Morbidelli strikes back to lead Zarco and Binder on Day 1 in Barcelona
On form on Friday, both the Italian and Zarco bounce back from crashes to head the field – as Binder leaps up the timesheets to complete the top three
Friday, 25 September 2020
Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) was struggling with illness the week after his incredible maiden MotoGP™ win in the San Marino GP, but now he’s back – and back on top. The Italian shot to P1 in the afternoon on Friday to rule the roost, a tenth ahead of Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing), with rookie Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) searing up to third by the end of the day’s action.
The morning, however, belonged to Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) as the Frenchman went faster and faster to end the session over four tenths clear of nearest rival Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team). Dovizioso, in turn, was a couple of tenths clear of Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) down in third, and the two spent a while together on track, whether by accident or design.
It was an uncharacteristic start to the event for Mir just before that, however, as the Spaniard crashed at Turn 5 unhurt, although upon getting back on the Mayorcan went quicker.
Fourth place went the way of Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) as last week’s winner was just 0.045 off Mir, that making the top four in the title fight also the top four in FP1. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was less than a tenth off Viñales, in an impressive fifth.
Morbidelli, Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) and Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) completed the top ten, Crutchlow impressing on his return from injury.
As well as Mir’s crash, there was a tumble for Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) at Turn 2, rider also ok.
In the much windier afternoon, Morbidelli made sure Petronas Yamaha SRT were top in both sessions of the day. Morbidelli, Binder and Rins all rose into the top four to slot in behind FP1 pacesetter Quartararo initially, with Viñales and Rossi also improving their times. After the first few bouts, Dovizioso, Quartararo, Mir and Aleix Espargaro were the only riders inside the top 10 who hadn’t gone faster in the first 15 minutes of FP2.
Morbidelli was then down at Turn 10 – unhurt – with 24 minutes to go. Before that, Zarco also crashed at Turn 5 – rider ok – and Repsol Honda Team’s Stefan Bradl also went down, the latter at Turn 2. Lecuona later suffered a second crash of the day. Wind or grip? The session was certainly a tougher one in terms of tumbles.
Heading into the final 10 minutes of FP2, there were 12 riders within a second and with automatic entry to Q2 already on everyone’s minds, that meant one thing – cue the time attacks!
The first benchmark came from Binder as he leapt up from outside the top 20 in FP1 to lead the way, four tenths clear. Morbidelli and Zarco were on a charge but lost those laps after Yellow Flags for Lecuona’s crash, but next time around the duo became the first and only riders into the 1:39s, demoting Binder to third overall. Viñales also struck late to slot into fourth, ahead of Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu). Every rider bar three improved their time in the afternoon by the time the flag came out: Dovizioso, teammate Danilo Petrucci and Quartararo were the outliers.
Overall then, it’s the FP2 fastest five of Morbidelli, Zarco, Binder, Viñales and Nakagami who are also fastest overall, with Quartararo’s FP1 time slotting him into sixth on the combined timesheets. That shuffles Mir down to P7 overall, ahead of Pol Espargaro, Alex Marquez and Rossi. The latter duo are the most successful on the grid at the track across all classes, with three and five wins, respectively.
Next up is another group who all improved, but remain outside the top ten: Rins is 11th and the first man looking to move forward in FP3, ahead of Jack Miller (Pramac Racing), Crutchlow and Aleix Espargaro.
Dovizioso, who didn’t go faster in the afternoon, ended the day in P15 overall. For him more than many, FP3 is a chance to shoot back towards the top and it starts at 9:55 (GMT +2). Will he make it through? Find out then, and tune in for qualifying from 14:10 as the grid for the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya gets decided.
A strong afternoon in Barcelona has Alex Marquez in a provisional Q2 spot as Stefan Bradl returns to the track.
After making solid improvements during the Misano Test, the Repsol Honda Team were eager to get back on track in Barcelona to confirm their findings at another track.
It was straight back to work for Alex Marquez, the MotoGP rookie spending Free Practice 1 learning the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on the Repsol Honda Team RC213V. A modest start to the day saw Alex 20th in FP1 but within half a second of the top ten. A 1’40.478 in Free Practice 2 was one and a half seconds faster than Alex’s best time from FP1 and rocketed the rookie up into the top ten. Eighth in FP2 and ninth overall, the Moto2 World Champion holds a provisional spot in Q2 ahead of Free Practice 3 on Saturday morning. The result marks Alex’s best start to a premier class weekend to date.
Stefan Bradl was back on form after a week’s rest, his right arm no longer causing him any serious issues aboard the Repsol Honda RC213V. The German, riding in Barcelona during a race weekend for the first time since 2016, ended the first session of the day within half a second of the top ten. Bradl was unharmed after a small crash at Turn 2 during Free Practice 2, ending the session in 1’41.260, some seven tenths from Alex.
Both Repsol Honda Team riders will return to the Montmelo circuit at 09:55 Local Time on Saturday, Alex Marquez determined to keep hold of his Q2 position.
