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Day 1 at the Gran Premio Michelin® de Aragon belonged to Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Yamaha. Viñales topped both FP1 and set a 1:47.771 in FP2 to be the only rider into the 1:47s, Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) was 0.249 off Viñales after feeling no effects from his fast FP1 crash. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) completed the top three as all three Yamahas sit pretty at MotorLand Aragon, the same can’t be said for Ducati though – no Desmosedici riders claim a top 10 spot on Friday.
Championship leader Quartararo hobbles away from FP1 crash
After track temperatures were hanging around between 10-12 degrees for FP1, thankfully the heat had risen to a much more optimal 24 degrees as the MotoGP™ riders headed out for a crucial second Free Practice session of the weekend. And sure enough, some riders immediately went faster. The Ducatis struggled to get a competitive lap time in FP1 but Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), his teammate Danilo Petrucci, Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) and Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) all went quicker than they did on Friday morning with just six minutes of the session played.
Conditions were much better and the Yamaha trio of Quartararo, Morbidelli and Viñales were all faster than the latter’s FP1 P1 time – your leading three from the morning session. Morbidelli was then the first rider to go sub-1:49 this weekend, a 1:48.992 was the Italian’s effort in the opening stages as Yamaha led the way from Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) and Dovizioso in P4 and P5 respectively 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 without warning.
Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) then took over at the summit, two consecutive fastest laps of the session placed the Spaniard three tenths clear of Morbidelli, Viñales then cut the gap to 0.140 seconds with just over 20 minutes to go. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) was then into the top two as less than two tenths split the leading four, Quartararo was down to P6 behind fifth fastest Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar).
With 13 laps to go, time attack mode was engaged. Despite MotoGP™ FP3 kicking off half an hour later (10:25) on Saturday morning due to weather concerns, temperatures are still going to be very cool, so the last 10 minutes of FP2 was all about trying to cement and top 10 place. Quartararo slammed in a 1:48.406 to go P1 by 0.282, then El Diablo went faster again to see his advantage climb to 0.478 seconds. What did the competition have in response?
Well, Viñales went close. 0.094 was the gap between the Yamaha duo with Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) going P3 before Viñales absolutely obliterated Quartararo’s time. The number 12 set a blistering 1:47.771 to move nearly half a second clear, Morbidelli meanwhile went P3 to see the FP1 pacesetters back at the top. On his final flying lap, Quartararo improved but couldn’t get within two tenths of Viñales and 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 – enjoyed a great day at the office, something that wasn’t said in previous years in Aragon.
Mir sits as Yamaha’s closest competitor after a solid FP2, the man second in the Championship finished P6 in the cooler morning session to have a positive opening day. However, the gap will be slightly worrying – 0.730 splits Mir and Viñales. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) set his personal best time in his final run to move up to P5, the British rider scoring a double top 10 on Friday to begin his weekend off in good fashion, 0.827 away from Viñales.
After finishing P10 in FP1, Aleix Espargaro was able to grab a top 10 on Day 1 to claim P6, the Aprilia rider sits less than a tenth ahead of his younger brother Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing). A P7 in both FP1 and FP2 signals a decent start to the Aragon GP for the Spaniard who hasn’t raced at the venue is the past couple of seasons, due to injuries sustained during the weekend. Alex Marquez finished a fantastic P4 in FP1 and set a late fast lap in FP2 to grab a top 10 place, the reigning Moto2™ World Champion going well at his home circuit. How crucial could that late lap be?
Nakagami and Rins completed the top 10, they too managed to go well in both FP1 and FP2. Unfortunately for pre-race favourites Ducati, it was a Friday to forget. Zarco and teammate Tito Rabat were the fastest Desmosedici riders in P11 and P12, with the likes of Dovizioso and Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) having lots of work to do in FP3 if they’re to grab an automatic Q2 place – P13 and P14 respectively for the Italian and Australian.
Zarco crashed at Turn 2 in FP2 to make it two crashes on Day 1, Repsol Honda Team’s Stefan Bradl went down at Turn 12 – riders ok.
So Yamaha dominate on territory they’re not used to going well at on the opening day, can the competition change that ahead of qualifying in Aragon? Find out when FP3 for the premier class gets underway at the later time of 10:55 (GMT+2), allowing for the track to warm up more in the morning due to safety concerns.
Top 10 combined:
1. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) – 1:47.771
2. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.249
3. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.447
4. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.730
5. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) + 0.827
6. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) + 0.899
7. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 0.975
8. Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) + 1.052
9. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) + 1.053
10. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 1.068