These just in from Catalunya
High five: Quartararo defeats Miller for fifth pole in a row
El Diablo can’t be stopped at Catalunya, but Miller runs him close despite a crash and a trip to Q1
Saturday, 05 June 2021
Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) was most definitely the favourite for pole at the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya, but the Frenchman was ultimately run close for the honour as Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team), despite a crash in Q2 and a trip through Q1, managed to end the session just 0.037 back. Nevertheless, it’s a fifth pole in a row for El Diablo – the first time anyone has managed that since Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) in 2014, and the first time a Yamaha rider has done it since Jorge Lorenzo in 2010. It’s a French front row party once again in Catalunya in third too, with Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) top Independent Team rider in P3.
Q1 saw the fireworks begin early as Miller found himself looking to move through, and with Marc Marquez for company rolling down pitlane the Aussie was this time asked for a tow, rather than his more usual taxi service. The response? Get on with the job, but not before rubbing his fingers together at the number 93 in a perfectly-timed “it’ll cost ya” gesture on the way out of the pits.
In the end it didn’t, with Miller going quickest and Marquez briefly second as he followed the Ducati round, but the next man in the train, Marquez’ teammate Pol Espargaro, then crossed the line… and knocked him out by just 0.011. Marquez was left in Q1, and it was Miller and the number 44 Honda heading through.
Quartararo didn’t take long to find his way to the top of the timesheets in Q2, his 1:39.351 the first benchmark for everyone to try and beat. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) did on his second flying lap but Quartararo firmly laid down the gauntlet on his next flyer – a 1:38.853, the best of the weekend. The Frenchman’s advantage was 0.421 after the first set of runs, with Morbidelli and Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) on the provisional front row.
This was far from a done deal for El Diablo though. His competitors were finding speed on their second runs as Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), teammate Miguel Oliveira, Zarco and Miller all took turns on the provisional front row, Miller especially a threat going just 0.037s off.
The Australian then slammed in a red sector in the first part of his next lap, but that was all she wrote as he then highsided out at Turn 3, rider ok. That meant yellow flags ended Quartararo’s final push, too, although a few remained on a charge further round the lap.
Zarco, forcing his way past Binder at the updated Turn 10, was one of them and he shot to P3 on his final flying lap, shoving Oliveira off the front row by just 0.050.
Quartararo, Miller and Zarco therefore have the clearest view to Turn 1, with Oliveira heading the second row from Morbidelli by another tiny margin of just 0.010. Viñales completes Row 2.
Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) starts seventh at his home race, with Binder for company in P8 and Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) in ninth by just 0.016.
Reigning Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar), meanwhile, starts tenth. But the 2020 Catalan GP podium finisher has made quick progress in the past and has more podiums from off the front two rows than on them. So will that stat continue at Catalunya?
Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) starts P11 after a Q2 crash, and Pol Espargaro P12 after the same, riders ok.
That’s a wrap on Saturday action in Barcelona, with half a second covering the top ten on the grid. Quartararo holds the cards so far, but does anyone have an ace on Sunday? We’ll find out at the slightly earlier time of 13:00 (GMT +2) as the lights go out for the premier class at the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya.
Catalan GP. Front row start for Jack Miller, second in qualifying at Montmeló Circuit ahead of Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing Team). Ninth place for Pecco Bagnaia
Jack Miller closed with the second fastest time in 1:38.890 the qualifying for the Catalan GP, conquering a front row start for the race scheduled tomorrow at Montmeló Circuit, near Barcelona.
As he was eleventh at the end of FP3, just 69 thousandths from the top ten, the Ducati Lenovo Team rider had to take part in Q1, where he was able to gain access to the second run of qualification by being the fastest rider in the session. Back on track for Q2, Miller was again very fast as he posted the second fastest time. On his second lap with the soft tyre, however, the Australian rider was the victim of a high side while he was improving his lap time. Nevertheless, despite the crash that fortunately left him without any consequences, Miller could secure second place, ending the qualifying only 37 thousandths from Quartararo’s pole position and ahead of Johann Zarco, third with the Desmosedici GP bike of the Pramac Racing Team.
Francesco Bagnaia, fourth after FP3 this morning, took part directly to Q2 this afternoon. However, during the qualifying session, the Italian rider could not take full advantage of his flying lap and closed with the ninth fastest time in 1:39.356. Bagnaia will start from the third row of the grid tomorrow, in the seventh Grand Prix of the 2021 MotoGP World Championship.
