Fabio Quartararo is the latest name to be etched onto the MotoGP’s victors list as the Petronas Yamaha SRT rider became the first French winner in 21 years with a crushing triumph at Jerez while defending champion Marc Marquez threw away a certain podium on two separate occasions.
The latter of the two mistakes had Marquez hurled from his Repsol Honda in a horrendous accident just as the Spanish rider had completed his charge from 17th to 3rd after an earlier off-track excursion at Turn 4 saw a certain victory slip from his grasp.
Maverick Vinales would hang on to clinch second, the Yamaha rider getting an electric start to leapfrog himself from second on the grid into an early lead ahead of Marquez.
Incumbent series champion Marquez quickly began to hound the rear of the leading Yamaha rider, swiftly making his move on Lap three before building out a comfortable one-second margin.
But despite his lead, Marquez looked far from at one with the #93 Honda and a handful of erratic errors culminated in a wild off at Turn 4 on Lap 5.
An inhuman save was enough to keep the Spaniard upright as he bounced haphazardly over the gravel, throwing the victory wide open for anyone’s taking.
Pole position man Quartararo was down in fourth after a lacklustre Lap one but was promoted onto the podium courtesy of Marquez’s mistake before immediately stealing away second from Jack Miller.
Erstwhile race leader Vinales had started the race with a soft front tyre, and after only six laps was fighting an untamed Yamaha as he relinquished the lead to Quartararo with 17 laps left.
Having fallen to 17th after his off-track excursion, Marquez quickly regained his composure and began setting the timing screens alight with the fastest lap as he diced his way through the backmarkers to sit ninth at half-race distance.
Quartararo quickly left a languishing Miller to fend off a late challenge by the factory Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso and a resurgent Vinales.
Marquez’s pace was unmatched and on one lap he scythed his way past Francesco Bagnaia and Franco Morbidelli to steal sixth and was within touching distance of salvaging a podium finish.
The six-time MotoGP champion then mowed down the margin to Dovizioso just as Miller yielded a spot to Vinales.
But with a heroic podium on the cards after one of the most incredible recovery rides in his storied tenure, Marquez would go down after a dramatic high side again at Turn 4 which ruled him out of the race for good.
The Spanish rider was evidently hurt in the high-speed crash, clutching his right shoulder as he was lifted into the ambulance for further medical examinations.
The incident let Quartararo off the hook and the series sophomore cruised to an emphatic maiden premier class victory.
Vinales held on to second while a shrewd Dovizioso had kept his tyres in healthy condition for most of the race and was able to pounce on Miller on the penultimate lap to snare the final podium spot.
Quartararo now becomes the first rider in over a year other than Marquez to head the world championship, a position the 21-year-old will be aiming to maintain ahead of next week’s second round from Jerez in the second of two races from the Spanish circuit.