The title contenders end Day 1 in P7 and P8 as Aprilia and Diggia take over the top three
Raul Fernandez (CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP™ Team) enjoyed a dream Friday Practice session at the Qatar Airways Grand Prix of Qatar, not only bagging himself a spot in Q2 but ending Friday fastest of the bunch. It was as close as ever though, with just 0.049s back to first on the chase Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) as the Italian looked strong from the off. The gap back to third fastest Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) is even smaller too, just 0.044.
Title contenders Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) and Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing), meanwhile, ended the day in P7 and P8. Split by just 14 points in the duel for the Championship, it’s even closer out on the circuit so far this weekend as the duo were just 0.007s apart.
There were Q2 spots up for grabs in Practice as the riders hit the circuit for a full hour of track time around the Lusail International Circuit. Bagnaia and Martin weren’t having it all their own way either, and as we headed into the closing stages, both riders needed to find time despite having ended FP1 higher up the order, with Martin fastest and Bagnaia third, two tenths back.
As always once the final few minutes were underway in the afternoon, red sectors came flying in. And it was Raul Fernandez who went top, beating Viñales’ benchmark. Martin pulled a lap time out of the bag to propel himself into the top 10, as did Bagnaia, but yellow flags then caught out several riders as Pol Espargaro (GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3) crashed unhurt at the final corner while on a time that looked certain to take the #44 into the top 10. In the end, despite some late improvers, Martin and Bagnaia secured crucial top 10s.
As close as ever in MotoGP™
It’s tight at the top as Diggia, number 49, ended up a somewhat fitting 0.049 off Raul Fernandez, with that 0.044 back to Viñales becoming an even smaller 0.019 to Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) in fourth. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) rounds out the top five as Aprilia came out swinging, only another 0.078 in arrears, with Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) putting in a very late run to grab P6.
From there it’s the only gap in the top ten bigger than a tenth down to Martin, that 0.007 back to Bagnaia and then a smashing Day 1 job from Augusto Fernandez (GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3). He was on a hot one in FP1 too, lighting up the timing screens before crash at Turn 14.
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) had a solid day on the timesheets and stole a tow from Bagnaia to round out the top 10, too, denying Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) a place in Q2 by just 0.014.
There are some heavy hitters set for battle in Q1 on Saturday. Miller will be joined by the Sprint victor and podium finisher from last weekend Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) as well as Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) and Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team), Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) and Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) – among others.
The penultimate qualifying of the year kicks off at 15:40 local time (GMT+3). There, we’ll know how Bagnaia and Martin will face down the next two battles for the maximum of 37 points on offer at Lusail… don’t miss it!
SHOWTIME IN QATAR
The stage is set for Qualifying and the Tissot Sprint! Make sure you tune in:
MotoGP™ FP2: 15:00
MotoGP™ Q1: 15:40
MotoGP™ Q2: 16:05
MotoGP™ Sprint: 20:00
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