Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati) went fastest on Friday in the Gran Premio Red Bull de España, but the Italian was by no means lonely at the top as his advantage over reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was just 0.012 by the end of play. Championship leader Andrea Dovizioso (Mission Winnow Ducati) was third and within a tenth though, with Jerez specialist Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team) next up and just 0.039 behind ‘DesmoDovi’. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol), meanwhile, was only a further 0.059 back in fifth to make it less than two tenths covering the top five in a Ducati vs Honda duel for supremacy at the top: a factory rider settling in, last year’s winner, the points leader seeking his first MotoGP™ podium at the venue, a three-time premier class Jerez winner and the 2019 polesitter. Quite an opening day for the European leg of the season.
If the initial Honda vs Ducati duel continues into qualifying, there was groundwork laid in FP1. Repsol Honda took a 1-2 and Marquez sat behind Dovizioso for a couple of laps, and in FP2 the numbers 93 and 99 spent some time circulating in tandem as bad luck-struck Lorenzo got straight back into the mix near the front at one of his most successful venues and Marquez followed him around. But if gaps are the name of the game, the headlines need to expand. Fastest Yamaha Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) was third in FP1 and ended the day right in the mix at 0.203 off Petrucci and just 0.008 off Crutchlow, with the Jerez Test’s fastest man, Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), for close company and just 0.022 behind on the combined timesheets. The second quickest Yamaha – and fastest rookie by a stretch – was Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) in P8, and the Frenchman completes a top six split by exactly three tenths as Jerez shapes up to be a showstopper.
Back in action for his first wildcard of the season, meanwhile, Honda test rider and premier class podium finisher Stefan Bradl (HRC Team) took P9 and made it every Honda inside the top ten to further underline their threat in Jerez, with Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) doing similar for Ducati as he completed the top ten, 0.555 off Petrucci. As it stands, they’re the last two with a provisional place in Q2…
In terms of key drama on Day 1, there was a run on for Dovizioso, two crashes for Johann Zarco (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and a crash for Hafizh Syahrin (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) after which the Malaysian headed to the medical centre – rider ok. Karel Abraham (Reale Avintia Racing) crashed and wildcard Bradley Smith (Aprilia Factory Racing) crashed in FP2, with the Red Flag briefly shown due to track conditions. With only a couple of minutes left on the clock though, it wasn’t enough for more than one more lap.
So if the field can’t improve their laptimes in FP3, who stands to lose out? The biggest name not currently on course to move through to Q2 directly is Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), with the 2016 winner down in P16 after a tough opening day. It was also a tough Friday for the man who beat him to the top step at COTA, Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), with the Spaniard down in P12 – although he’s already recovered from worse this season and is on a serious roll on Sunday form. Rins hasn’t finished outside the top six since Austria last season – and yes, he’s finished every race.
Aiming to improve alongside them in FP3 are the likes of Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) in P11, Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) in P13, fellow rookie Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) in P18 and KTM’s Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), who finished Day 1 in P14 and just 0.041 ahead of Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini). The gaps from Miller completing the top ten and Mir in P18 are all less than seven hundredths, however…highlighting the incredible level of competition once again.
Can Rossi and Rins fight back on Saturday? Will Honda and Ducati rule the roost on Day 2? Or could we see Viñales finding that missing margin at the front? Make sure to tune in for FP3 at 9:55 (GMT +2) to see who’s heading straight through to Q2, before qualifying from 14:10.
1 – Danilo Petrucci (ITA – Ducati) 1’37.909
2 – Marc Marquez (SPA – Honda) +0.012
3 – Andrea Dovizioso (ITA – Ducati) +0.097
4 – Jorge Lorenzo (SPA – Honda) +0.136
5 – Cal Crutchlow (GBR – Honda) +0.195