While most riders were realpolitik as usual, Aprilia Aleix Espargaro broke ranks to call the COTA surface a ‘disaster’ and ‘dangerous’. The Spaniard was 14th quickest but let loose after the session, saying just what he thought about the Circuit of The Americas.
Aleix Espargaro – P14
“The asphalt is a disaster. It is very bumpy. On the corners it can be managed with difficulty, but the real problem is on the straight where, at more than three hundred km/h, you risk losing control of the bike. It is really very dangerous. This is MotoGP, not motocross. Our problem is that we are unable to get the most out of the new tyre. I feel like I am in great shape and I also have a good race pace. We know that this is certainly not the best circuit for us. I give it my all, riding aggressively, but we are unable to exploit the grip of the new tyre. With used tyres, we are always around sixth or seventh place, but when we all put on the tyre to do the time, we lose a lot of positions.”
Most other riders kept their criticisms a little more private and got on with the job and after the two sessions less than a second split the top 12 MotoGP riders.
Marc Marquez’s love affair with the Circuit of the Americas showed no signs of stopping as the six-time winner led Free Practice 1 from his first fast lap. The pattern continued into Free Practice 2 as Marquez improved his lap time on just his second flying lap. With the track at 41°C and the sky clear above, Marquez produced a 2’03.901 to end the day as the second fastest rider in Austin after a tense final five minutes of on track action that saw Marquez bettered by countryman Maverick Vinales.
Maverick Vinales – P1
“I think today it was very important to work on the basic set-up, because in Argentina we misunderstood some things. I think we worked quite well here today. I tried to be very competitive, especially on the first laps, but we still have to improve. We have to be more precise in the first laps and I need a little bit more grip, especially on the rear, because I still didn‘t feel that I‘m at my best. It’s important to be at the top today, because I think tomorrow it‘s going to rain, and we need to start at the front. The track is very bumpy. It was funny, when I was pushing I made a big lateral slide, but honestly I was lucky I didn‘t make a big highside. For sure, I‘m expecting to be fast in qualifying. In Valencia I finished at the top in the wet. It‘s true that I also crashed, but I was one of the fastest on the track. I have a good feeling, and when you have a good feeling it doesn‘t matter what the conditions are like.”
Marc Marquez – P2
“Today was not a straight forward day, the circuit has changed a lot since last year and it’s bumpy so we had to adapt to this. We also had some other areas to work on and some things to try to improve our pace. The rhythm and the pace is there so we are happy and we even tried the soft rear to get a good lap. Overall it was a productive day and we did what we needed to. Of course this weekend we also have Nicky Hayden in our minds, remembering a great champion.”
Valentino Rossi – P3
“Today wasn’t so bad, especially the third position is very good. I did a good lap, and this is very important in order to stay in the top-10. We have some problems with the pace, I’m not fantastic on the race tyre. We have to work on the balance of the bike, but for a first day it’s quite positive. The weather forecast for tomorrow is grim, but we’re hoping it’s wrong. Maybe the weather will be good tomorrow, but if it rains we will all start from zero again. We’ll need to try to understand the conditions and we need to find a good setting for the wet, but anyway we hope to have a dry race on Sunday.”
Jack Miller – P4
“Finishing in Top 10 is always the main goal on friday. That’s why I can say I’m satisfied also because the weather tomorrow could be a factor for the direct qualification to Q2. The bike is working very well and I feel comfortable. In the afternoon I had some difficulties because of the wind but the balance of the day is very positive”.
Cal Crutchlow – P5
“Today was a good day, we’re happy with the feelings on the bike. It’s really nice to be riding here at the Circuit of the Americas despite the track being in very poor condition. We look forward to trying some different settings on the bike tomorrow and qualifying, but at the moment I feel very good with the team and the bike.”
Alex Rins – P6
“I lost a bit of time stuck behind another rider, but I’m still quite satisfied with my lap times today, and I was fastest in Sector 1. We’ve worked well today and we tried a few different tyre combinations. Now I’m thinking about the race, it seems that I could already be in Q2 due to my time in FP2, which would help a lot.”
Franco Morbidelli – P8
“Today was a tough day because we had some small problems that I think slowed down our progress. Even so, we were able to be get into the Top 10 with only one quick lap at the end, which is a good result. I need to put in more kilometres here with this bike, because I feel like I haven’t done enough laps in a row to understand the track fully. We have to keep working because we still have room for improvement. The difficulty we encountered today were the bumps, of which there are a lot. Towards the end of the day we found a good line and we are going to continue working on that tomorrow. We’ll see what happens and if today’s time is enough to qualify for Q2.”
