FP4 once again gave us an indication as to who we can expect to be fighting up the sharp end in Sunday’s MotoGP™ Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) was fastest ahead of qualifying, but is the Spaniard in the best shape ahead of the battle in Barcelona?
Viñales completed a run that included 13 flying laps, of which eight were in the 1:40s on a fresh Michelin soft rear tyre. His fastest time was a 1:40.315, set on the third flying lap in FP4. Viñales was able to set a 1:40.499 on his 10th proper flying lap – discounting the 1:44.780 – and then didn’t dip below a 1:40.775 until the end of the session. Overall, his pace looks good but as always, tyre choice will be a key factor and starting from P5, Viñales needs a good getaway.
Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was second fastest in FP4 and the Spaniard’s pace is very good. In his second run, the younger Espargaro brother strung together nine 1:40s in a row on front medium and soft rear tyres that have four laps on them at the start. Between lap one to eight of his run, Espargaro’s worst lap was his first one – a 1:40.788. His best was two laps later, a 1:40.335 and from there the number 44 was comfortably in the mid-1:40s until his ninth lap, where he set a 1:40.900 before dipping into the 1:41s on his final two laps. A very promising stint for the KTM star.
Next, we’ll come to Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) – MotoGP™’s man in form and the comeback king on Sundays. Mir has a bit of work to do again on Sunday afternoon at 15:00 (GMT+2) when he’ll launch from P8, but how is his pace looking? Mir’s stint consisted of eight 1:40s – one was chalked off – with his best coming in the form of a 1:40.352 on his second flying lap. Mir was on the soft-soft Michelins that were nine laps old on the front, and four laps old on the rear when he headed out at the start of the session.
After setting his fastest lap, Mir set two mid-1:40s before three late 1:40s, but he then dropped into the 1:41s and didn’t manage to get back into the 1:40s for the rest of the session. However, once he did drop into the 1:41s, Mir’s front tyre was 19 laps old, the rear 14. It’s difficult to tell when the pace will drop into the 1:41s on Sunday afternoon – if it even does – but expect Mir to be in the podium fight at least.
The other two riders we’ll briefly look at are Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP). Quartararo’s pace looks strong, the Frenchman set his 1:40.377 on a 16-lap old front soft and an 11-lap old rear soft, but then – like the other riders – dipped into the late 1:40s and 1:41s. Quartararo seems confident he can fight for the race win.
Rossi set six 1:40s in his first stint in FP4 on the soft-soft compounds, one that included two 1:40.3s, one 1:40.7, two 1:40.8s and a 1:40.9 at the start. After pitting and coming out on a fresh rear medium tyre, keeping his 14-lap old front soft in, The Doctor was immediately setting mid 1:40s before setting a couple of low 1:41s at the end of the session. The last time Rossi was on the front row in Barcelona, he won – will history repeat itself? Judging by the timesheets, the nine-time World Champion is definitely in the mix.
You know what to do! Tune in to the MotoGP™ race at 15:00 local time (GMT+2), an hour later than normal, to see who takes glory at the Catalan GP.