Friday Free Practice is done at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana and, fittingly, there is almost nothing between the two MotoGP™ World Championship combatants at #TheDecider.
Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) set the pace in FP2 with a 1:30.217 during the time attacks at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, but the back end of the top 10 makes for very interesting reading in the context of the title fight.
Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) secured P8 for the session and the day, just one position and 0.005 seconds ahead of the man he is trying to overhaul in the Championship standings, Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team).
A frantic beginning
Quartararo had set the fastest lap of FP1, a 1:31.399, but it took only minutes into FP2 before Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) bettered it with a 1:31.238 and then Quartararo himself moved the marker even further to a 1:31.149 with a new Michelin hard front slick tyre and medium rear. The opening 10 minutes of FP2 also saw a spate of crashes, first Franco Moribdelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) at Turn 5 then Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) at Turn 2, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) at Turn 1 – his second tumble of the day after going down at Turn 2 in FP1 – and Alex Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) at Turn 5. Fortunately, rider okay in each case.
Marini was next to take over P1 when he set a 1:31.110 in the 27th minute of the session – but, on used medium tyres, he was only warming up. Still, he remained the fast man at the beginning of the final runs, by which time Bagnaia had crept up to seventh despite a couple of detours into run-off areas, and Quartararo had emerged unscathed from a close call going past Darryn Binder (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP™ Team) at Turn 13 on the half-hour mark.
Marini prevails in the time attacks
Then we moved into the time attack phase of the session, and there were new soft rear Michelin tyres everywhere! Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) clocked a 1:30.608 to go P1 inside the final five minutes of proceedings, but then Marini fired in his 1:30.217. Bagnaia got as high as P2 when he set a 1:30.447 with less than two minutes to go, but would be shuffled back several positions by the time the music stopped.
Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) would claim second on a 1:30.322 and Miller made it an all-Ducati top three when he improved to a 1:30.345, ahead of Marc Marquez on a 1:30.390 and Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) in fifth on a 1:30.394. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) took sixth on a 1:30.422, ahead of Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) on a final-lap 1:30.424.
Tighter than ever for the contenders
Quartararo got down to a 1:30.442 in his time attack and Bagnaia finished ninth on that 1:30.447, while Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), who had been sampling a radical new chassis spec on Friday, rounded out the top 10 on a 1:30.519 – only 0.302 seconds off the very best pace! That means that the likes of Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Aprilia Racing duo Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaro will certainly need to find more time if they are going to go straight into Q2, given they currently occupy 11th through 13th respectively. Cal Crutchlow (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP™) sits 19th with a 1:31.345 which he set after a spill at Turn 2 at the halfway mark.
One more Free Practice session remains before the first 10 Q2 riders are locked in, and neither of the Championship contenders are safe yet. Tune in for a crucial FP3 session on Saturday from 09:55 (GMT +1)!
MotoGP™ Top 10 on Friday
1. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) – 1:30.217
2. Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) + 0.105
3. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 0.128
4. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.173
5. Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) + 0.177
6. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 0.205
7. Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) + 0.207
8. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) + 0.225
9. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 0.230
10. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 0.302