Bagnaia makes his mark as Marquez proves his speed on Day 1
The Italian heads the timesheets by three tenths – and Marquez slots into sixth despite nine months on the sidelines
Friday, 16 April 2021
Day 1 at the Grande Premio 888 de Portugal belongs to Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) as the Italian put together a pretty imperious performance to end the day fastest on the combined timesheets. From wet patches in FP1 to a fully dry FP2, the Italian was a force to be reckoned with most of the time he was on track, with red sectors aplenty. He ends Friday three and a half tenths clear of Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), with reigning Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) taking third overall. The headlines were stolen a little, however, by the return of eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team)… and it was quite a return.
Listening to the number 93 in his pre-event Press Conferences, it seems he had just as many questions as everyone else regarding his return from injury nine months after his crash in Jerez. And Friday gave us a few answers. In FP1 Marquez was third overall and only lost out on the top spot after two very late lunges from Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), and by the end of play the Repsol Honda rider was sixth. Happy, fast, and with a few questions remaining about his stamina as could be expected… but as exciting to watch as ever.
The first lap was a steady one, before the number 93 started to reel in those ahead of him as Bagnaia trolled those taking it steady with some consistent attacks on the top. With the damp patches still very much playing a part it wasn’t ideal for anyone least of all a rider coming back after nine months on the sidelines, but as the final few flashes of pace emerged in the last few minutes, Marquez most definitely had speed. Cranking it up to take over at the top with only moments remaining, it seemed like the fairy tale initial headline could be about to come true. But no, Rins first and next Viñales did enough to deny the eight-time World Champion by a couple of tenths.
FP2 similarly bubbled to a fast lap mad dash, although with the weather expected to remain pretty fair for the rest of the weekend – and conditions not changing as much as Qatar – there was a little less fervour than what we saw a couple of weeks ago. Nevertheless, there were some solid time attacks and Marquez was back amongst it. He ran off at Turn 1 and had a couple of twitches on his way to sixth, but a threat at the front he seems to remain… Jaws music, anyone?
Between Mir in third and Marquez in sixth, Rins slots into fourth as both Team Suzuki Ecstar machines enjoyed a good start to the weekend, looking to make amends for a difficult GP on the Algarve last year. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team), despite arm pump surgery ahead of the weekend, was fifth on Friday as he returns to the venue of his most recent podium, and the Aussie was only 0.008 off Rins ahead of him. Marc Marquez’ sixth, meanwhile, was decided by just 0.003 as Miller pipped him by the smallest of margins.
Viñales, after topping FP1, was seventh and 0.560 off the top, ahead of top Independent Team rider Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) by just 0.064. Championship leader Zarco had an interesting end to the day as he suffered a mechanical problem on a practice start and pulled off the track as his bike began to smoke slightly, luckily finding himself in range of a Miller Taxi service as the Australian picked him up and let the Frenchman ride pillion back to the pits.
Home hero now and last year as he destroyed the field on his way to the win from pole, Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) begins the 2021 edition in P9, and within provisional reach of Q2. The last rider currently on to join him is Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), the Japanese rider sneaking in late on despite a monumental crash earlier in FP2. Coming off on the way into Turn 1, the number 30 slid across the run off at speed and is feeling a little sore but was back out later in the session.
Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was the rider just denied by his teammate’s last push for the top ten as he ends the day in P11, with Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) shuffled down to P12 by just 0.011 despite having shown a stronger start to the day, only four thousandths off teammate Marquez in FP1. The top rookie was Luca Marini (Sky VR46 Avintia) as the Italian moved into a provisional top ten and then got shuffled down a few places to a nevertheless still impressive P13, just 0.013 off Pol Espargaro. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), meanwhile, was 14th and a tenth and a half further back, with Valentino Rossi completing the fastest fifteen on Friday after a tougher day for the Italian and his teammate Franco Morbidelli, who was P19.
