It was hot today, which means the track surface got even more greasy, lap times rapidly got slower during sessions and Marc Marquez fell off in every session, twice in qualifying. The Yamaha struggled again and Ducati got six bikes directly through to Q2 for the first time ever. Yes, it was a strange day, and tomorrow promises to be even stranger because it’s going to be even hotter. That means tyres are going to wear, especially on the right side, and anyone with any tyre left over the last half-dozen laps is going to be in with a good chance.
Simplifying the situation is not easy but I’ll have a go. Just as at Jerez earlier this year, another low-grip track, the Hondas are happy and the Yamaha aren’t This may be because Hondas are happy to spin the tyre and steer with the rear. However, the usual Honda trio, Marquez, Crutchlow and Miller, say the hard front isn’t hard enough. Most are more worried about the rear tyre. Valentino Rossi says with the medium he can do five good laps before performance drops off severely, with the hard he can do race distance but can’t do any fast laps. ‘Like a nightmare’, is his summary of the situation. The satellite Yamahas are slightly better off than the factory bikes, says Valentino, because the new bike is not as ‘natural’ to ride but they are still pretty far back although Jonas Folger is the top Yamaha qualifier.
Meanwhile Ducati packed Q2 and Jorge Lorenzo followed up his first rostrum in red at Jerez and his first race-lead at Mugello with his first front row here at Catalunya. In contrast to the tales of woe from Honda and Yamaha men, Jorge said they have no graining of the front tyre but lack a little traction at the rear. Look out too for Danilo Petrucci having his first front-row start and very local man Aleix Espargaro who starts from fifth, the Aprilia factory’s best qualifying since returning to MotoGP. If Aleix can stay calm, we know that the bike is very gentle on tyres and he may be the one who has something left for the final laps of what will be a war of attrition. That said, I still wouldn’t bet against Dani Pedrosa