Jack Miller (#43 Ducati Lenovo Team) – 2nd (1:38.890)
“This afternoon in qualifying, I felt comfortable on the bike, and maybe I got a bit carried away in the second flying lap, making a mistake in the first sector. Luckily, the bike threw me forward and not up, so I didn’t get hurt. During the day, we managed to find something that allowed us to take a step forward, helping me to move from Q1 to Q2. In FP4, I did 17 consecutive laps on the same tyre and stayed within 1:40, so I think our pace for the race is good. Of course, 24 laps is a lot, but I think we can manage them well, so I’m confident for tomorrow.”
Francesco Bagnaia (#63 Ducati Lenovo Team) – 9th (1:39.359)
“After a positive start to the day, I didn’t like myself much this afternoon. Both in FP4 and qualifying, the wind bothered me a bit. Anyway, this morning our pace was good, so I am confident about the race. The goal for tomorrow will be to get a good start and make up some positions immediately. It is going to be a long race, and we will have to manage the tyres well to be competitive, especially in the final laps”.
The Ducati Lenovo Team riders will be back on track tomorrow at 9:30 am for the warm-up, while the Catalan GP race will get underway at 1:00 pm local time on a 24-lap distance.
IN THE CATALUNYA GP ALEIX WILL START FROM THE THIRD ROW
POOR GRIP DOESN’T HELP LORENZO SAVADORI
For his home GP, Aleix Espargarò will start from the first spot on the third row after qualifiers where he did the seventh-best time, less than 4 tenths behind the pole position time and less than two tenths from the front row. It could have been an even better position if it hadn’t been for a mistake on his last flying lap.
In any case, both rider and bike are consistent, with an RS-GP that continues confirming its competitiveness and Aleix consistently in Q2 from the start of the 2021 season.
On the other hand, Lorenzo Savadori, is struggling with poor grip, even crashing out in FP3. In fact, the Montmelò is characterised by asphalt that provides extremely low grip, making the riders’ job particularly difficult, especially those in their rookie year like Lorenzo.
“To be honest, I must say that, after Qatar, this is the track where I am least able to exploit the strong points of the new RS-GP. So, it may seem strange, but I am satisfied, because in spite of this, I was able to be competitive both in terms of pace and on the flying lap in qualifying. If I had been able to finish the last lap, I may have been able to start from even farther forward, but I risked a high side on the same turn where Jack crashed. Tyre choice will clearly be fundamental here. I still need to meet with the engineers, but we’ll analyse the situation extremely carefully.”
“We tried some different solutions today, but without finding any great improvements. In qualifying, I lost a lot of time on the last sector. I could have done a bit better, but we are still close. For the race tomorrow, choosing the right tyre will be extremely important, and then managing it well with the electronics strategies. That is the factor that can really make the difference here.”
Repsol Honda HRC
Trying day as Espargaro’s potential goes unrewarded
Pol Espargaro was left bitterly disappointed after falling while on a qualifying lap full of potential during Q2 at the Catalan GP, Marc Marquez scheduled to start 13th.
Free Practice 3 at the Catalan Grand Prix proved to be another devastatingly tight session with just a few hundredths of a second splitting multiple riders in the combined standings. Unfortunately for the Repsol Honda Team duo, these final hundredths of a second alluded them and the pair headed for Q1.
Having set a 1’39.519 in FP3, Pol Espargaro had only missed the top spot by 0.590s and was less than 0.1s from a position inside the combined top ten. This near miss showed that Espargaro and the Honda RC213V had the potential to advance through Q1 later in the day. Advance through is exactly what Espargaro did, a 1’39.170 earning him passage into Q2 and the front four rows. Leaving his run late in Q2, the #44 was flying on his last lap and was showing top-five pace until a front-end crash at Turn 10 ended Espargaro’s session. He will start 12th on Sunday.
Marquez looked for every advantage in Q1 as he fought for a spot in Q2, the session coming down to the final run across the line. Just 0.011s separated Marquez from second place in the session, the eight-time World Champion unable to advance into Q2 as his Repsol Honda Team team-mate just edged him out. This is only the third time in his premier class career that Marquez has been unable to progress to Q2. Marquez will line up in 13th for the Catalan GP.
Sunday’s race will begin at 13:00 Local Time after the Moto3 race.