Fabio Quartararo – P9
“We are not officially into Q2 yet, but today the most important thing was to finish in the Top 10 because we know that tomorrow it is likely to rain. I made some mistakes on my two fastest laps, so I’m pretty happy because we only had one tyre to set our flying lap. It’s very good to finish in the Top 10 on the first day here in Austin. This circuit is very physical, but I felt ok on the bike. I think it’s one of the most demanding circuits of the year and we know it’s a good test of our fitness, although I think we’re in pretty good shape. We will see in the race, but it is a hard circuit.”
Pecco Bagnaia – P10
“I’m happy because this morning I had a lot of trouble riding over the many bumps of the circuit. We worked well on the setup and the feeling improved a lot in the afternoon. I was quick in the time attack but especially in the race pace with used tyres. It’s a very difficult track for me and that’s why I’m very satisfied”.
Andrea Dovizioso – P11
“We knew we would have struggled a bit more than usual on this track but, all in all, we’ve been competitive enough with a race setup. This afternoon, in particular, our pace was decent. In retrospect, I think we didn’t choose the best front tyre for the final time attack in FP2. I couldn’t put together the lap that I wanted, and it’s a shame because tomorrow it’ll probably rain. Looking at the positives, going through Q1 could represent an advantage to have more feeling on the wet in Q2. We’ll have to see what the weather is like tomorrow. Conditions may make a big difference in terms of grid positions and, consequently, the race itself: we’ll have to be ready for all scenarios.”
Joan Mir – P12
“I’m really happy overall because I made big improvement from the morning to the afternoon. I missed out on using a second set of soft tyres to try and push for a fast lap and get into the Top 10 today, but apart from that I feel confident and ready to build on my time further tomorrow.”
Danilo Petrucci – P13
“We were able to improve quite a bit throughout the day, but I still don’t have the right confidence. Despite feeling more at ease in FP2, we couldn’t seize the top 10 in the final minutes, which somewhat complicates our plans for tomorrow because the forecast says it’s going to rain. We don’t have one big issue to solve, and this makes the work on the setup a bit tricky. We need to improve in terms of grip and stability to be more consistent. I can’t say I’m satisfied with our position, but we still have ideas to try and I’m confident we’ll be able to make progress tomorrow.”
Takaaki Nakagami – P15
“We really struggled here on the first day in America, during FP1 we were not so competitive throughout the session. In FP2 we improved little by little, but we have work to do ahead of tomorrow. The gap (to the front of the field) is not huge, but it’s all about small details as this track is 20 corners and it’s impossible not to make any mistakes on a lap. But I feel we are improving and we understand where we are losing time, so we’ll keep focused and work hard tomorrow. The weather forecast is not great, but we’ll try our best.”
Jorge Lorenzo – P16
“A tricky day today. First of all the track is very bumpy for everyone and we need to improve a little bit to handle this. The circuit for me personally is always very difficult so it is quite complicated but we won’t give up. We’re trying many things to improve the bike and still perfecting the ergonomics to feel comfortable when changing direction. It was very special to have the ceremony for Nicky today, we all miss him a lot.”
Andrea Iannone – P18
“The positive side of today is that we assessed the various tyre choices for the race, identifying the ones that seem to work better. This morning, we were rather competitive, whereas in the second session, we were unable to exploit the soft tyres on the flying lap and that kept us from improving. We need to maintain our concentration and stay calm, because getting the most out of the technical package we have available to us is fundamental.”
MotoGP rookie Miguel Oliveira had to learn one of the most demanding tracks in the calendar in Free Practice one this morning, the Portuguese rider lowered his fastest lap from FP1 to FP2 by strong 1.759 seconds. At the same time, Hafizh Syahrin made some huge steps forward from the first to the second session, improving by impressive 2.488 seconds to complete day one just 0.574 seconds behind his teammate. Both Red Bull KTM Tech3 riders are eager to find their way closer to the front.
Miguel Oliveira – P21
“It has been a difficult day to learn the track with the new bike, as COTA is a quite tricky circuit and it takes some time for me to understand how to ride and also how the bike can help me to ride the track better. At this moment, we are for sure not happy with the result we did today, but we need to learn and to understand that it’s maybe normal to suffer a bit more for the first time here. We just work hard as always to get the best result tomorrow. In Qualifying the weather is going to be critical, but we will manage it at our best.”
Hafizh Syahrin – P22
“We made a huge improvement on the time. This morning it was difficult for me, because the track was very bumpy and I didn’t have confidence while braking as the bike was moving a lot. But we made some changes and in the afternoon, I felt really good. We still miss something for the turning. I was already talking about it with the team, so we know where to work on for tomorrow, although it might rain, which can be good for us to learn to ride the bike in these conditions. In the beginning of the weekend we always start a bit behind, because we were on this track for the first time with the bike, so we needed to collect some data first, which we used in FP2 to step ahead. We keep working hard and pushing 110 percent.”
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