Just one MotoGP session on the opening day of the season thanks to the unique mix of timing and weather conditions. We insist on racing under lights but around 10pm a heavy dew descends and anyone using a slick tyre tends to fall off, so the race has to be stretched to four days. You know it makes sense.
Rain was expected but didn’t arrive so no progress was made in the argument about whether or not we’ll race under lights in the wet. For once, a lot of people were hoping it would rain so a Safety Commission meeting could make a few decisions. Instead, they just had to put up with some strong winds and although there was a lot of dust kicked up off line times were respectable. Some forward thinkers stuck a soft tyre in at the end of the session in case tomorrow is wet and today decides who goes directly into Q2. As it stands, they will include Loris Baz who made great use of the soft rubber. He was also keen to point out that his Ducati’s straight-line advantage is cancelled out by his size. Nevertheless, he was only a couple of hundredths slower than Jorge Lorenzo, who is already leaning a Ducati further over than we’ve seen before.
So if you weren’t paying attention to pre-season testing then the speed of Maverick Vinales may have come as a surprise. No-one here was surprised that he was quickest, although the size of his advantage sent eyebrows racing northwards. Ditto Jonas Folger and Johann Zarco’s top-ten positions. Even Valentino Rossi being slowest Yamaha in ninth couldn’t be called a major shock, we’ve seen him come back from similar FP1 positions too many times for that. However, no-one could ignore the fact that he is nigh one-and-a-half seconds slower than his new team mate.
Now that is a shock.