Aleix Espargaro 8th in #AustralianGP, Maverick Viñales 11th
The good sensations experienced by Aprilia Racing on Friday were not confirmed on the Saturday dedicated to qualifying and, partially due to the change of programme forced by the looming foul weather, in the 27-lap GP.
In fact, the usual order of the Grand Prix and the Sprint Races was inverted due to the rain and high winds forecast for tomorrow, so the short race is still on the schedule.
On Friday, the factory RS-GP machines distinguished themselves, taking top-ten spots easily with Maverick in third place. However, Viñales struggled in Q2, finishing in the ninth spot on the grid. Espargaró did better than him, taking the fourth spot on the grid.
After a good start from the second row, Aleix progressively lost contact with the leading group, partly because of a battle for sixth that lasted throughout the entire race. The many overtaking manoeuvres, to his advantage and detriment, with Miller, Marc, and Alex Marquez, and in the finale also with Bezzecchi, progressively increased the gap between that group and the one leading the race. In the battle that lasted all the way to the finish line, Aleix finished eighth.
Farther back, Viñales had to settle for eleventh. Maverick did not start badly, but the battle in the central group kept him from finding a pace acceptable and consistent enough to attempt a comeback.
It was a difficult race. From the start, we struggled with grip on some sections of the track, but just enough that we were unable to do the same pace as those at the front. I knew that it would be a race where we’d need to manage the tyre well and I tried to do so at the start, but it was not enough because, especially on the right-handers, there was a lot of spin. If the Sprint Race is held in the dry tomorrow, we may have better chances. I was fast in both qualifying and practice using the softer rear.
Nothing really out of the ordinary happened, this was simply our level today. I expected this, partly because the traction was not good yesterday. I tried to look after the tyres today, but it didn’t make much of a difference. We need to focus on improving the bike. If we are able to this weekend, it would be an important step, also in view of next year. What we need to do is understand the difficulties and learn from them.