Clouds remain overhead but the forecast says they don’t threaten any more rain. So will the first European schedule FP3 be a classic all-out shoot out for Q2? Find out on Saturday morning from 9:55 (GMT +1), before qualifying from 14:10 to decide the grid for the Grande Premio 888 de Portugal. Last year it was Oliveira on pole, but this year the grid are already within a second of that on Friday… will history repeat itself?
Roberts reigns the rollercoaster on Friday
The American tops both sessions on Day 1, with Raul Fernandez the only rider getting close
Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) was back on top on Friday at the Grande Premio 888 de Portugal, the American fastest in both sessions and pretty comfortably. His 1:43.144 put him 0.317 clear of rookie on the chase Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo), last year’s dominant force at the track in Moto3™, with Aron Canet (Solunion Aspar Team) in third heading up a close and high-profile remainder of the top ten.
With a few damp patches in the morning but Moto2™ getting the best conditions enjoyed by any class, Roberts started how he meant to go on and went fastest in FP1, although he did have some close company as Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was just 0.041 off. By the afternoon and in full sun though, it was Roberts on top again and the American pulled the pin. He ended the day three tenths ahead of a different Red Bull KTM Ajo as Fernandez leaped into second, with the two enjoying some clear space ahead of the chasing pack.
Canet leads that chasing pack, but the gaps make for intense reading. Gardner is fourth just 0.009 back, with Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) 0.048 off the Aussie. Hector Garzo (Flexbox HP 40) was back to the form he’d started to show towards the end of 2020 and takes sixth with a deficit of 0.023, and it’s exactly the same gap back to Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) in seventh as the Championship leader had a quieter first day on the timesheets. Reigning Moto3™ Champion Albert Arenas (Solunion Aspar Team) had his best day in the intermediate class yet as he took P8 and was just 0.011 off Lowes. Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) takes ninth 0.028 further back, with Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) completing the top ten, just ahead of teammate Jake Dixon.
Yari Montella (Lightech Speed Up) had an impressive Friday. The reigning Moto2™ European Champion struggled somewhat in Qatar but has been much quicker out the blocks in Portugal, ending Day 1 in P12 and after some periods much further up the timesheets too at a track at which he has both good experience and good memories. Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) and Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) are currently the last two set to move through to Q2, but it can still shuffle on Saturday morning!
There were few incidents on Day 1 for Moto2™. Lorenzo Baldassarri (MV Agusta Forward Racing) crashed in FP1, rider ok, before Canet took a tumble in the afternoon, rider also ok. Come back for more Moto2™ in FP3 as that begins at 10:55 (GMT +1), before qualifying from 15:10.
Marc Marquez gets back up to speed in Portugal
All eyes were on the Repsol Honda Team garage as Marc Marquez made his long-awaited return to the track, Pol Espargaro narrowly missing the top ten after a busy first day in Portimao.
The MotoGP World Championship returned to Portugal for the second consecutive year as round three began at the Algarve International Circuit. It marked Marc Marquez’s return to competition for the first time since 2020 as he joined Pol Espargaro inside the Repsol Honda Team garage for the first time.
265 days after last appearing on the Repsol Honda Team RC213V, eight-time World Championship Marc Marquez was back out on track. A moment months in the making, Marquez and his team took a calm and diligent approach to their first session of the year together. Completing 14 laps, Marquez ended the morning session third and all involved were pleased with Marquez’s recovery and physical condition.
Able to ride without restriction, Marquez was eager to continue working in Free Practice 2. The afternoon session gave Marquez an opportunity to try a time attack, ending the session in sixth as the top Honda. 0.473s off first, Marquez is pleased with his riding on the first day and is working with his crew to maximize their performance over the remainder of the weekend.
Pol Espargaro was immediately up to speed on the Honda at Portimao, challenging for the top three during the first practice of the day as the track continued to dry out. Despite having only ridden the RC213V in Qatar previously, Espargaro was able to quickly adapt the Honda and himself to the demands of Portugal and ended FP1 in fourth.