“Q1 today was good, we advanced into Q2. In Q2 I was pushing really hard and on the limit, probably over it. The time was good, it looked like a 1’39.1 like I did in Q1 which could have seen us in the first two rows. I had some locking when the asphalt changed at Turn 10 and I crashed, a real pity. Most of the track was done and we did it well, but if you don’t finish it doesn’t matter what you do. It is what it is. I think the race will again be difficult, but we keep on working and seeing what’s possible. The change of time to before the Moto2 race will change the situation a bit.”
“Starting 13th is not really any different to starting in 11th or 12th, so I am not too upset about missing Q2. I was joking with Miller yesterday in the Clinca about a tow and today he was the fastest in the session, so it was the time to go for it. We’ll decide the price later! Tomorrow we need to make a good start and see what’s possible from the race, times are very close so we will see. We keep on working in our own way to improve our situation.”
QUARTARARO BANKS FIFTH SUCCESSIVE MOTOGP POLE POSITION IN BARCELONA
Montmeló (Spain), 5th June 2021
GRAND PRIX OF CATALUNYA
Today Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP‘s Fabio Quartararo became the first rider in seven years to secure five pole positions in a row. Maverick Viñales put in a strong performance during an eventful Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya Q2 session filled with yellow flag situations and took sixth place on the grid.
1’38.853 / 7 LAPS
1’39.157 / 8 LAPS
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP‘s Fabio Quartararo always enjoys qualifying and had even more fun securing his fifth pole position on the trot in front of the cheering spectators at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Maverick Viñales was on route to secure a position on the front row, but ultimately came 0.108s short. He will start tomorrow‘s race from sixth on the grid.
Quartararo let the rest of the Q2 rider field head out on track before him, keen to find some clear track space. He set a first flying lap that was already fast enough for provisional pole and went on to improve it to a 1‘38.853s to keep hold of the number 1 spot as he returned to the box.
With four minutes still on the clock, El Diablo resumed his qualifying mission. He was pushing as much as he could, but with multiple crashes from other riders causing yellow flag situations, he was unable to put in a completely clean lap. Still his best time, set on lap 3/7, kept him in first place with a 0.037s advantage.
Viñales was the first rider to storm out of pit lane at the start of the Q2 shoot-out. His first lap put him in eighth place after all the benchmark laps were in. On his next attempt he moved up to third, before heading back into the pits with just under eight minutes remaining.
Less than three minutes later, the Spaniard started his second run. However, being followed by other riders, he opted to roll out of his next lap. He then had to push, though, and improved his time but not his position. The number-12 rider was lying in tenth as he started his final try. His 1‘39.157s last lap briefly put him on the front row, but he ultimately finished the session in sixth place, 0.304s from first.
Fabio is oozing confidence at the moment. He and his crew are able to adapt the bike and his riding style session by session and the results speak for themselves. Maverick also did a good qualifying despite being followed again by other riders. We are noticing the progress he and his crew are making this weekend, which is positive as well. We are very happy to have secured yet another pole position. It‘s Fabio‘s fifth in a row, and to do it at the Monster Energy sponsored Catalan GP is great, but we are staying down to earth. It‘s not until tomorrow that the championship points are being distributed. Both Fabio‘s and Maverick‘s race pace seem to be in order, as shown in the FP4 results. But we still expect a tough race, where we have to find the right balance between tyre endurance and optimal performance. We will do some final nitpicking to perfect the bikes‘ settings today, so we can test them in tomorrow‘s Warm Up and then we hope to give the spectators at this track a show to remember during the race. We are not 100% sure about what the weather will be like tomorrow. The forecasts are predicting some rain this evening. We hope that the remainder of the Sunday will be dry, because wet conditions would make the race very unpredictable.
Qualifying was great! I did a great first run, but actually my best lap wasn‘t that perfect. I thought that I could improve a little bit more. On my second run, I had prepared the rear tyre really well, but then I was riding under yellow flags in sector 3. Still, the most important thing is that we are on the front row in P1. I‘m so happy to see the fans back at the circuit. I think that‘s giving everyone a boost. Thanks to the team, and thanks to everyone, and let‘s enjoy the race tomorrow.
I am very happy about the work done today. I think we made a big improvement in FP3. In FP4 we tried many different things. From the Friday to the Saturday, we made a big leap forward and we want to try to make another one tomorrow. I feel good. We are feeling optimistic about getting on the podium. We will see. So far everything is working well, and we are not under pressure. We know that improving our level takes time, and we are working on it.
