For the second weekend in a row, Saturday morning in the MotoGP™ class didn’t disappoint. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) set a new Jerez lap record to edge out Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) – a 1:36.584 for the Spaniard, Quartararo 0.059 off. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) completed the top three as Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) returned to the MotoGP™ arena.
All eyes were on the Repsol Honda Team garage as the reigning World Champion geared up for a sensational comeback, just six days after fracturing his humerus. And it didn’t take long for Marquez to be lapping within two seconds of the fastest time, on his fourth flying lap the number 93 was up to P18 on the combined times – just 1.1 off Viñales’ FP1 time.
Meanwhile, Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), Quartararo and FP2 pacesetter Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) were early improvers as the fight for the top 10 started to bubble up nicely in the morning Andalucian sun. Marc Marquez kept chipping away at his personal best time to sit just a second off with over 20 minutes remaining, but Championship leader Quartararo was then on a flyer. The 21-year-old slammed in a new all-time lap record of a 1:36.643, with Nakagami continuing his great Andalucia GP form to go P2.
Heading into crunch time, the final 10 minutes, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and Miller were outside the top 10. The Australian soon changed that to go P5, but Dovi was struggling to penetrate – despite being just half a second off. The times were incredibly close and the top 10 was changing continuously, with Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) eventually improving their Friday time in the latter stages. Going faster than anyone though was Viñales – a new lap record was his to displace Quartararo to P2.
Miller’s late improvement saw him claim P3 ahead of Nakagami, with Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) launching to P5 with a late burst of speed. Talking of late bursts of speed, Ducati Team’s Danilo Petrucci takes P6 after sitting outside the top 10 for the majority, with Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) emerging as the leading KTM rider in seventh after a great late run. Rossi cements an automatic Q2 place in P8, just ahead of Pol Espargaro and Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar).
In the end, Marc Marquez would finish 19th, 1.2 off the all-time lap record after completing 18 laps. Will we see the eight-time Champion in FP4, qualifying and the race? In the meantime, Q1 is set to be a barnstormer as riders like Morbidelli, Dovizioso and more go head-to-head. 0.9 seconds split Viñales to Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) in P16 – that’s how close it is. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) sat out FP3, we'll be seeing the Spaniard back out in FP4 as he recovers from his shoulder injury.
Tune in for qualifying at 14:10 local time as the fight for pole position looks set to be an incredible one.
Top 10 combined:
1. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP – 1:36.584
2. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.059
3. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) + 0.126
4. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) + 0.258
5. Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) + 0.263
6. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) + 0.353
7. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 0.354
8. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.404
9. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 0.411
10. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.469
Click here for the full results!