Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) has reason to be confident of upstaging Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) and winning the 2022 MotoGP™ World Championship – and not just because he out-qualified his title rival by four positions at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana. The Frenchman was also classified P2 in FP4, but it was his pace over the course of that session which shows that he is a genuine threat for the victory which he needs at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo.
Looking at Bagnaia’s session, he split it roughly in half, but did start it with a slightly used Michelin front, and apparently took both that tyre and the rear into his second run (based on the ages of those hoops when he went back out). His fastest lap was a 1:31.270 and the Italian also notched up only a single 1:31.3. It is also worth pointing out that, like most, both Quartararo and Bagnaia were using hard rubber on the front and the medium compound on the rear.
Of course, it is one thing to lap quickly on one’s own, and something different altogether to do it when there is traffic around. But, if Quartararo can quickly make his way from P4 to the front of the field, he stands a decent chance of pulling away from those around him, based on the FP4 pace of the front row qualifiers. Pole-sitter Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) will be a concern considering he racked up multiple 1:31.1s but was not quite as consistent as Quartararo. Marc Marquez’s (Repsol Honda Team) fastest lap of FP4 was only a 1:31.431, while Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) often drifted into the mid- to high-1:31s. As for the others on the second row, Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) only set a fastest lap of 1:31.541 in FP4 and Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) got under a 1:31.4 just once.
A word of warning, though; motorcycle races are not won on paper, and not that many riders will be in a mind to do any favours for the title contenders – a particular problem for Quartararo given he has fewer allies in the Yamaha camp compared to the eight-strong fleet of Ducatis. Marquez is promising to attack, Miller is looking for one last victory with Ducati, and Rins must surely want to send Suzuki out of MotoGP™ in style.
So, will it be two titles in a row for Quartararo, or is Bagnaia going to write himself into history as just Ducati’s second Riders’ Champion? After the Sunday morning Warm Up, it’s lights out in #TheDecider at 14:00 (GMT +1)!