“It was not a bad day for us, it is really positive to be ninth. Maybe not every rider was pushing to their maximum today, but it’s a positive sign. I am feeling good on the bike, even if we are suffering a bit with rear grip – I think all riders are finding the rear grip tough. It’s a lovely track but there’s no grip and we have to try and manage it, hopefully with more riding it improves. I am happy with how this first day has gone, I am using everything we have been learning in the previous races and the test and we are making progress.”
“My arm is fine, this morning I felt much better than last week and I didn’t have any problems with it. This morning we started well, I am happy with the general setup of the bike and it seems like Honda has made a step since Misano. I think we have a good base for the rest of the weekend. The crash we had today was a little strange, I am perfectly okay, but it upset our plans for FP2 a little bit and I couldn’t do a proper time attack after. Otherwise, we are in quite a good way.”
The Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team continued their search for the optimal race configuration with the wind picking up at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this afternoon. Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi made further amendments to their YZR-M1s‘ settings in FP2, ahead of Sunday‘s Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya, and ended the Friday in 4th and 10th place respectively in the combined timesheets.
Viñales continued to fine-tune his bike‘s set-up in the afternoon, spending 40 minutes on getting it in perfect shape for Sunday‘s race. In the final five minutes of the session, he returned to the box for some fresh tyres to book himself a provisional place in Q2. Clocking a 1‘40.208s on lap 20/20, he secured fourth in the FP2 and combined FP rankings, with a 0.419s margin to first.
Rossi also had a busy afternoon schedule getting his bike to adjust to the lower grip levels of the Barcelona circuit. Once he was satisfied with his feeling out on track, he put in an early mini time attack, setting a 1‘40.575s that initially put him in second place, just 0.002s from first. As the pace heated up, The Doctor gave it another go and produced a 1‘40.502s on lap 19/21 for ninth place, 0.713s from the top. However, as one rider had set a faster morning time, the Italian is tenth in the combined free practice results.
Today‘s sessions went more or less as we expected. We knew that the asphalt here is very different from that at Misano, so we are working on adapting the bikes accordingly. Besides the lack of grip on track, also the windy conditions are a challenge here this weekend, but overall our bikes are working well. Maverick and Valentino were quite comfortable today, and we have established a solid basis to build on. There are various points where we think we can shave off some extra time. Starting from the front will be crucial for Sunday, so we’ll work hard to make another step for tomorrow‘s FP3 with the goal to have both riders in Q2 and hopefully on the first two rows of the grid. So far, we have tried the medium-spec tyres. Tomorrow we‘ll also try the soft compound to determine the best front and rear option for the race.
I’m very happy with last week’s victory, it gives us some extra confidence, and now we’re in Montmeló, which is a track that I love and where I can ride very fast. The first day has been good. In the morning I felt fast straight away, but in the afternoon the conditions were more difficult because of the wind, but I think we rode well. Our lap times were quite good, and the most important thing is that the feeling is there. I was feeling comfortable on the bike. Honestly, I didn’t do a very good hot lap, because I was on the medium front and I didn’t want to take the risk to push, but I’m quite happy. We are trying to improve and understand the bike. We just try to remain calm and go with the flow in the corners. Tomorrow we will focus on the soft-soft tyre combination to see if it works for us over the race distance. We’ll also try to make another step, especially concerning the race set-up, but I feel strong. If I can push for the pole position, I will, but our main objective is to be on the front row, and then we’ll see where we stand.
Barcelona, 25 September 2020
RIDERS STRUGGLE WITH TRACTION IN BARCELONA: ALEIX AND BRADLEY TRYING TO FIND GRIP
The biggest concern for the riders on the first day of practice in Barcelona was, from the start, the difficulty finding the right level of traction. It is a particularly demanding situation in preparing for the race, where the bike/tyres package setup must provide the most consistent performance possible.
In any case, the Aprilia riders managed to improve their pace significantly between the two sessions, with Aleix less than three tenths of a second from the top 10, despite being unable to do a true flying lap. Bradley shaved more than half a second off his time between FP1 and FP2, focusing on pace, as the two long runs he did during the afternoon session demonstrate.
“A difficult day, but I felt good. I like this layout and I had fun riding today. The grip is extremely low, especially if we compare it to Misano. Because of this, I did not take too many risks, as it would have been incredibly easy to make a mistake. Unfortunately, I do not have good sensations with the medium tyre but, because of tyre allocation, I was only able to use the soft in the last 10 minutes of FP2. I felt much better with that one, but I was unable to do a good lap, partly because of a yellow flag. Tomorrow morning I’ll try again to qualify for Q2.”
“I think it was a demanding day for everyone, especially in terms of rear grip. It seems rather difficult to get the tyre up to temp here, partly because it is a bit cooler than the usual situation here. It will take a few laps to find the right feeling and I’m curious to see what happens tomorrow since I don’t think it will be possible to aim for a flying lap in FP3 and qualifying, but to increase pace gradually instead. Historically, we stress the tyre less with the RS-GP and this is a disadvantage for us at the moment. We need to analyse the data and try to make improvements where that is concerned.