Yamaha have emerged from the opening day at the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya in seemingly great shape. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) topped the combined timesheets with a 1:39.789, with all three of his Yamaha rivals joining the Italian inside the top 10 on Day 1.
The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is a track that Yamaha haven’t tasted victory at since 2016, when Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) beat Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) by over two seconds to take the 25-point haul back to Tavullia. Rossi and teammate Maverick Viñales were set for a podium challenge at the 2019 Catalan GP, but the infamous Turn 10 crash snatched that opportunity from their grasps. Last year in Barcelona wasn’t all bad news though, Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) secured his maiden MotoGP™ rostrum in P2 – something that has gone begging for the former Championship leader since the Andalucia GP.
A torrid couple of rounds at the Red Bull Ring were quickly forgotten about at Misano. Morbidelli and Viñales picked up their maiden wins of 2020 on the Riviera di Rimini and have begun the weekend in Barcelona as the two fastest YZR-M1s on track. Morbidelli – despite what he describes as a “stupid crash” in FP2 – was one of two riders to set a 1:39 on Friday, the other being Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing), to emerge as the man to beat heading into qualifying day.
“Today I felt very good with the bike since the beginning of the day, I was able to be quite fast this morning and this afternoon we did the right modifications I think to improve the pace, and I was able to be decently fast this afternoon. Yeah, I’m happy about today,” said Morbidelli, talking about his day’s work in Barcelona.
“I had a stupid crash. I went into Turn 10 too hot and too cold tyre, the first flying lap so it was too early to push so much and I ended up on the ground. Unfortunately I wanted to bring the bike back to the pit box to continue my work on used tyres, but I didn’t manage to so I just had to go for the time attack. I had to wait a bit in the box, and then go with soft-soft. Finally I was able to put a good time in with the softs and I’m happy about that, so it’s a really positive Friday for us.”
Viñales finished P4, four tenths shy of Morbidelli, with the Spaniard saying he was “comfortable” on the bike. Crucially, Viñales didn’t go for a gung-ho lap time, so that means Viñales has more up his sleeve than a P4.
Quartararo – the FP1 pacesetter – was P6 on the combined times, but that doesn’t tell the full story for the Frenchman. A small brake issue at the end of FP2 meant El Diablo was unable to head out for a few time attack laps, you’d have to think Quartararo would be higher up the order than P6 if he’d have had no such issues.
And what about Rossi? The Doctor went quietly about his business on the opening day and finished P10 on the combined Free Practice Friday timesheets – the final provisional Q2 place. The ultra-experienced Italian explained how the conditions were difficult to deal with, the wind in Barcelona picked up significantly during the afternoon – and the track is a lot less grippy than Misano. Rossi seemed fairly pleased with his day though, saying: “Today was positive because my pace is quite good, I feel good with the bike. It works well, and I feel comfortable. For sure, we will have to work a lot, because everybody will improve for tomorrow, but the first day wasn't so bad. I'm in P10, but I think my potential is higher.”
FP3 and FP4 will give us further indications as to where the four Yamaha riders sit ahead of qualifying, but it's looking good so far. FP3 will be vital for all the riders to grab an automatic Q2 place, don’t miss the 45-minute stint at 09:55 local time (GMT+2).