Qatar GP: Friday night roundup – MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
After a productive first session, the MotoGP™ World Championship riders went into FP3 ready to fight for the top ten. A top ten finish on the combined times of the first three Free Practice sessions guarantees a direct pass into Q2, now more important than ever as almost every rider on the grid is capable of a single fast lap thanks to the new rules.
Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) and Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) had both set the pace in Free Practice 1 and Free Practice 2 with Iannone’s 1’55.388 the fastest time heading into the session. Soft tyres were fitted early in the session and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) improved almost immediately.
But as is almost tradition now, the times truly began to fall in the final 15 minutes. Times quickly dropped into the mid 1’55s until Jorge Lorenzo threw down the gauntlet with five minutes remaining and set a 1’54.776. Andrea Iannone proved to be Lorenzo’s undoing, the Ducati man setting a blistering 1’54.639 to lead the session. Iannone was also able to hit 348.1 km/h, the fastest top speed of any rider in the session.
Lorenzo’s 1’54.776 was good enough to conclude the day in second and comfortably advance through to Q2 directly. Unlike his Movistar Yamaha MotoGP teammate, Lorenzo is running winglets this weekend.
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was able to overcome many of his and Honda’s problems to set the third fastest time and finish within 0.2s of Iannone. Time are incredibly close in the MotoGP™ field, the new unified Magneti Marelli software allowing more riders than ever to be towards the front.
Both the factory Ducatis are looking strong here in Qatar with Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) ending Friday as the fourth fastest rider. Although he initially struggled to get up to speed in testing, Dovizioso is now showing well and able to push in each session, his 407 laps in testing beginning to pay off.
Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was the only other rider to drop into the 1’54s as he set a 1’54.976 to end the day fifth and 0.337s back on Iannone’s time. Throughout the weekend Viñales has been a considerable distance ahead of his teammate, his talent shining through despite this being only his second year in the premier class.
One of the first riders to improve, Pedrosa eventually ended FP3 in sixth and ahead of Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP). Rossi was just over half a second behind Iannone’s time as none of the factory riders had a clear advantage.
Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing), Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) and Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) completed the top ten and will all head into Q2 directly.
Disaster struck for Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) with just over ten minutes remaining as the Brit fell at Turn 6. He was unharmed and able to improve his time, ending 12th. There was also a fall for Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) as he pushed for a final fast lap, the Australian walking away from Turn 9 unhurt. Redding also fell in the dying stages of the session at Turn 13, again avoiding injury.
Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) was declared unfit to race, his hand still causing him difficulties.
Free Practice 4 at 19:55 Local Time will be the next time the MotoGP™ riders are on track, Qualifying beginning at 20:35 Local Time on the same Saturday.
With just a single session on Friday, riders in the Moto2™ World Championship eagerly got to work in Free Practice 3. With both MotoGP™ and Moto3™ having run before them, track conditions were well suited for setting a fast lap, Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) setting the provisional best time of the weekend on just his third lap.
This time wouldn’t stand for the entire session as Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) went under his own Circuit Best Lap with a 1’59.262, over a tenth faster than his 2015 pole time. Lowes has been strong in both testing and practice in Qatar, the Brit showing no ill effects of his two crashes on Thursday.
0.211s back on the Gresini rider was Tom Luthi, the Swiss rider’s early 1’59.473 good enough to hold him in second, both in the session and on combined times. Luthi has classically gone well at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar with three podium finishes, two coming in 2014 and 2015.
Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Team) was also able to improve his best time from Friday to set a 1’59.517 and end only 0.255s off Lowes’ time. With 19 laps under his belt, the young Italian completed the second most laps of any rider in the third practice session.
Fourth in both FP3 and the combined times was Marcel Schrotter (AGR Team), the German able to improve his time by over half a second from Thursday. This put him ahead of fellow German Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) who, although he was fifth in the session, was unable to improve his Thursday time which saw him finish fifth on combined times.
Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40), Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport), Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia) and Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) rounded out the top ten, all under the 2’00 barrier.
The next time Moto2™ will be back on the Losail International Circuit will be at 18:55 Local Time on Saturday the 19th for Qualifying. With the pole record time already eclipsed, no doubt the 45-minute shootout will produce more thrilling times.
As a result of the night race at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar, a revised schedule is necessary. Riders in the Moto3™ World Championship had just a single session on Friday. They flooded out of the pits as the session began, all hunting to best Livio Loi’s (RW Racing GP) 2’05.832 from FP2.
It was Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing) who set the pace in Free Practice 3, the only rider to dip below the 2’06 barrier in the session with a 2’05.859. The French rider was one of only two riders inside the top ten to improve their time in FP3, but still unable to dislodge Loi from the top spot.
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was 0.221s back on Quartararo as the pair made it a KTM one-two in the session. Livio Loi continued to show well as he set the third fastest time, the Belgian rider leading the way on the combined time sheets.
As riders head into Qualifying on Saturday it is the Belgian who leads the way overall with Quartararo just behind, the pair the only two to set laps in the 2’05s. Quartararo was 0.027s behind Loi as Binder completed the combined top three.
Rookies Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) and Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) continued to impress on their full time World Championship debut as they head into Qualifying with the fourth and fifth fastest times across the opening three sessions.
Romano Fenati (Sky Racing Team VR46), Francesco Bagnaia (Aspar Mahindra Team Moto3), Andrea Locatelli (Leopard Racing), Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team) and Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) completed the combined top ten.
Turn 10 saw an early crash for both Darryn Binder (Platinum Bay Real Estate) and John McPhee (Peugeot MC Saxoprint). Antonelli suffered a heavy fall at Turn 7 with Adam Norrodin (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team) falling soon after at Turn 9. Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) fell at Turn 6 and ended his session early.
Moto3™ will next be on track at 18:00 Local Time on Saturday the 19th of March for Qualifying.