Espargaro savours 'oxygen bubble' of season's first MotoGP pole

Silverstone (United Kingdom) (AFP) –


Pol Espargaro was made to wait just a little bit longer for the pole position that could revive his disastrous first season at Honda at Silverstone on Saturday.

The Spaniard had recorded the fastest time of 1min 58.889sec when compatriot Jorge Martin was credited with an astonishing 1:58 right at the end of qualifying for the British Grand Prix.

As both riders circled the track gesturing in disbelief, it took the timekeepers a few minutes to realise that the Pramac Ducati rider had cut across the chicane on his lap.

That left Italian Francesco Bagnaia of the factory Ducati team second fastest with 1.58.911. French championship leader Fabio Quartararo completed the front row of the grid for Yamaha.

Martin ended up fourth fastest after an earlier time. He is joined on the second row by the second Honda Spaniard Marc Marquez and Pol's older brother Aleix Espargaro of Aprilia.

Valentino Rossi, in his last British Grand Prix, was eighth fastest and will start on the third row.

Pol Espargaro, who has never won a MotoGP race, moved to Honda this season and had not recorded a pole position or a podium finish in the first 11 races at his new team.

"We were just celebrating like if I won the race," he said.

"For me it's more than that. OK, tomorrow is the race as well for points, but this is a huge step for me, not just this year but in my whole career to take a pole position is already a winning weekend after this tough season."

"I've been struggling so much. Psychologically it's a big bubble of oxygen. Sometimes the hard work doesn't pay off, but in the end this happens."

After two races in the summer heat in Austria, the cooler weather and grippier surface at Silverstone helped Espargaro but caused problems for other riders in the one-lap 'time attack' on new tyres.

"I dont feel good on the bike," said Quartararo after battling onto the front row. "On the pace, I feel great but the bike is shaking everywhere on one lap. We need to see why."

"I'm on the front row but really not happy because I felt like I'm not feeling comfortable on the time attack."

"But we are fast on the pace and that's the most important."

Bagnaia, whose consistency has lifted him to second in the championship even though he is yet to win a MotoGP race, echoed the sentiment.

"The qualifying was not easy because in this track we are suffering a bit more with new tyres," he said. "But when I saw that everything was coming to me I was happy."

Italian Lorenzo Savadori, who tried to make a comeback on his Aprilia on Friday after undergoing surgery on a fractured right ankle in early August, has withdrawn for the rest of the weekend.

Silverstone, one of the longest and fastest circuits on the calendar, was not on the programme in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic but returns this year to a sell-out crowd.