When trying to predict what the outcome of Sunday’s race will be, there’s no better place to look than the FP4 timesheets. In the 30 minutes before the riders switch to all-out attack mode in qualifying, the FP4 session provides us, the riders and teams with vital information about how the MotoGP™ race might pan out.
Long story short, Fabio Quartararo’s (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) race pace looks mighty at the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya. The polesitter, on brand-new Michelin medium tyres, chalked up eight 1:39s in FP4 and was the only rider to break into said bracket.
It was about as strong as it gets for Quartararo who continues both his FP4 and qualifying superiority in 2021 – it’s five in a row in both sessions for El Diablo. His last lap in FP4, on a 15-lap old front medium and an eight-lap old hard rear, was a 1:39.870. Now, it’s just a question of which tyre combination the World Championship leader opts for in Barcelona.
It was a good session for the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP rider. On a used medium front and fresh hard rear, Maverick Viñales was comfortable lapping in the low 1:40s, with a quickest of 1:40.028 putting him second in FP4, albeit 0.426s shy of his teammate. A 1:40.525 on 20 and 13 lap old tyres shows Viñales has good pace, but from P6 on the grid, the Spaniard needs to get a good launch to try and utilise it.
While many of the riders chose to lap on at least one fresh tyre at the beginning of the session, both Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) ventured out a pair of used tyres.
In the case of fifth fastest Mir, the reigning World Champion spent the entire session – 15 laps – on the same medium front tyre. His best lap – when the front was 24 laps old, race distance – was a 1:40.380, before he set a 1:40.399 four laps later when the same tyre was 28 laps old.
Morbidelli ended FP4 in P13 but didn’t stick in a fresh tyre once, whereas Mir fitted a new hard rear after his first run. Morbidelli’s fastest time, a 1:40.704, was set on a 20-lap old medium front and 13-lap old medium rear, which is solid enough pace from the Italian.
Much like Viñales, Morbidelli needs to get a good start from P5 on the grid to try and strike in the early stages of the race, with Mir again having a small mountain to climb from P10 on the grid – an all too familiar story for the number 36. These two should definitely be in the mix for a podium, but that is easier said than done of course.
“I don’t know why I did that” smiled Ducati Lenovo Team’s Jack Miller in the post-qualifying Press Conference, referencing his 17-lap run in FP4. On a brand-new medium front and hard rear, the Australian was comfortably in the mid 1:40s, his best being a 1:40.469 on his fourth flying lap.
Having stuck his Ducati GP21 second on the grid, the two-time 2021 winner was sounding confident about his Sunday prospects. Disrupting Quartararo’s rhythm is what he’ll be hoping to do in the early stages, but overall, you can definitely count the Aussie in for a podium fight. And as he said himself, he tends to find that little bit extra on a Sunday.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing and Miguel Oliveira have picked up where they left off at Mugello in Barcelona. Again, Oliveira was one of the riders who slotted two brand-new tyres in at the start of FP4, and the Portuguese rider was able to land three very low 1:40s. A potential worry is a drop in pace during his second outing, on the same tyres, when Oliveira’s best was a 1:40.836. Compare that to Mir, for example, and Oliveira looks to be lacking a couple of tenths when the hard tyres drop.
That could change in the 24 hours between FP4 and lights out, though. And, more importantly, the man himself is certain he has good pace. Like everyone, it’s all down to tyre choice now.
FP4 always throws up plenty of questions as well as answers. The only time we’ll be sure of anything is when the premier class go into battle on Sunday afternoon, and make sure you tune into Round 7 of the season at the earlier time of 13:00 local time (GMT+2).
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