Pol Espargaro keeps P1 as FP3 throws up late drama

A damp start was followed by a late charge for the automatic Q2 places, with big-name riders having to go through Q1 later

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing and Pol Espargaro remain top of the pile on the combined Free Practice times as FP3 at the myWorld Austrian Grand Prix throws up some late drama. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) claims second with the top two unable to improve in FP3, with Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) jumping up to P3 thanks to a late charge.

Overnight rain in Spielberg saw the Red Bull Ring get a substantial sprinkling of rain, with the Moto3™ riders experiencing a full wet Saturday morning session. However, the sun rose over the Styrian mountains and at the start of the premier class session, dry lines were appearing. Nevertheless, all the riders bar Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) headed out on wet Michelin tyres to try and get a feel for the mixed conditions, with Turn 1 to Turn 3 particularly damp still.

In the opening 15 minutes, Miguel Oliveria (Red Bull KTM Tech3) led the way with a 1:32.460 – eight seconds off the fastest dry time – from Viñales and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar). With 25 minutes remaining, there was a dry line around most of the circuit, could we see slick tyres emerging and combined practice times improving?

Bradley Smith (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was the first man to head out on slick tyres with 23 minutes to go, Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) soon followed suit. The reigning Moto2™ World Champion slotted himself into P3 in FP3, before going quickest in the session and with 15 minutes to go, there was an outside chance that we would be seeing movement in the top 10.

That outside chance started to become a real chance by the minute. Dovizioso was consistently lapping quicker and in five minutes, the Italian went from being three seconds off to only a tenth off Fabio Quartararo’s (Petronas Yamaha SRT) P10 time in FP1. With six minutes to go, we were going to get some top 10 movements and the automatic Q2 fight was on.

Viñales then started the onslaught. The Yamaha star went P7 from P11 on the combined times and then shot into P3 on his next lap, the grip was there in the Austrian sun as Quartararo found himself 11th and outside the top 10 with two minutes to go in FP3. Miller was on the fringes of the top 10 but the Australian, a master in mixed conditions, climbed to P4 as Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Oliveira improved their times to cement top 10 positions.

Together on track, Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) and Quartararo were fighting for a top 10 place in the closing stages. Quartararo was 11th and needed a personal best final lap to grab an automatic Q2 place, Petrucci also needed a lap. The Championship leader did manage to find time – but he only just made it. 0.044 was his advantage over Zarco, the Frenchman pushing his compatriot out right at the death to squeeze into Q2 by the skin of his teeth.

So after the wild end to FP3, Pol Espargaro leads the MotoGP™ field into qualifying this afternoon, with Dovizioso and Viñales his closest challengers. Miller heads fifth place Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) as the duo sit less than two tenths adrift in P4 and P5 respectively, Nakagami’s FP1 time enough to see the Japanese rider stay comfortably in the top 10. Rins improved in FP3 to sit P6, Oliveira and Mir also went quicker to claim an automatic Q2 place. Then come the two Petronas Yamaha SRT machines – Franco Morbidelli and Quartararo finding themselves in P9 and P10 at the end of Free Practice in Austria.

Czech GP winner Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) will fight it out in Q1 after finishing P16 on the combined times, with big-name riders such as Zarco, Petrucci, Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), LCR Honda Castrol’s Cal Crutchlow and more having to fight in Q1.

Don’t miss qualifying at the Red Bull Ring this afternoon – it kicks off at 14:10 local time (GMT+2)!

Top 10 combined:
1. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) – 1:24.193
2. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) + 0.044
3. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.124
4. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) + 0.170
5. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) + 0.185
6. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.241
7. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) + 0.315
8. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.324
9. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.395
10. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.418

Click here for the full results!

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