Pol Espargaró on the podium in Qatar

A spectacular start allowed Pol Espargaró to finish third on the podium at the Qatar GP, while Marc Márquez finished fifth.

The 2022 season of the MotoGP World Championship officially kicked off in Qatar, with the Repsol Honda Team enthusiastically returning to the Losail circuit after the well-deserved winter break.

 

As usual, conditions around the circuit changed over the course of the opening day, with the first session taking place in daylight and the second at night.

 

The Repsol Honda Team started the season well, with a fourth place for Pol Espargaró and a fifth for Marc Márquez in the first free practice session. The good feelings of the morning continued during the afternoon in Qatar. Marc was able to demonstrate his pace, never being more than half a second off the best time. In fact, in the morning, the eight-time world champion finished fifth, 0.286 seconds behind Brad Binder, who led the session. But, as the day went on, Marc improved his time to 1'53.467, more than a second and a half faster, to finish the day as the second fastest rider, just behind Àlex Rins.

 

On the other side, Pol showed that he is strong and eager with that fourth place in FP1 and 1.2 seconds faster in FP2. This improvement saw the #44 finish the day ninth overall, just 0.531 seconds behind Rins, who led on the first day of the season.

 

The changing conditions in Losail, due to weather, climate, wind and sand, did not mean any inconvenience for Pol and Marc to continue showing the pace they intend to have throughout the season. In fact, so much so that both were able to advance directly to Q2.

 

Márquez returned to the front row of the grid for the first time since the 2021 GP of the Americas, where he too qualified third. Pol was left out of the front row by less than 0.1 seconds, considering the razor-thin margins that divide MotoGP riders. Less than half a second divided the top ten in Q2. A small mistake left Espargaró wanting more.

 

On Sunday Pol gave us a spectacular start, rocketing forward from sixth on the grid to leading the race. Marc, who started third, also gained a position and was placed just behind his teammate. The pair managed to maintain a steady pace in the opening laps, while the rest of the MotoGP pack struggled behind them.

 

The #44's pace didn't let up and he was steadily moving forward opening up a full second lead towards the middle of the race. For Espargaró, the problems began when he began to run out of tires and fuel, also running into Enea Bastianini, who overtook him, putting an end to his long-awaited victory. Finally, Pol finished happy in third place, behind Brad Binder. The one from Granollers scores his best result in Qatar and his first podium finish in this first round of the championship.

 

After a strong start from him, Márquez held his own as Binder, Joan Mir and Bastianini increased the pressure during the opening laps. The #93 defended his position in the top three, but ultimately took home a fifth-place finish, fully understanding that seasons aren't won in the first race.

 

Now the World Championship prepares to return to the Mandalika circuit in Indonesia for round two on March 20, for the first time since 1997 when Tadyuki Okada won the 500cc race on his NSR500.