Struggling for improved feeling, Espargaro spent much of the Free Practice 2 session inside the top ten. Unfortunately, he was knocked down to 12th in the closing minutes by the LCR Honda duo. Free Practice 3 presents the #44 with another opportunity to clinch a spot in the top ten for direct Q2 access.
Free Practice 3 at 09:55 Local Time tomorrow, Saturday April 17, offers a final chance to fight for the top ten and earn an early spot in Q2. This is the objective for both Repsol Honda Team riders.
“It was a great day, a great feeling to be back in MotoGP. On the first run the track wasn’t so good but I felt good on the bike. I felt better in the morning because the arm was fresh, it was rested, and I had good power. In the afternoon I had to work more to warm up the arm and I could feel it was more tired. But we are in a better situation than what we were expecting before the weekend. I am riding the bike, following my own way and the lap times are coming well. The main question for me is still how the arm will react over the weekend. It is great to be back, we have worked very hard for this moment and it’s great to achieve it.”
“Today looks like a bad day, but it is not as bad as it looks. Our ideal lap time is very close to Marc which means we can achieve it and we are riding in a good way. Unfortunately, today I made a few mistakes and couldn’t make the perfect lap, it’s the problem I am having at the moment pushing with a tyre on a new track. I am making mistakes and running wide which, you pay for quite a lot. It’s just FP2, tomorrow we need to put the good lap in. Today was about learning this bike at this track and we spent a lot of the second session doing this because in the morning the track was not perfect.”
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP‘s Fabio Quartararo and Maverick Viñales enjoyed their first two outings around the Autódromo Internacional Algarve. Despite damp and windy conditions throughout the Friday, the pair got in plenty of laps to prepare for Sunday‘s Grande Prémio de Portugal. They took second and seventh place respectively in the combined FP standings.
Quartararo didn‘t take any unnecessary risks at the start of the 45-minute mixed morning session. He patiently waited for the track conditions to improve before he took his YZR-M1 out for a spin. His main objective was to get a good feeling with his bike at this circuit which he found challenging last year. His 1‘42.528s fastest time earned him seventh place, 0.401s from first.
The FP2 session was dry but with dark clouds looming. The Factory Yamaha man planned to push for a top-10 spot, in case of rain tomorrow morning. He started his bid for a provisional place in Q2 with 17 minutes left on the clock. After putting his bike in P1 with a 1‘40.990s, he improved on it by 0.038s a few laps later. However, he made sure to leave something in store for when his rivals would put their head down at the end of the session. His 1‘39.904s was unfortunately cancelled due to another rider‘s crash, but he still concluded the mini time-attack heat in second place. His 1‘40.206 last lap put him 0.340s from the top in the FP2 and combined results.
Like his team-mate, Viñales stayed in his garage for a while at the start of FP1, waiting for the damp patches on the track to dry. Once on his way though, he was on it. He gradually upped his pace, getting reacquainted with the undulations the Algarve track is known for. A good base set-up is crucial at this technically challenging circuit. However, the Spaniard and his crew made it look easy. They wrapped up the session with a 1‘42.127s for first place, 0.151s faster than his closest rival.
However, the afternoon session proved to be more challenging for the number-12 rider. He put in some hard work and spent the majority of the available track time tweaking his bike‘s race set-up. It wasn‘t until the final stages that he switched to a soft-soft tyre combination to produce a flying lap for a top-10 placement. He set a fastest time of 1‘40.426s on his penultimate try. It earned him seventh place in the FP2 and combined free practice timesheets, 0.560s off today‘s top time.
Today‘s Free Practice sessions were a good test for us. We came to Portimao with the intention to get a sense of where we stand early on, and we got the confirmation we were looking for. The 2021 M1 is working well here too, and overall the feedback from the riders is positive. Last year, we visited this track at the very end of a very demanding season. This time round, the riders and crew get to enjoy the challenge of getting the settings right at this technically difficult track a lot more. Fabio was feeling good and was able to maintain a really good rhythm before the time attack. His best lap was cancelled due to Aleix Espargaró‘s crash, but even his second fastest time was quick enough to earn him second place today. He has great potential and motivation for tomorrow‘s sessions. Maverick was feeling really good on the bike in FP1, even when the track was damp, which is usually not our favourite condition. But in the afternoon, he didn‘t have the same feeling and couldn‘t push to the limit, so that‘s what we will work on tonight – we will prepare something for tomorrow. We expect FP3 to be like a qualifying session, and then in FP4 we will again focus on fine-tuning our race set-ups.
