Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) left it late to top the Free Practice combined timesheets at the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya, the Frenchman setting a 1:39.418 on his final flying lap to edge out Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) by 0.044 in FP3. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) completed the top three, the Portuguese rider was also less than a tenth away from Quartararo as Championship leader Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) heads for Q1 – alongside two other GP20s.
After finishing at the bottom of the pile on Friday, Ducati Team’s Danilo Petrucci came straight out of the gate on soft Michelin tyres – something he didn’t do yesterday – to set his fastest lap time of the weekend, placing him 14th on the combined times, just over two tenths shy of 10th place Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP). Most of the riders were out on soft tyres with temperatures at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya sitting at just 14 degrees on Saturday morning, with track temperatures a very low 21 degrees Celsius. For comparison, track temperatures were at 34 at the 2019 Catalan GP in FP3 last June – far from ideal conditions for the premier class.
That didn’t stop several riders going faster early doors though. FP1 pacesetter Quartararo got down to a 1:40.359 to jump up to P5 on the combined times, with Bradley Smith (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) and Tito Rabat (Esponsorama Racing) also setting their personal best times. Viñales ran into the Turn 4 gravel in the early stages of FP3, the Spaniard then felt the wrath of Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) as the Suzuki man had to run wide at Turn 9 to avoid the slower-moving Viñales.
With 15 minutes to go, things started to get interesting. Quartararo was out on brand-new soft rubber and set the fastest lap of the weekend to beat teammate Franco Morbidelli’s time by 0.021, as time attack modes were engaged in Barcelona. Pol Espargaro then placed his Red Bull KTM Factory Racing machine into P3 on the combined times, less than a tenth off Quartararo, before the Spaniard then went 0.012 clear at the top on his next flying lap.
With 11 minutes left on the clock, Petrucci then found his way into the top 10 to shove Rossi out. Mir, Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) and the Australian’s teammate Bagnaia then all improved inside the top 10, before Viñales went quickest overall – a 1:39.687 to put the Emilia Romagna GP winner ahead of Quartararo. Rossi then moved himself up from P18 to P5 as just under two tenths split the top 10 with six minutes to go – scintillatingly close. LCR Honda duo Takaaki Nakagami and Cal Crutchlow crashed at Turn 2 and Turn 5 separately in the final 10 minutes to end their hopes of an automatic Q2 place – riders ok – as Viñales went quicker again. This time it was a 1:39.462 to see the number 12 go a quarter of a second clear of the field.
Dovizioso had been demoted to P18 and the Italian needed a quick time. The title chase leader set a personal best but it was only good enough for P14, with fellow Ducati rider Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) improving his FP2 time to P5. Quartararo then closed the gap to Viñales with less than a minute to go, 0.109 the gap, with compatriot Zarco slotting into the top three. Then, on his final flying lap, Quartararo set the fastest time of the weekend to oust Viñales from top spot. Oliveira then shot to P3 on his final flying lap to get within a tenth of both Quartararo and Viñales, with Petrucci flying into P4 – great job from the Italian on Saturday morning.
Zarco ends FP3 in P5, Pol Espargaro manages to claim a Q2 spot after setting the sixth fastest time. Morbidelli eventually improved his FP2 time in FP3 but the Friday pacesetter drops from P1 to P7, with Rossi claiming P8 after getting his final lap cancelled. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Mir edged into Q2 as the top 10 were covered by just 0.444 ahead of qualifying.
Missing out and heading into Q1 is a trio of GP20. Pramac Racing pair Bagnaia and Miller will cause Dovizioso trouble when only two riders head through to Q2, but so will a host of other riders. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Nakagami and Crutchlow are just three other names who will be confident they can finish inside the top two in Q1 and with less than a second covering the top 20 in Free Practice, who knows what will happen.
Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech3) crashed in FP3, the former headed to the medical centre after the session had finished but was later confirmed fit.
Make sure you watch MotoGP™ qualifying at 14:10 (GMT+2)!
Top 10 combined:
1. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) – 1:39.418
2. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.044
3. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) + 0.089
4. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) + 0.284
5. Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) + 0.291
6. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 0.338
7. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.356
8. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.418
9. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 0.423
10. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.444
Click here for the full results!