The Gresini rider has a target on his back after an impressive performance sees him lead Martin and Miller on Day 1
It’s advantage Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) after the opening day of action at the PETRONAS Grand Prix of Malaysia. The Spaniard was looking strong from the off and set a scintillating 1:57.823 in his late Practice time attack to take the top spot after falling just short of the all-time lap record.
Marquez’s pace saw him deny title contender Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) of a Friday clean-sweep. The ‘Martinator’ topped Practice 1 but fell just 0.174s short of his compatriot during the Friday afternoon time attack battle. Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) enjoyed a positive return to form as the Aussie had the bit between his teeth in Practice to take the final spot inside the top three.
A mad rush in Malaysia
With Friday afternoon’s Practice session deciding who goes through to Q2, the riders spent the majority of the session working on their race packages before engaging in full time-attack mode.
With rain clouds looming the riders put on the soft rubber with twenty minutes remaining and the hot laps came flying in. It was Alex Marquez who led the way after the first lot of time attacks. The session then quieted down as the clock ticked past the 10-minute mark, but it wasn’t over yet!
The red sectors came flying in once again and it was time for fireworks in the final three minutes of the session. Red sectors came in from Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing), Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), Miller, and Alex Marquez until Martin moved the goalposts with the first 1:57 of the weekend.
Alex Marquez still had plenty left in his back pocket however and the Spaniard quickly responded to retake the top spot ahead of Martin and Miller.
Fine margins make the difference…
Next up on the timesheets was Binder. The South African threatened the top spots throughout and finished the session just behind his teammate in P4, with Viñales just 0.005s behind him in 5th. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) was another 0.022s back as he took a solid P6.
It was a positive day in the Yamaha camp as both riders showed glimpses of promise during Friday’s running. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) was one of five riders in the 1:58.3 club as he kept himself in contention in P7 ahead of his 2022 title rival Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team), as the World Championship leader bagged a very important Q2 spot in P8.
Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) also showed decent potential in Sepang. The Italian picked up P9 ahead of Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing), the Frenchman claiming the final automatic Q2 spot in P10.
The Q1 battle
Q1 is set to be a tense affair as always with Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™ being the first rider to miss out on Q2.
The Yamaha rider will have to battle it out with his compatriots Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™), as well as both factory Honda and GASGAS Tech3 riders.
The action has only just started at the PETRONAS Sepang International Circuit. The title fight is on with MotoGP™ enjoying some of the closest racing in its history. Make sure you don’t miss a single detail as the action unfolds in Malaysia with qualifying and Tissot Sprint coming up on Saturday as well as Free Practice 2 up first at 10:10 local time (GMT +8)!