So what happened this afternoon? Can’t say I know, and as the two world champions I share a commentary box with couldn’t explain it either, I feel no guilt in not explaining to the Soup Army. Why are all those Ducatis doing in the top six? There’a GP15 in third – Abraham, a GP16 in fourth – Bautista, and GP17 in fifth – Petrucci, and another ’15 in sixth – Baz. The factory bikes didn’t get within sniffing distance of the top ten, which could be embarrassing as tomorrow looks set to be very wet so today’s times will likely decide who goes direct into Q2.
Mind you, Dovi and Jorge aren’t shoe-ins for the top two in Q1 and automatic progression to Q2 because Redding, Zarco, Pedrosa and Rossi are also outside the top ten. Like I said, some strange stuff happened. It’s not the surface, it was a lot cleaner than last year, as in a a several seconds quicker in FP1. There are a few more bumps, specifically at the first and final corners plus the fast right at T3 onto the long straight: that one got Marc Marquez this morning.
As usual, tyres are an issue but bear with me, this isn’t as boring as most tyre stories. First, Michelin insisted that everyone do a five-lap run on the hard rear today, and there was a six-place grid penalty waiting for anyone who didn’t. This was to avoid a repeat of last year when we nearly had to race on the hard ‘safety tyre’ that no-one had tested. That caused a lot of moaning until the riders actually tried the tyre and found it was pretty good. You may have read about the alternative soft front tyre that is in the Michelin allocation. Basically, it’s the tyre we saw at Valencia last year and reverts to the stiffer carcase construction. Rossi, Marquez, Pedrosa, Iannone and Crutchlow all want it back so Michelin will provide it so that they can decide on which direction their development should go and we can get back to one construction. This story actually escaped ahead of time thanks to a nosy French journalist. The new tyres were obviously produced very recently and have fallen foul of Thursday’s general strike in Argentina so they won’t be here until tomorrow morning. Unfortunately that may be too late for those fans of the stiffer front end as we are promised thunder and lightning tomorrow. Which means Sunday morning warm-up may need watching very closely. Oh, and if it is actually hot on Sunday afternoon Michelin may actually mandate use of the hard rear tyre as they have memories of the temperature of 160 Centigrade reached last year, which is way, way to hot for comfort. Which is why IRTA insisted on those five-lap runs today.