Breaking the lap record seems a good way to start your team’s home Grand Prix, so doing it once in FP1 and again in FP2 makes it an even better Friday for Petronas Yamaha SRT’s Fabio Quartararo at the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix. The Frenchman was over half a second clear, but it was teammate Franco Morbidelli who was closest to him by the end of play, making it double delight for the team. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) rounded out the top three.
Day 1 was dry but it’s a mix of FP1 and FP2 times at the top, although Quartararo’s best lap in FP1 would still have been enough to take to the top. In the afternoon he unleashed even more pace to stretch his advantage, however, smashing Dani Pedrosa’s former lap record even further. Morbidelli was nevertheless impressive in second, his lap from FP1, and all Yamahas were at the front as Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Valentino Rossi locked out the top five – the former from a lap in the morning and the latter, afternoon.
That makes Dovizioso the only non-Iwata marque machine in the mix after the opening day’s action, with reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) the next closest but a couple of tenths off Rossi. He was sixth on Friday, his FP1 time his best, and began that very session with a trademark save on the edge. There was also an interesting extra spotted on his machine: a second lever on the left handlebar. What was it? A rear brake lever, although the number 93 says it’ll go back in the box for now as it isn’t ready to race.
Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) put Suzuki in seventh, his laptime from FP1, ahead of Quartararo’s closest rival for the title of top Independent Team rider in 2019: Jack Miller (Pramac Racing). An impressive showing from Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) put the Noale factory in ninth, with Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) rounding out what could prove a pivotal top ten.
Number 63 Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) just missed the cut by a seemingly grudge-bearing margin of just 0.063 as he was 11th, just ahead of fellow rookie Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar). Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) had a tougher day in P13, with Johann Zarco (LCR Honda Idemitsu) and Karel Abraham (Reale Avintia Racing) rounding out the fastest fifteen on Friday, with Frenchman despite a slow lowside.
The likes of Petrucci, Mir and Bagnaia will have their eyes to the skies on Saturday as once again the forecast looks set to close in and throw a spanner in the works of improving laptimes in FP3, and then there’s qualifying itself from 15:05 (GMT +8). Can Quartararo keep the momentum on Saturday? Will the likes of Marquez – out solely for speed – strike back? Stay tuned.
1 – Fabio Quartararo* (FRA – Yamaha) 1’58.576
2 – Franco Morbidelli* (ITA – Yamaha) +0.534
3 – Andrea Dovizioso (ITA – Ducati) +0.630
4 – Maverick Viñales (SPA – Yamaha) +0.642
5 – Valentino Rossi (ITA – Yamaha) +0.708
*Independent Team rider
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