More Suzuki power? Day 1 certainly suggests so. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) topped the timesheets on the first day of 2022 as MotoGP™ returned to blistering action at the Grand Prix of Qatar, with teammate and 2020 Champion Joan Mir in third. Splitting the Hamamatsu assault on the top was eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) as the number 93 missed out on first by just 0.035.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Brad Binder pipped Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) to the first MotoGP™ P1 of the season, lunging to the top with a 1:54.851. It was close, however, with 0.056 between the two. Rins rounded out the top three.
Pol Espargaro and Repsol Honda Team teammate Marc Marquez made it three Hondas in the top five to kick off the season too, with just 0.2s splitting the fastest quintet.
Darryn Binder (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP™ Team) encountered an early issue when his YZR-M1’s belly pan was loose, but nothing came of it for the South African rookie. Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) crashed unhurt with just over 15 minutes to go at Turn 3.
Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team), the runner-up in 2021, then crashed at Turn 6 with five minutes to go – rider ok. The front of the Italian’s GP22 washed away early in the braking zone in an early mistake for Pecco in 2022 as he ended FP1 in P18.
FP2 saw the floodlights at Lusail International Circuit beaming and the premier class got straight to work. The lap times soon fell, and Marc Marquez sat top before Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) took over.
The riders got some valuable laps under their belts at the same time the race is going to be at on Sunday, but with 20 minutes to go, the time attacks started. Pol Espargaro climbed to the summit, then went even faster on his second flying lap on the soft tyres, the gap up to 0.4. A whole heap of rapid laps were about to appear, however.
The first 1:53 came in from Mir with 13 minutes to go. That was swiftly beaten by Marc Marquez, the new benchmark a 1:53.711, but that didn’t stand as the fastest for long either – and it was Rins who struck back to go 0.174 clear. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) then closed the gap with two minutes to go, before Mir made it a Suzuki 1-2. It still wasn’t done, however, as Marc Marquez returned to P1 with a minute left on the clock.
Again, though, Rins struck back and at the end of play, the Suzuki man is the rider to beat heading into Day 2.
Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) crashed unhurt at Turn 1, and Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) crashed twice in quick succession in FP2, once at Turn 6 and then on the next lap at Turn 10 – rider ok.
Provisional Q2 places
Behind Rins, Marc Marquez and Mir, Martin ends the day in P4 and as both top Independent Team rider and Ducati. For the most part, it had been a quiet day for the Borgo Panigale factory before the 2021 Rookie of the Year struck.
The fastest Yamaha was Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) as a late time saw the Italian leap up the timesheets, with Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) sixth ahead of qualifying day in the desert. Aleix Espargaro grabbed P7 overall, despite nearly getting in a bit of a tangle with teammate Maverick Viñales on his final flying effort.
Reigning World Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) is four tenths off the pace in P8, just ahead of Pol Espargaro in ninth and Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) in tenth – the Italian sneaking into the top 10 after a crash at Turn 6 in FP1 dampened his first session.
0.8s splits the top 15 right down to FP1 pacesetter Brad Binder, and the riders outside the top 10 now face an uphill battle to try and earn an automatic Q2 place in the warmer, daytime conditions… see who can hit back on Saturday with FP3 at 13:15 (GMT +3), before qualifying for the first race of the season kicks off at 18:00.