Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) upset the odds on Day 1 at the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, ending Friday at the top of the timesheets to depose six-time COTA winner Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team). Viñales stalked the reigning Champion’s laptimes throughout the day and by the end of action his 2:03.857 was just enough to pull 0.044 clear. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) completes the top three, with just 0.146 splitting the trio. Top Independent Team rider Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) was incredibly close, however – only another 0.002 in arrears in P4.
After a cat and mouse FP1 between Marquez and Viñales, action really heated up with 11 minutes to go in FP2. The weather forecast looks like it could well worsen, meaning Friday’s times could decide direct entry to Q2 if conditions don’t allow riders to improve in the third practice session of the weekend on Saturday morning. The stage was therefore set for a serious time attack on Friday – and one that Viñales topped.
Rossi was the first big improver; ‘The Doctor’ jumping up to P2 from P9 to put himself 0.105 off leader Marquez, before it was red sectors galore on the timing screens as FP2 entered the final seven minutes. Miller was shadowing Marquez and initially it was the Ducati man who took top spot as the pair crossed the line exchanging fastest laps. But it wouldn’t last long as Viñales took over at the top, going quicker by over a tenth. After that benchmark was laid down, it looked like Marquez would go back to the top but a moment for the reigning Champion kept him in P2.
Behind the four riders within a tenth and a half at the top, Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) was the man who locked out the top five, two and a half tenths down on Viñales. Behind him, Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) took P6 with a late lunge – and broke some hearts at Mission Winnow Ducati as that pushed Andrea Dovizioso out of the top ten. Teammate Danilo Petrucci also misses out on a provisional automatic Q2 place, as does Repsol Honda Team’s Jorge Lorenzo.
Seventh was a completely different story. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Pol Espargaro built on an impressive FP1 to get right in the mix in FP2 as well, putting in an impressive lap to take P7 – only just over half a second off the top for the Austrian factory. Next up was Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) in eighth, with his rookie teammate Fabio Quartararo just behind him. Second rookie Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) completed the top ten for a provisional place in Q2, with he and teammate Jack Miller the Borgo Panigale representatives highest up the timesheets on Friday.
The aforementioned Dovizioso was P11, with rookie Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) splitting him from teammate Petrucci, who was down in 13th. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) complete the top fifteen, just ahead of Lorenzo.
Will the weather hold on Saturday morning and give us an almighty fight in FP3 for a place in Q2? Or have the cards been played until Q1 and qualifying? Practice for the premier class begins at 9:55 (GMT -5), before qualifying and Q1 from 14:10.
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