The first 15-minute qualifying segment started with the fastest wet laps before a crossover point materialized where slicks were the best option.
And throughout Q2 the fight for pole was dictated by the evolution of the track, with Pramac Ducati’s Zarco clinching the pole lap on his final lap with a 1m42.003s.
Qualifying started chaotically in Q1 as the track had dried out enough for some to bet on slicks, but wet spots remained.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda) was one of the first to venture on slicks, but immediately gave up wet tires at the end of his lap.
Tech 3’s Remy Gardner also came out on slicks but crashed at Turn 9, while Ducati’s Bagnaia was kicked off his slick-shoe bike at turn one as he started a flying lap.
Bagnaia – winner and polesitter at Portimao in November – landed heavily and pointed his right shoulder at trackside medical staff, with the Italian placed in the back of an ambulance to be taken for checks at the medical center .
Ducati confirmed Bagnaia’s initial checks at the medical center revealed no broken bones, but he was transferred to a local hospital for further examination.
Slicks would eventually become the go-to tire at the end of Q1, with Alex Marquez on the LCR Honda and Luca Marini of the VR46 Ducati using soft rubber to qualify for Q2.
Championship leader Enea Bastianini also switched to slicks for his final run, but suffered an equally heavy crash with factory Ducati counterpart Bagnaia – the Gresini rider who crashed out at Turn 5.
That left the only repeat winner of 2022 18th on the grid, while Bagnaia will start last if allowed to race without even having set a lap time.
Adding to the list of major first quarter losses, Jorge Martin de Pramac’s streak of top two qualifying results in 2022 came to an end when he was relegated to 13th while Suzuki’s Alex Rins was left behind. 23rd place after getting wet at the end of the session.
For the start of Q2, everyone started on slicks, although the conditions were still tricky – with reigning world champion Fabio Quartararo nearly losing the rear of his Yamaha en route to the right-hander of the turn. 7.
Alex Marquez used his Q1 knowledge to start Q2 with a 1m45.654s, but would soon be overhauled by Suzuki’s Joan Mir with a 1m45.414s.
Mir’s run to the top was short-lived as Alex Marquez took control again with a 1m43.211s before Zarco made his first appearance at the top of the timesheets with a 1m43.151s.
Zarco set that lap with around four minutes to go, Quartararo following him by 0.006 seconds.
Mir made another pole attempt moments later with a 1m43.055s, but was demoted first by Zarco and then by Jack Miller to the only factory Ducati team in Q2.
Miller’s benchmark of 1m42.503s looked to have been perfectly timed as yellow flags were shown in the final sector in the final 20 seconds when Pol Espargaro fell from his Honda.
This proved disastrous for his Honda team-mate Marc Marquez, who set a session-leading lap of 1m42.295s but had the title stripped due to yellow flags.
By the time Espargaro’s bike was cleared from the exit of Turn 15, several riders were turning on the timing screens across the opening sectors of the track.
Mir was the first to cross the line and came out on top with a 1m42.198s, but was denied a first MotoGP pole by Zarco – who went 0.195s faster aboard his Pramac Ducati.
Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro took third place late in the race to join Zarco and Mir in the front row, with Miller moving back to fourth.
Quartararo placed his Yamaha in the middle of the second row in fifth after also seeing a front row lap canceled due to yellow flags ahead of VR46 rookie Marco Bezzecchi on his 2021-spec Ducati.
Alex Marquez crashed late in Q2 but will start seventh ahead of Luca Marini’s second Ducati VR46, while his brother Marc Marquez will start ninth ahead of Pol Espargaro.
Rounding out the top 12 was the KTM factory duo of local hero Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder.
The fifth row will be formed by Martin, Aprilia’s Maverick Vinales and Gresini’s Fabio Di Giannantonio, while Takaaki Nakagami was 17th after dropping out of his race in Q1.
Behind Bastianini was Franco Morbidelli’s second factory Yamaha team, with Gardner 20th after falling to Aprilia wildcard Lorenzo Savadori and RNF Racing’s Darryn Binder.
Tech 3 rookie Raul Fernandez also crashed late in Q1 and was resigned to 24th between Rins and Bagnaia.