Márquez makes it 5 in a row and Miller returns to the podium on home soil
© Gold & Goose/Red Bull Content Pool
Honda's Marc Márquez's domination of the 2019 MotoGP™ championship continued in the Australian Grand Prix after the Spanish ace claimed a dramatic win at Phillip Island.
Following a weather-affected Saturday at the Phillip Island Circuit, qualifying for the Australian MotoGP™ took place on the morning of the race, and it was Maverick Viñales on the works Yamaha who took pole ahead of the Petronas Yamaha of Fabio Quartararo with the MotoGP™ champion Marc Márquez qualifying third.
But 27 laps later at the chequered flag, it was Márquez who out-smarted Viñales, to win his 11th race of the year and his fifth in a row after a thrilling race-long duel.
With a threat of rain in the air at the classic Australian circuit, there was drama at the start as Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci and Quartararo crashed out as the pack jostled for position.
When everything calmed down it was the LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow, who emerged as the leader throughout the early laps before pole-sitter Viñales took over the lead.
By lap 11 of the total race distance of 27 laps, the six-time MotoGP™ champion Márquez was right with Viñales; while behind Crutchlow, Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi, starting his 400th race in the premier class, had moved up into third, putting pressure on the British rider’s podium place.
At half race distance two key battles were emerging. Leader Viñales was pulling Márquez along in a two-way scrap for the win, as the tussle for fourth place featured no fewer than eight riders in potential contention with the Ducati bikes of Andrea Dovizioso and Jack Miller looking racey in fifth and sixth respectively.
With 10 laps to go the teams were warming up the bikes set up for wet conditions, but on track the riders pressed on with Márquez searching for a mistake from leader Viñales and Crutchlow, in an increasingly lonely third place, and was followed by Francesco Bagnaia emerging as the best of the Ducati bikes by taking fourth a couple of laps later.
On lap 21, with six laps remaining, the threatened rain started to fall, but not enough to interfere with the grip levels, and the epic battle up front continued as Márquez hassled his compatriot Viñales, who was in search of his second victory of the season as further back Miller moved into fourth at his home race.
At the beginning of the final lap Márquez used the superior power of his Repsol Honda to out-drag the Yamaha of Viñales to take the lead, and a few corners later in a 'win it or bin it' move the Yamaha rider lost control of his bike under-breaking in a desperate attempt to retake the lead, crashing out and handing Márquez his fifth MotoGP™ victory in a row.
Viñales’s crash promoted Crutchlow to second and handed a well deserved podium for Miller, the Australian returning to the podium on the Alma Pramac Ducati for the fourth time in 2019, with team-mate Bagnaia claiming a season best fourth place in his debut season.