I‘m so happy with how it went here today. Last year was a disaster for me. Mentally it‘s so important to be strong and try to reset from what happened last year. And actually our pace was really strong today. I feel so good. I can‘t wait for tomorrow and find a bit more pace, but honestly it feels really good to be at this track and have fun. I can say that the bike is also working really well here, so I‘m happy. We don‘t have any specific areas that we need to work on right now. But it would be nice to have a bit more grip on track over the next days. There is a lot of sliding here, so the lap times are close to a second slower compared to last year.
In the morning I had a really great feeling. Somehow, I felt a lot of grip with the tyres. But this afternoon, on the other hand, I felt the opposite way. I was sliding a lot, especially with the front, and I never got the good feeling necessary to push. So, for sure, we can improve a lot, and we picked out some clear points of the settings that we will work on. So, we will see tomorrow, but overall I‘m still quite confident. Despite today‘s problems, we are still at the front of the group, so that‘s actually quite good, and we are inside the top-10, which is the most important.
ALEIX ESPARGARÓ DEMONSTRATES HIS POTENTIAL BUT A CRASH RELEGATES HIM, FOR THE MOMENT, JUST OUTSIDE THE TOP TEN
LORENZO SAVADORI IMPROVING, AT EASE ON THE PORTIMÃO CIRCUIT
The first day of practice on the spectacular Portimão circuit was conditioned during FP1 by a track which, partially damp, kept all the riders from expressing their best. Times were far from the expected standards and everything was postponed until the second session.
In FP2, Aleix did well, consistently staying in the top part of the standings and being one of the first three to attempt a time attack, with a good 1’40.907 which placed him provisionally in the lead. However, in the decisive run, after the tyre change and when all the riders pushed hard to lower their times, a crash (inconsequential for the rider) kept him from defending the position. He finished just outside of the top ten, in spite of the crash, missing a provisional Q2 spot by just over a tenth of a second. He’ll have the third and decisive session tomorrow before qualifying to remedy the situation.
Lorenzo, very much at ease on the Portuguese track, demonstrated outstanding improvement compared with the first races in Qatar. He finished sixteenth, just over two tenths from the top ten.
“I am happy with the day. The session this morning, considering the track conditions, was substantially pointless. In the afternoon, I felt good, although I had a few difficulties with the front end. At the beginning, I thought this might have been due to the tyre carcass being too stressed and, precisely to solve this problem, I chose the hard tyre on my second outing to try for a good time. This proved to be a mistake. The lack of feeling was due to poor grip and that led to my crash. I am not worried, because I’m confident that direct access to Q2 will be decided tomorrow morning, when everyone will be lowering their times.”
“The track grip conditions are anything but ideal and if last year, having done the tests, I was starting from a slightly better situation than the others, now we are all at the same level. In any case, the new bike performs better overall compared with 2020, although we still need to improve, because I am not entirely convinced about the settings. I’d like to focus primarily on the second part of the braking, when you release the brake to go into the corner, a situation where I am also less incisive than Aleix.”
The opening day of the PortugueseGP proved to be one full of hard work for PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team and its MotoGP riders with a drying track and the expectation of better conditions later in the weekend presenting a challenge. At the end of the two Portimão Free Practice sessions Rossi was 15th and Morbidelli 19th.
