The 25-year-old Italian scored his maiden win in the race that saw his Petronas Yamaha SRT teammate and championship leader Fabio Quartararo crash out of contention
Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) dominated the race on his home soil with 27 inch-perfect laps to secure the flag (and his maiden MotoGP win) 2.217 seconds ahead of Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) in a hard-fought race at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli.
For his part, Bagnaia, too, celebrated his first premier-class podium, with Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) getting the better of home hero Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) on the last lap to claim the final spot on the podium. Meanwhile, now former Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) crashed twice, and did not ultimately finish the race.
Starting at the middle of the front row, Morbidelli got the better of both Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and teammate Quartararo heading into Corner 1. Rossi, too, hit a competent pace, slotting in P2 ahead of the equally fast starting Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) on the second row. Vinales slipped to P4, with Quartararo slotting P5.
Further, Rossi got a good run down into Corner 8 on Lap 1, briefly outpacing Morbidelli, before the latter out-braked him. From here on, riders 21 and 46 were both on song, leaving quite a gap ahead of Miller in P3, with Vinales holding off Quartararo and both Team Suzuki Ecstar riders (Alex Rins and Joan Mir). Vinales was the only rider on the grid to select the hard Michelin rear tyre, and it was clear that the lap record holder was just taking his time to get heat into the rear – with Quartararo hot on his tail.
Miller, still P3, was closing in on the leading duo, with Vinales and co just over half a second behind. Meanwhile, Bagnaia was setting fastest lap after fastest lap. On Lap 7, Quartararo then made his move past Vinales at Turn 14 – eyes now firmly set on the podium trio just a stone's throw up the road. However, a chance occurrence of his front tucking in as he went a bit too hot into Corner 4 caused him to crash, and fall all the down to 20th on the grid. Up front, his teammate was going great guns, fending off Rossi.
By lap 12, Morbidelli was almost a full second ahead of Rossi, while Miller was now under attack from Bagnaia and Rins. Soon, Rins the classic Corner 2 Misano move to grab P3. Then, heading down into Corner 8, Pecco was through on his teammate. Now, Rins and Pecco had Rossi 1.8 seconds up the road, with The Doctor, in turn, losing touch with Morbidelli.
The gap between the Italians was 1.1 seconds – and rising – with Mir now the fastest man on track. With 12 laps to go, Morbidelli slammed in a 1:32.7 to see his lead rise to 1.7 seconds over Rossi, with the latter seeing his gap to Rins and Pecco come down lap by lap.
With 11 laps to go, the gap was down to below a second as the podium scrap started to bubble up in the San Marino sun, and a lap later Rins and Pecco were just half a second down on the nine-time World Champion.
Into the last 10 laps the riders went, and Mir had got the better of Miller. The sophomore was 1.9 seconds back from the podium scrap, with Rins and Bagnaia now right on the back of Rossi. It’s not that Rossi had a bad pace; Rins and Pecco were just that little bit quicker each lap but once they latched themselves onto the back of the 46, they didn’t find it easy to pass. However, what did look like an easy pass was Bagnaia taking the inside line on Rins into a blistering quick Turn 11 – that GP20 grunt leaving the Suzuki behind. And on the next lap, Bagnaia was at it again. This time his good friend Rossi felt the wrath of the Ducati power and Pecco – who fractured his leg just over a month ago – was up into second.
By this point, Mir had closed the gap to the trio ahead of him and was doing so at a significant rate of knots. The gap was 1.4 seconds to his teammate, but it seemed a dream debut premier class win was now in sight for Morbidelli, with Bagnaia creeping clear of Rossi. At Corner 8, with six laps to go, Rins swept past Rossi before the latter closed the door on him, with Mir now just one second back.
With five laps left, Rossi held onto P3, especially at Corner 2, where Rins looked superb. With three to go, Morbidelli was 3.2 seconds clear but Rossi was 0.4 seconds faster than Bagnaia. What looked like a guaranteed second for the former Moto2 World Champion was rapidly becoming a dogfight for second and third.
Coming around the final sector on the penultimate lap, Rins was out the saddle on the exit of Turn 15, running slightly wide at Corner 16 to allow Mir to get the run on him down into Corner 1. Mir was then adamant to grab his second podium of the season. Rossi himself was aiming to grab P2 back from Bagnaia. However, Mir then mugged Rossi, coming up the inside at Turn 10 to climb into third. Rossi tried to set up a move coming into the Turn 14 hairpin but went a bit wide at Turn 13, ending his hopes of a dream 200th podium in his backyard.
Ultimately, Morbidelli ran a fast yet perfectly precise race, not only becomes the fourth rider in six races to win their first MotoGP race, but also propelling himself into the 2020 title fight after two disastrous weekends at the Red Bull Ring.
Meanwhile, Bagnaia’s P2 finish after a big injury couldn’t have gone much better, and at P3, Mir too had an astonishing second half of the race, capped off by out-doing Rossi on the last lap.
His P4 finish couldn’t have come without disappointment for Rossi, as he missed out on a home Grand Prix podium by just three-tenths of a second. Nevertheless, the 41-year-old will be as determined as ever to pick up his 200th GP podium in seven days’ time, once again at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli.
As it stands now, 28 points separate the top 10 riders, with Bagnaia’s second place seeing him 47 points off in P14, with Rossi just 18 points from Championship leader Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati).
Below are the final results of race six of the 2020 MotoGP season: