Jack Miller has marvelled at the “incredible” progression of the MotoGP™ field in the sport’s first visit to Qatar in 20 months, the Australian turning around a troublesome weekend to finish ninth in Sunday’s penultimate Grand Prix of the season.
The KTM rider was on the wrong side of the Q2 cut on Friday, finishing 0.014secs behind Marc Marquez (Honda) to sit 11th after practice and left to fight from Q1, which didn’t work out as he qualified just 16th in the 22-bike field.
Miller made limited progress to 12th in Saturday’s Sprint, but moved steadily forward in Sunday’s 22-lap feature, the race quicker by more than 30 seconds from Qatar’s previous race last March.
While Qatar will resume as the first race of the season next year – it was delayed this year to allow for a rebuild of the paddock and pit complex – Miller was shocked at the pace difference from previous events at the Lusail International Circuit.
“The pace this year has been incredible, to be running (lap times of) 1min 53s late in the race is pretty crazy,” Miller said.
“I couldn’t buy a 1:53 yesterday (in the Sprint) and I was doing them until around lap 18 today. I don’t know if the track got much better or what, but it seemed a bit easier for me today.”
Miller’s race was made at the start and the middle on Sunday, advancing four places on lap one and then gaining three more spots across laps 12 and 13, passing Australian Grand Prix winner Johann Zarco (Ducati), six-time MotoGP™ champion Marquez and this year’s title contender Jorge Martin (Ducati) in quick succession.
“The bike worked really well today … it’s a semi-positive end to what’s been a difficult weekend,” Miller said.
“The pace was decent, and once I finally made some passes and got through on the group ahead of me I could go with (Yamaha’s) Fabio (Quartararo) and (Aprilia’s) Maverick (Vinales), but those boys had just a little bit extra pace than me.”
Despite his lap times staying constant, Miller wasn’t able to hold off the hard-charging Enea Bastianini (Ducati) late, the Italian’s famed tyre conservation coming to the fore with late speed that left Miller raising his eyebrows.
“I was rather shocked when Enea came past me and was doing 1:52s, that was a shock for me because I’d had quite a big gap and my lap times were pretty good,” he said after Bastianini set the fastest lap of the race on the final lap to finish eighth.
“At the end my pace was not terrible, I was one of the faster guys at the end of the race,. Enea came past me like I was walking, so that was a bit depressing!”
Jack's Qatar Grand Prix by the numbers
- Qualified: 16th
- Sprint (11 laps): 12th
- Grand Prix (22 laps): 9th
- Fastest lap: 1min 53.718secs (14th), lap 9
- Points this event: 7
- Points this season: 163 (11th in world championship)