Rossi used the start of FP1 to complete a slightly longer initial run than his team-mate, while the track continued to dry from overnight rain, before setting a series of quick laps in the closing minutes. Valentino’s final lap saw him post the 11th fastest time: 1min 43.013secs. The Italian focused on his race pace in FP2 and then opted to save some tyres for tomorrow’s session, setting a 1min 41.125secs lap that placed him 15th in both FP2 and in the combined times.
Morbidelli headed straight out onto the drying Portimão circuit in FP1, setting a time that saw him stay within the top-ten throughout the first half of the session. At the end of the 45 minutes, his 1min 43.243secs lap placed him 14th. The Italian opted to remain on medium tyres throughout the FP2 session, with the intention of finding a good race pace, in conditions representative of those expected in Sunday’s race. Franco ended the day, and the session, 19th with a 1min 41.216secs lap.
Rossi and Morbidelli will be back out on track tomorrow at 9.55am local time (4.55pm MYT) for FP3, with the two MotoGP Qualifying sessions due to begin at 2.10pm local time (9.10pm MYT).
This morning was very difficult because it was still quite wet on track, but at the end it wasn’t too bad. In the afternoon, on the longer run, my race pace was not fantastic but it was not too far away from the others. I did some good laps but it was not consistent, so we need to improve that. Afterwards we decided to save some tyres, so I was not at the limit on the soft tyres. The first target tomorrow will be to stay inside the top-ten in FP3, which is not easy because all the riders are very close, and secondly to understand the tyre choice for Sunday. It looks like the weather for the next two days should be good though.
We were able to improve the bike during the day and I feel better riding it now as well. I’m quite happy with the pace that we found during Free Practice today. We need to wait for FP3 to confirm some things, because the position wasn’t great. Tomorrow we will concentrate more on the time attack, because we decided to take some extra time today to try some things regarding the set-up of the bike. So we’ll put everything together and try our best to go directly into Q2. I hope the track conditions will improve and we can secure a good row on the grid.
Bagnaia tops Day 1 of free practices of the Portuguese GP. Fifth place for Miller
Francesco Bagnaia ended on top at the end of Day 1 of free practices of the Portuguese GP, the third round of the 2021 MotoGP season, scheduled this weekend at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, near Portimão.
Fast already in this morning’s FP1, held in mixed conditions with the track scattered in damp patches before it started to dry up in the final minutes of the session, Pecco confirmed his excellent form at the Portuguese circuit also this afternoon. Despite the track not being in perfect conditions again, after the light rain that fell just a few moments before the start of the session, the Italian rider made a good “time attack”, closing in 1:39.866 and ending the day in the first place.
It was a positive start for Jack Miller too. Back out on track today for the first time after undergoing surgery on his right forearm only ten days ago, he showed that he felt comfortable riding the Desmosedici GP right from the start. The Australian closed Friday in fifth place, just 470 thousandths behind his teammate, thanks to a fast lap in 1:40.336.
Francesco Bagnaia (#63 Ducati Lenovo Team) – 1st (1:39.866)
“I’m delighted with the work done during this first day: in FP2, my feeling with the bike was excellent, and it allowed me to set the fastest time even though the track conditions weren’t perfect. Tomorrow the temperatures will be higher, and the grip levels too. It will be important to get into Q2 right away and, above all, to have a consistent pace in FP4.”
Jack Miller (#43 Ducati Lenovo Team) – 5th (1:40.336)
“I’m pleased to be back here at Portimão, a track I enjoy! I had no issues with the arm, and I’ve felt comfortable on the bike immediately from the start. The conditions today were not optimal after the rain that fell on several occasions. Hopefully, we can find a more linear situation tomorrow that will allow us to work on our race pace and push in qualifying”.
The Ducati Lenovo Team riders will be back on track tomorrow, Saturday 17th April, at 9:55 am (10:55 am Italian time) for the third free practice session, while qualifying will take place after FP4 from 2:10 pm (3:10 pm Italian time).
