Friday at the Gran Premio Octo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini belonged to two men: Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT). Split by just 0.057 on the combined timesheets, the two topped a session each as Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) ended the day in third and over three tenths down. It was a sunny first day on the Riviera di Rimini, and it was pretty sunny for Yamaha too as the Iwata marque had all four bikes in the top five. Home hero Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) was just behind Marquez, with Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) in fifth to leave the number 93 the sole non-Yamaha in the top five.
After Quartararo kicked things off in FP1 to edge out the reigning Champion, it was Marquez who was the early leader in FP2 as the Championship leader got straight down to business, closing down the rookie’s FP1 advantage to just 0.018 on the combined timesheets to head the afternoon session by over four-tenths. The likes of Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) had jumped into the overall top ten in the early stages of FP2, with Morbidelli and Rossi also improving on their FP1 times.
The afternoon then went quiet in terms of personal best times, the riders getting some valuable work done on different tyres to see what their preference will be for Sunday’s race. But with just over ten minutes remaining – and after a couple of close front-end moments – Quartararo was yet to improve his FP1 time and so was Viñales. The traditional FP2 time attack was forthcoming, however, and with eight minutes to go, we had plenty of movement.
Rossi moved into P3 overall on his first flying run on the soft rear, but teammate Viñales would move the goalposts at the top as a 1:32.775 saw the Spaniard leap over three tenths clear. Quartararo was on a personal best behind, but the rookie sensation wasn’t quite able to match Viñales’ time as the 20-year-old went a tenth off. The Ducati Team riders had a quiet morning but both Danilo Petrucci and Andrea Dovizioso then found a way into the top ten., with Viñales looking like he had P1 in the bag as the flag dropped.
Quartararo, however, was on a fast one. Personal best sectors were set by the Frenchman but at the line, it wasn’t quite enough as he ended the day 0.057 in arrears – barely anything splitting the two Yamahas. Marquez failed to improve and stayed P3, with Rossi and Morbidelli completing the top five.
Sixth was a headline in itself as Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) impressed in P6 in both FP1 and FP2, ending the day ahead of Ducati Team’s Michele Pirro. The Italian slipped from P4 in FP1 to P7 at the end of play after failing to go quicker in FP2, but the test rider remains the fastest Ducati on track so far. Petrucci sits just behind him in P8, with Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) – P5 in FP1 – claiming P9 on Friday thanks to his morning time. Last year’s winner Dovizioso occupies the last provisional automatic Q2 place in P10 heading into Saturday – not an easy day for the man second in the Championship.
It’s Silverstone winner Alex Rins and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) who just lost out on the top ten on Friday, but it’s just 0.6 that splits Dovi in P10 to Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) in P21. It’s all to play for in the fight for an automatic Q2 place in FP3, so make sure you tune in for that at 09:55 local time (GMT+2) on Saturday morning. Will Yamaha continue to reign at Misano on qualifying?
1 – Maverick Viñales (SPA – Yamaha) 1’32.775
2 – Fabio Quartararo* (FRA – Yamaha) +0.057
3 – Marc Marquez (SPA – Honda) +0.396
4 – Valentino Rossi (ITA – Yamaha) +0.695
5 – Franco Morbidelli* (ITA – Yamaha) +0.749
*Independent Team rider