A chaotic Catalan Grand Prix saw a MotoGP championship contender miss out on the podium due to a bizarre celebration of a lap early, and two others eliminated at the first corner.
Reigning world champion Fabio Quatararo extended his title lead at Barcelona, comfortably winning the race by six seconds, and he had a weekend to remember as several of his biggest threats stumbled.
An early corner slip saw Takaaki Nakagami fall to Suzuki’s Alex Rins and then he clipped last season’s runner-up Franceso Bagnaia.
With all three riders unscathed from the incident, France’s Quatararo would have been delighted to see two of the race-winning factory riders rack up zero points, but things got even better afterwards.
Quatararo’s closest championship rival, Aleix Espargaro, had dominated at a track he had grown a few miles from, qualifying on pole position and leading three of four practice sessions.
The Aprilia rider lost his lead to Quatararo early on, with the Yamaha man then racing away, leaving Espargaro with what looked like a crucial second place.
The Spaniard would no doubt have been content to leave Barcelona with a gap of 13 points on the championship leader, but that then became 22 when he eased off the accelerator a lap before the end of the race.
Espargaro began waving to his home crowd in celebration of his second place finish on the podium, but hadn’t realized there was still one lap to go.
Most Read in Motorsport
Verstappen and Hamilton impressions leave F1 drivers hysterical at Monaco GP
Red Bull accused of ‘favoring’ Perez over Verstappen at Monaco Grand Prix
‘No words’ – Perez wins Monaco epic as Ferrari confusion robs Leclerc of home win
“My eyeballs are popping out of their sockets!” – Hamilton’s ‘undriveable’ Monaco Mercedes
‘That’s got to change’ – New research shows how bad the Monaco GP is at overtaking
Lewis Hamilton faces ‘years of agony and pain’ and F1 ban over piercings
With the 32-year-old sitting and decelerating on the main straight, he was passed by Jorge Martin, Johann Zarco, Joan Mir and Luca Marini, dropping to sixth before realizing his mistake.
Espargaro managed to pick up the throttle to pass Marini and finish fifth, three places below where he should have been.
And after crossing the true flag line, the Spaniard collapsed on his bike in despair, while his team members stood in shock with their heads in their hands.
After initially speculating that Espargaro was slowing down due to mechanical failure, MotoGP commentator Matt Birt was stunned by what he was watching.
“I think he thinks it’s over!” Oh my god can you believe it! What a screamer! he said.
“He made an unbelievable miscalculation, Aleix Espargaro thought his home Grand Prix was over, he thought he had taken second place, it’s one of the most unbelievable blunders I’ve ever seen !”
Espargaro took full responsibility for the error after the race, after being consoled by his team in the pit lane.
“The only thing I can say is ‘excuse me’ to my team, say sorry to them,” he said.
“This is an unacceptable error. [acceptable] in this category. It’s entirely my fault.
“My pitwall was too close to the first corner, it was the first, so I didn’t have time to watch the laps [counter]and the gap with Martin.
“I was pushing the limit so I just watched the gap with Martin and then watched the lap [count] I watched the [scoring] tower.
“And I saw the L1, so I took a lap, and then I didn’t remember that here in Barcelona, the last lap is number zero [L0]not one.
“So I turned off the gas [throttle] on the straight line.
“I’m really sorry for my team, because I know I don’t have the speed of Fabio to win. [today]but if I want to beat him in the championship, I can’t make those mistakes.
“Today I lost nine points, so I’m really sorry.”
Offer of the day
888Sport – Bet £10 Get £30 Free Bet + £10 Casino Bonus* – CLAIM HERE
New customers only. Minimum deposit of £10 • A qualifying bet is a “real money” wager of at least £10 • Minimum odds of 1/2 (1.5) • Free bets are credited upon settlement of the qualifying bet and expire after 7 days • Free bet stakes are not included in returns • Casino bonus must be claimed within 7 days • To withdraw bonus/associated winnings, wager x40 bonus amount within 14 days • Casino bonus expires after 60 days • Withdrawal restrictions and full terms and conditions apply 18+ begambleaware.org