ÁLEX MÁRQUEZ SATISFIED AFTER
DAY ONE IN PORTUGAL
16 April 2021 | Portuguese GP Practice
Álex Márquez looked in good rhythm as free practice for the Portuguese GP got underway at Portimao on Friday. The LCR Honda CASTROL rider ended the day just outside the top 10 as the MotoGP paddock returned to action in Europe after the back-to-back races in Qatar which kicked off the 2021 World Championship.
Despite rain and a wet patches on the track complicating matters in FP1, the Spaniard started well as he finished the opening session in ninth. Although times improved across the board in FP2, Márquez could not quite retain his position as he finished in 11th – just behind LCR team-mate Taka Nakagami – but is hopeful of forcing his way into Q2 on Saturday.
Álex Márquez – 11th
“Today was a good day, but we are still in P11 so there’s still that feeling we can give a little bit more. In general, I think we did a good job, but tomorrow morning we’ll have the opportunity to improve to go into Q2, so I hope to improve and be there. Thanks to the team as we tried some new things and new ideas that were better, so we need to keep going like this, pushing hard. Qatar is already forgotten. Portimao looks a bit better for our bike and our package, so tomorrow we’ll try hard to be in Q2.”
COURAGEOUS TAKA CRACKS TOP 10
16 April 2021 | Portuguese GP Practice
Takaaki Nakagami showed all of his bravery and skill to finish in the top 10 on the opening day of free practice for the Portuguese Grand Prix, despite a nasty fall. With the MotoGP World Championship returning to European soil after a double-header in Qatar, the LCR Honda IDEMITSU rider rode through the pain barrier to leave himself well-placed ahead of Saturday’s qualifying.
With the track still drying out after rain in FP1, all the riders posted their best times in FP2. Taka finished 12th in the damp morning session and looked unlikely to improve on it after slipping off his bike at turn one on his opening lap in FP2. But he managed to return to the track towards the end of the session and impressively posted the tenth fastest time of the day.
Takaaki Nakagami – 10th
“Unfortunately, I had quite a big crash on the first lap during FP2, it was a big impact and was quite painful all over my body. I’d like to thank the medical staff, because I was pushing to get back out on the track and then finally with 12 minutes to go, I was able to go back out and try my best. I struggled and was not comfortable on the bike, because I was in pain, but I did my best until the last moment. I am pretty happy with my P10 today, because I didn’t expect anything in this situation. Thanks to all my team, they did a great job today and let’s see what happens tomorrow. Hopefully we can improve the physical condition and also the set-up of the bike, but I’m happy where we ended up.”
Roller coaster start for Tech3 KTM Factory Racing in Portimao
The third Grand Prix of the season started this morning in mixed conditions. With some patches on the asphalt after some rain last night, Free Practice one was tricky for both, Danilo Petrucci and Iker Lecuona.
Yet, Petrucci emerged in a fine 10th position by the end of FP1 today. In FP2, he improved his lap time by 1.77 seconds and was missing out the top 10 by just half a second. Meanwhile Lecuona, fresh from surgery on his right arm, was aiming to regain the feeling aboard his KTM RC16, concluded day one in Portugal 1.274 seconds behind his teammate. In the second session of the day, the Spanish youngster went 2.5 seconds quicker than this morning. Both Tech3 KTM Factory Racing riders aim to make another step in FP3 tomorrow at 9.55 local time (10.55 CET).
“I was really curious to try the bike here, because it’s just the second track for us. I can state, that I’m happy about my feeling, although I’m not satisfied about the result of today. We have to make some modifications on the setup and we are working to find my pace.”
“This is a good opportunity for us. For sure, we still need to improve, but I feel ok, better compared to Qatar. My lap time is still not as fast as I wish it to be, but we have some ideas for tomorrow and for sure, we will improve.”
“It’s the first time for me with the GP bike here in Portimao, also with my arm after the surgery. I feel ok, although my arm gives me a bit of discomfort. Still, I tried to work as well as possible, learning the track, which is very technical and difficult. I improved, but I know I need to continue, as I’m quite far from the front. I hope we can speed up tomorrow in FP3 and try to fight to get a spot in Q2.”