had a good pace. I know I can do a good lap, but it’s not always easy. In the end, I was able to push at the limit where I do well without making mistakes, and I’m very happy to be on the front row. Tomorrow, we can be competitive.

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Top 10:

1. Franco Morbidelli
2. Fabio Quartararo
3. Valentino Rossi
4. Jack Miller
5. Maverick Vinales
6. Johann Zarco
7. Pol Espargaro
8. Joan Mir
9. Danilo Petrucci
10. Brad Binder