Not for the first time this season, the injured Marc Marquez knew he needed to use every trick in the book to try and advance from Qualifying 1 to Qualifying 2 at Mugello.

In other words, he needed a tow.

This time, the Repsol Honda rider selected Maverick Vinales, quickest of those not to advance directly to Qualifying 2. But the unflinching determination with which Marquez carried out his plan left Vinales visibly frustrated and some felt it crossed the line into unsporting behaviour.

Marquez was one of a number of riders to follow the Monster Yamaha out of the pits for the final Q1 run, but the only one to then also stick with Vinales when he abandoned his out-lap – due to the riders stacked-up behind him - and took a short-cut back to the pits.

With Vinales gesturing and glaring at him as they rode down pit lane, Marquez eventually moved ahead. But it was only a temporary measure. With just minutes remaining Marquez knew Vinales couldn’t pull in again and the #93 was back in his wheeltracks when their flying lap began.

The tactic worked perfectly for Marquez, who was pulled to the top of the timesheets ahead of Vinales with only one lap to go. The Marquez tow soon became even more costly for Vinales when he was pushed down to third by Aleix Espargaro, a position confirmed by a mistake on his last lap, leaving him out of Qualifying 2 and 13th on the grid.

While a fuming Vinales was left to watch the pole position shootout from the garage, Marquez went on to claim eleventh, this time while shadowing KTM's Brad Binder.

Eight-time world champion Marquez, struggling badly for strength in his healing right arm and shoulder, emphasised that what he had done was within the rules, but nonetheless apologised to Vinales.

"After FP4 I said to the team, 'I don’t feel the bike, I don’t feel anything, just we need to follow somebody'," Marquez said.

"We checked the list, the fastest guy was Vinales, so we chose him because he was the fastest guy [not to get into Qualifying 2 directly], but if it was another one [faster] we would choose another one.

"And then just I followed him, it was the tactic because it was the only way to improve.

"I would like to be in another level and another position to push in front and have the others follow me, like many times in the past. But I'm not like this.

"But I know, because I had that feeling in the past, how Maverick can feel. For that reason,I met Maverick before I entered the press conference, where all the TVs are, and first of all I apologised because I know that it's not completely fair, and what I said was 'you have a reason to be angry'. 

"But in the end, it's inside the rules. In the limit but inside the rules, and what I did was try to find the perfect situation to do my 100% and to take the best result possible."

Despite his obvious anger at the time, Vinales was reluctant to comment on the towing incident, although Yamaha team boss Massimo Meregalli said he hoped Race Direction would look into it.

"If the team says something, it’s the team’s job," said Vinales, whose final lap looked good enough to retake a top-two place before losing time in the final sector. "For me I just keep concentrated. We didn’t pass into Q2 because we weren’t fast enough. We took third. It is like this. 

"I knew Marc was behind me. Also I knew that by doing a good lap I was able to go to Q2. Just I wasn’t fast enough. For me, he didn’t disturb me... Tomorrow is another day."

Reigning world champion Joan Mir, who had been Marquez's Q1 towing target in Portimao, said of the latest incident:

"It's always a funny situation, but when you are the one being followed, it's not a nice feeling. What I see from the outside is that Marc loves to play [games] and Maverick hates to play. In this situation you cannot do anything but your own work. So it's difficult but it's like this. It's not a Superpole!"

Ducati's Jack Miller, who had criticised the number of riders waiting on track for a tow during Friday practice, also felt there is little a rider in front can do but try and ignore those following:

"When a guy wants to follow you that bad there’s not much you can do. Except try and do your own lap. I know it’s difficult, but you just try not to get flustered,  not let it get into your head or anything like that.

"But it’s very, very difficult. It's like when you’re a little kid and you’re copying your mum and dad [as a joke] and they say, ‘Stop copying me!’ He slowed down, he slowed down. He sped up, he sped up. They were both in the pit lane. It was quite funny to watch. And Enea [Bastianini] was the quiet partner. He was on the back of it. I was hoping he could knock both of them out, ya know?"

Binder insisted he didn't mind being the Marquez-magnet in Qualifying 2, although he had hoped the #93 would return the favour: "I wasn't disturbed at all. I did sit-up to see if he would go ahead so I could get a lap behind him. It would never be a bad thing to follow the six-time MotoGP champion! But he wasn't having it..." smiled Binder, who qualified in sixth place.

While Vinales now needs to try and fight his way past ten riders to reach the podium on Sunday, in a race that his world championship leading team-mate Fabio Quartararo will start from pole, Marquez said he faces a gruelling physical battle and simply aims to finish. In which case, his qualifying position will count for little anyway...

"The shoulder is painful, but today started the neck also. It's not fit like the other arm and then all the muscles around the shoulder become worse. Can be the neck, the back, the arm, the biceps," Marquez said.

"We were joking with Maverick for example, I said 'you will pass me'... I mean it doesn't matter where I finish 14th, 10th or 8th. I don’t know which will be the final position, but I know that I need to finish the race, do some laps and take kilometres.

"It's a mentally hard process at the moment, but we must do it.

"But the main point of today is that hopefully Jason [Dupasquier] in Moto3 is alright, we are all thinking about him.”

Marquez has a best race result of seventh place since making his return to MotoGP action, following a nine-month absence due to a broken plate and then infection in his injured arm.