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Despite a second crash of the weekend in FP3, Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) is the rider to beat as MotoGP™ qualifying at the Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar appears on the horizon. The Australian’s FP2 time – a 1:53.387 – was far and away quicker than anyone could go in the third Free Practice session, as the combined standings remain the same as Friday evening. This means Francesco Bagnaia makes it a Ducati Lenovo Team double threat at the top, with Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) third overall.
Track temperatures were touching nearly 50 degrees on Saturday afternoon for FP3, which was ultimately bad news for reigning World Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar). The number 36 missed out on a top 10 place by just 0.013s in FP2’s sensational shootout, but it’s the slimmest of margins that sees Mir head into Q1.
Fastest man Miller was unhurt in his Turn 15 crash, but it wasn’t the ideal start to Saturday for the number 43. Second fastest overall Bagnaia, like a lot of riders, had a quiet session as there was little to be gained in conditions that in no way replicate what qualifying or the race will be like.
FP3 pacesetter Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) looked strong again, but only former stablemate Quartararo places in the top five ahead of qualifying in respect to the YZR-M1 riders. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) round out a top five split by just 0.236s, then come Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Morbidelli in P6 and P7 respectively. Eighth fastest Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) crashed at the Turn 6 left-hander in FP3 but was unhurt, as the Spaniard, Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and Repsol Honda Team’s Pol Espargaro complete the automatic Q2 contenders, thanks to their superior pace on Friday evening.
Half a second cover P1 to P11 ahead of the first qualifying session of the season. Champion Mir will be favourite to pass through Q1, but that is by no means a given. Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol), fastest rookie Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing), Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), Enea Bastianini (Esponsorama Racing) and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) are all under a second away from Miller, and many will pose a threat in Q1.
In simple terms, there’s no way you want to miss the first MotoGP™ qualifying session of 2021. Tune in at 20:00 local time (GMT+3) to see all the drama unfold!
Top 10 combined:
1. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) – 1:53.387
2. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 0.035
3. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.188
4. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) + 0.199
5. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.236
6. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.252
7. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.289
8. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) + 0.340
9. Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.487
10. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.514
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