Marc Marquez has lost his pole position start for the Austin MotoGP after being handed a three-place grid penalty.

The Repsol Honda star was punished for riding slowly on the racing line during qualifying and will now drop to fourth on the grid.

The reigning world champion had just re-joined the Qualifying 2 session on his spare bike after a fall when he obstructed Maverick Vinales, who made his anger clear.

"At Turn 15 you were found to be riding in an irresponsible manner being slow on the racing line and disturbing another rider," said the FIM MotoGP Stewards Panel Notification of Sanction.

"This contravenes Article 1.21.2 of the FIM World Championship Grand Prix Regulations “Riders must ride in a responsible manner which does not cause danger to other competitors or participants, either on the track or in the pit lane"

"For the above reasons, being the first offense and taking into account the degree of seriousness of the offence, the MotoGP Stewards Panel has decided to impose on you a Grid Penalty of 3 positions."

Marquez later explained he thought Andrea Iannone was waiting for him and slowed down to avoid towing the Suzuki rider.

"I was looking more at Iannone. Because a rider behind can improve a lot in the slipstream here and Iannone was fastest yesterday,"  said Marquez, still officially listed as claiming a perfect sixth COTA pole position.

"So I was looking at Iannone more than anybody behind and didn't expect Maverick. 

"When I heard the engine behind I moved in, but it looks like I disturbed his lap.

"Race Direction said [the punishment] was because I was on the racing line and Iannone was out of the line.

"But okay, I only lose four metres on the grid. I still got the fastest lap time and the [pole] award."

Iannone admitted he was hoping Marquez would give him a tow.

"I go out from the pit. I see Marc. I know Marc in this track is really fast and I tried to follow him.

"Like everybody [would] he stayed back, not wanting to overtake me. So this is the situation. In any case, I try my best always for me. It’s racing."

Vinales went on to qualify second and now takes over pole position.

Asked to comment on Marquez's penalty, Vinales didn't dwell on the incident, saying he is "focussed on himself - improving my rhythm, riding style and the new Yamaha".

Johann Zarco is promoted to the front row, alongside Iannone.

The Austin penalty follows a chaotic Argentina race which saw Marquez penalised three times.

Harsher penalties for heavy contact are due to be imposed from now on, following the outcome of a riders' Safety Commision meeting on Friday evening.

"Basically they say there will be stronger penalties. I already checked today…" quipped Marquez.

"It's like this [grid penalty] - before there was a warning, but now no warning, just a penalty.

"If it's the same rules for everybody, I agree."

"I think everyone has to have the same penalty from the first rider to the last rider. That’s it," echoed Vinales.

"Also in Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP. Same to everyone."

KTM's Pol Espargaro received the same three-place grid penalty as Marquez, for the same offence, during Qualifying 1.

Despite the qualifying drama, Marquez remains the firm pre-race favourite to extend his unbeaten COTA run to six on Sunday.

"Today was a really good day for us, we did a good step from yesterday and I feel better with the bike. I can keep the same lap times in a safer way," he said.

"It another pole position in Austin - but with a crash, then coming back with the spare bike and a different set-up.

"Even like this I was able to be fast. So I'm happy for the pace and the pole."

And how will Marquez approach the race after the Argentina controversy?

"It’s what I said in Argentina: I did a few mistakes. I want to learn and I don’t want to repeat, but my style is my style..."

 

 

 

 

 

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