Miller spearheads a Ducati stranglehold on Day 1 in Doha

Four Bologna bullets sit in the top five as World Champion Mir misses out on a top 10 in an FP2 barnstormer

Gaining automatic Q2 entry was the name of the game in MotoGP™ FP2 at the Tissot Grand Prix of Doha and fronting the field with a 1:53.145 was Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team). The Australian sits 0.313s clear of factory teammate Francesco Bagnaia heading into Saturday as the Bologna bullets dominate proceedings. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) picks up P3 with his rookie teammate Jorge Martin claiming P5, Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) splits the Pramac duo in P4.

As predicted, the FP1 benchmark was immediately bettered as last week’s polesitter Bagnaia landed a 1:54.074. Fellow Ducati rider Martin had a cracking FP1, finishing P4, and the rookie was immediately P2 in FP2 as most of the field was already beating their afternoon lap times.

After the first flurry of lap times, FP2’s focus was on race set up and most of the riders were laying down some rubber on the soft-soft combination – the tyres everyone used in last Sunday’s Qatar encounter. With just under 20 minutes to go though, Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) was making moves on brand-new rubber, the Japanese rider was up to P2 and less than a tenth away from Bagnaia.

Jorge Martin, Pramac Racing, Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar

Martin, not looking like a rookie at all on the GP21, moved from P4 to P3 with 15 minutes to go as the premier class gladiators started their time attacks. The top 10 and Q2 were firmly fixed on the minds of all the riders and again, Martin improved his time to go P1. The Spaniard’s time at the summit lasted about five seconds as Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) then landed the first 1:53 of the day as we strapped ourselves in for a barnstorming final 13 or so minutes of action on Friday evening.

Quartararo demoted Rins to P2 before Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) moved the goalposts – a 1:53.646 put the RS-GP rider nearly three tenths clear of the pack. After two mechanical issues in FP1, Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) slotted himself into P2 as the cameras then turned to Miller who was on a quick lap. However, coming out of Turn 14, the Australian was out of the seat and it was lap ruined. With five minutes to go, Miller was P19.

Coming out of pitlane, Miller was firing on all cylinders though and halfway round his flying lap, Miller was four tenths up. In the latter half of the lap, Miller went even quicker and set a ferocious 1:53.145 to go 0.501s clear with a minute to go, the number 43 avoiding the yellow flags being waved because of a Nakagami crash Turn 7.

The final flying laps saw plenty of movement. Bagnaia, Zarco and Martin propelled themselves into the top five as the two Qatar podium finishers also avoid the yellow flags, this time for an Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) crash at the final corner. Further back on the road, it was a huge last lap for both World Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT). Both needed to find time to break into the top 10, both failed to find enough.

There are no such troubles for Ducati’s four GP21 riders though. A dominant Friday evening at the office for the Bologna brand, with Quartararo sneaking ahead of Martin by just 0.010s. FP1 pacesetter Aleix Espargaro didn’t bother heading out for a final time attack, and he didn’t need to either. His earlier time was plenty good enough to see him and Aprilia sail into Saturday inside the top 10 in P6, with Morbidelli enjoying a better evening to end up P7 – no issues for the Italian in FP2. 0.014s behind the Yamaha rider is Rins, the top eight covered by half a second, with World Championship leader Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) only just squeezing into the top 10 in P9. Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) continues to do a fine job as Marc Marquez’s replacement, the German is P10 after Friday and looks like heading straight into Q2.

With Saturday afternoon conditions more than likely not allowing the riders to go quicker than FP2, it looks like the automatic Q2 places are set. 1.092s covers the leading 18 riders, and some big names are going to be very disappointed come Saturday evening.

Tune into MotoGP™ FP3 at 15:15 local time (GMT+3) to see if anyone is able to find improvements ahead of qualifying, with the fight for pole position getting underway at 20:00 local time.

Top 10:
1. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) 1:53.145
2. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 0.313
3. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) + 0.392
4. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.438
5. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) + 0.448
6. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini)
7. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.554
8. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.568
9. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.727
10. Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.769


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