Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) made it a 2-for-1 on Day 1 at the Gran Premio Michelin® de Aragon, the Spaniard fastest in both FP1 and FP2 to take full control on Friday. It was a Yamaha 1-2-3 overall though, with Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) a couple of tenths down and teammate Franco Morbidelli locking out the top three... the last man within half a second after a slightly ominous day from the Iwata marque. It was a tougher day for Ducati, as all Borgo Panigale machines remain outside the top ten and provisional entry to Q2.
Viñales started as he meant to go on as he topped a very cool FP1, with the session getting underway half an hour later due to low track temperatures. Once the sun had warmed MotorLand Aragon through a little more though, the Spaniard set a 1:49.866 to lead a Yamaha trio at the top and was the first man to set a sub-1:50 lap time with 15 minutes of the session left.
Franco Morbidelli and Fabio Quartararo completed the top three, with Morbidelli less than a tenth off Viñales and Quartararo another two in arrears. Both crashed on Friday morning, however, Morbidelli first taking a tumble at Turn 14 and Quartararo doing the same at the end of the session at Turn 8. Both riders were up and ok.
Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) also crashed in the session, going down at Turn 2 just before the halfway point, but the number 73 bounced back to end FP1 in a mighty fourth. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) completed the top five, around half a second off the top.
Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol), Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) completed the top ten.
Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) also crashed, the Frenchman going down at Turn 14, and Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) crashed at Turn 2.
Some big names ended up a little down the order in FP1: Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) was P12, and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) was in 17th by the flag.
The heat had risen to a more optimal 24 degrees as the MotoGP™ riders headed out for a crucial FP2, and sure enough, some riders immediately went faster. The Ducatis struggled to get a competitive lap time in FP1 but Dovizioso, his teammate Danilo Petrucci, Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) and Johann Zarco all went quicker than they did on Friday morning with just six minutes of the session played.
However, the Yamaha trio of Quartararo, Morbidelli and Viñales were all faster than the latter’s FP1 time and the goalposts had moved again. Morbidelli was then the first rider to go sub-1:49 this weekend, a 1:48.992 the Italian’s effort in the opening stages, with Yamaha leading the way from Alex Marquez as the rookie showed more great pace early on in the afternoon. Dovizioso too, the Italian in P5 with 15 minutes gone. Meanwhile, after catching out Zarco and Morbidelli in FP1, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) crashed unhurt at Turn 14 – the front of his KTM washing away.
Mir then took over at the top, two consecutive fastest laps of the session putting the Spaniard three tenths clear of Morbidelli, before Viñales cut the gap to 0.140 with just over 20 minutes to go. Nakagami was then into the top two as less than two tenths split the leading four, with Quartararo down to P6 behind fifth fastest Alex Rins.
Everything would change again in the final stages of the session, however, with time attack mode engaged. Despite MotoGP™ FP3 kicking off half an hour later (10:25) on Saturday morning to allow the temperature to rise a little, it will still likely be cool and the last ten minutes of FP2 were therefore even more vital as riders eyed a place in Q2.
Quartararo shot first as he slammed in a 1:48.406 to take over at the top by 0.282, before going even faster again to see his advantage climb to 0.478 seconds. What did the competition have in response?
Viñales got close to get within 0.094, with Aleix Espargaro impressing to go P3 thereafter. It wasn't over though, as Viñales then absolutely obliterated Quartararo’s time. The number 12 set a blistering 1:47.771 to move nearly half a second clear as Morbidelli got back up to P3, the FP1 pacesetters back at the top. On his final flying lap, Quartararo also improved but the Frenchman ultimately couldn’t get within two tenths of Viñales, so it was the latter who took opening day honours in Aragon. All three Yamahas on circuit – the absent Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) watching on from home after his positive COVID-19 test – made it an ominous first day of action.
By the end of the shuffle, it was Joan Mir closest on the chase. With one-lap pace traditionally a tougher challenge for the Hamamatsu factory, his speed will be encouraging and could set us up for a stunner on Sunday. Just behind him, Cal Crutchlow set his personal best time in his final run to move up to P5, the Brit once again impressing despite his ongoing recovery.
Aleix Espargaro ends FP2 and Day 1 in sixth overall as the Aprilia rider showed off some characteristic impressive pace at MotorLand, but it was a close run thing against younger brother Pol Espargaro as the KTM rider was forced to settle for seventh by just less than a tenth. That was impressive in itself too though, with the number 44 having suffered from injury at the track over the last two seasons and having experienced a little less track time than some.
A late lap to move back up into the top ten sees Alex Marquez end FP2 and Friday in eighth after his stunning fourth in FP1, the rookie fresh from a maiden podium, and it couldn't really have been closer with Nakagami as the Japanese rider was forced down to P9 by just 0.001. Alex Rins completes the top ten, another good sign for Suzuki and a solid day for the truly, really local rider.
That leaves some names looking for a lot more in FP3, not least of all Championship challenger Dovizioso. The number 04 ends Friday in P13 despite a better start to FP2, and he was leapfrogged by Zarco in P11 and Tito Rabat (Esponsorama Racing) in P12. Behind Dovizioso comes Miller and behind him Petrucci, with Ducatis locking out P11 to P15, and Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) down in P19. The mission is a clear one for FP3.
Zarco suffered a second crash of the day as well, this time at Turn 2, with Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) also taking a tumble; the German at Turn 12.
That's it from a chilly Friday in Teruel. Come back for more on Saturday as Ducati try and break into that top ten and the rest try to move the goalposts once again. The morning sessions get underway half an hour later so FP3 starts at 10:25 (GMT +2), but qualifying remains set to start at 14:10. Don't miss it!
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