TAKA RELYING ON TYRE LIFE TO MAKE PROGRESS FROM FIFTH ROW
5 June 2021 | Catalan GP Qualifying
Takaaki Nakagami will start the Grand Prix of Catalunya from the fifth row of the grid following a challenging qualifying session at the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit in north-eastern Spain on Saturday. The LCR Honda IDEMITSU man has shown consistent pace during the weekend, but unable to progress from a Q1 session he finished in fourth, he will start Sunday’s 24-lap race from 14th place.
The Japanese star has put in fast stints on both of the rear race tyre options, and will hope for one of his trademark lightning starts once the flag drops, which should allow him to battle for the top points positions once more.
Takaaki Nakagami – 14th
“It has been a difficult qualifying session. During the FP4 session we tried the hard compound tyres for the first time, and still we are not 100% decided about our race tyre. The hard looks ok, but we are still lacking some side grip and depending on the conditions tomorrow we have to choose between that and the medium tyre. Both options are quite good for us.
The lap times in qualifying were really tight, and I thought I could get through to Q2, but in the end Jack Miller led two other riders through to improve on my lap time and I ended up in P14 for tomorrow’s race. It’s really tough but we have a good pace. In tomorrow’s race tyre life is particularly important, which is one of our strong points. We just need to try to be consistent and not give up until the end, I’m hopeful of a good race tomorrow.”
ÁLEX MÁRQUEZ STARTS HOME GP
FROM ROW SEVEN
5 June 2021 | Catalan GP Qualifying
A three-time winner at the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit in the smaller grand prix classes, double world champion Álex Márquez will start his home GP from the seventh row of the grid in Sunday’s MotoGP race. The LCR Honda CASTROL rider came up against further complications with the rear grip concerns which have dogged his 2021 campaign so far, but is determined to put things right in the 24-lap race.
Álex knows all the secrets to the Montmeló racetrack having tasted success in Moto2 and Moto3 in the past, but with grip levels low with temperatures creeping into the 40°C bracket, life was made tough for the 25-year-old. The Spaniard hopes to make amends in Sunday’s showdown from 20th on the grid, ahead of what could prove to be a crucial official test session at the venue on Monday.
Álex Márquez – 20th
“It’s honestly been a difficult day. After yesterday we expected to have fewer problems and to be up there, but again today we began to have the same issues with the rear grip. This made it tough in terms of race pace but also in terms of the one-lap pace.
I want to say sorry to the team because I made a mistake in turn one and I lost a couple of tenths there, but it didn’t change our story too much. We need to build up more confidence for tomorrow with the rear grip and try to be there, it’s going to be difficult to fight against that. We will try to give our 110% again, make the best race we can and then take as much information as possible for Monday’s test. I promise to give everything I have for the LCR Honda CASTROL Team and all our sponsors and supporters.”
JOAN MIR TAKES TENTH ON THE GRID FOR THE CATALAN GP
Team Suzuki Press Office – June 5.
Grid position for Catalan GP:
Joan Mir: 10th – 1’39.431
Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Joan Mir took to the track in FP3 as the solo representative for the Hamamatsu brand on qualifying day following Alex Rins’ early exit from the weekend.
The Mallorcan wasted no time in getting down to work, trying to gauge the feeling of the GSX-RR around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. With lap times coming down, Mir knew he would need to set some quick laps to secure a place in Q2, and he put together a string of fast times, maintaining a crucial Top 10 spot with ninth.
A breezy but warm FP4 provided good conditions for testing the tyre options available, with the majority of the field, including Mir, experimenting with the harder option rear. Mir gradually built up his pace, finishing the session with a solid fifth place.
The intense Q2 session saw lots of improvements, and despite setting a lap good enough for the front row early on, he slipped to 10th at the flag. However, he is confident with his race pace and is aiming high in Sunday’s race.
“Today was pretty good, I’m slightly disappointed with my qualifying as always – this is an area where we still have to improve. Sometimes we have some problems which prevents me from showing my potential and I get frustrated, but today I felt good with the bike, we found some useful things, and I think tomorrow I can have a good race and I’m happy to be riding in front of the fans again. Tyre management will be very important here, so that will be one of our main focuses.”
Ken Kawauchi – Technical Manager:
“This morning Joan did a good recovery after yesterday and he was able to go straight to Q2. We were expecting a little bit more in terms of the grid position, but 10th place isn’t bad and we know we can do good things from there. Joan feels confident, he has nice pace, and we’re looking forward to the race tomorrow.”