Marquez sits out FP2 but remains fastest on day one at Sepang MotoGP
2016 MotoGP World Champion heads the timesheets despite illness as rain falls in the afternoon
The first practice session of the day for Moto3 saw damp patches of the newly-resurfaced Sepang International Circuit hamper early laptimes, before the moisture dried off and times began to fall. MotoGP had a dry FP1 – topped by Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) – before a downpour during Moto2 saw track conditions worsen dramatically.
With track changes and the new surface designed to deal with the inclement South East Asian weather, and Turn 15 especially changed and now off-camber, the grid could get a full taste of the new asphalt in wet and dry conditions on day 1.
With FP1 times out of reach after the rain, the times from the first session remained the combined timesheets for Friday, with Marquez heading the tables – despite missing FP2. As mentioned in the pre-event Press Conference by the new reigning Champion, Marquez has been suffering with illness ahead of the event and sat out FP2 with his place on the combined timesheets not under threat; focusing instead on recovering more fully for Saturday and qualifying. The 3-time MotoGP World Champion was over two tenths clear at the top.
“In the morning I didn’t feel very well – I’ve had gastroenteritis for the last two days – but I was able to go out and ride even though I was not at 100%. After the session and the effort I put in, I began feeling worse, because gastroenteritis also dehydrates you. Looking at the track conditions, we decided not to go out. Tomorrow we’ll try to improve and I think it has been good for me not go out there, and to instead save myself for Saturday and especially Sunday.”
Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was second fastest in FP1 and retains the place on combined times, with Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) impressing in P3 with a late leap up the tables in FP1.
“The day has been difficult because of the weather conditions. In the morning, we could only do the last three laps while pushing a little, and in the afternoon I didn’t take any risks as it was too easy to make a mistake and incur some damage. The early impressions are positive, I feel we could find a good set-up and my times improved positively. The new tarmac gives some more grip, but I couldn’t quite understand how it behaves under wet conditions; the previous surface dried very quickly, while this one looks like requiring longer. At least today we could test the durability of the tyre, as, with the softer tyre, I felt confident in terms of performance and we have almost covered the race distance so that tomorrow we will be on a good starting point already to complete the preparation for the race in terms of consistency. Also, it’s good that I could make the best lap with a worn tyre.”
Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) put in a bombastic performance to take fourth as he returns from injury following a crash in FP1 in Misano, with compatriot 9-time World Champion Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) completing the top five.
“This morning we were able to ride in the full dry, but anyway there were some wet patches that were very difficult and you have to stay very concentrated and careful because it’s quite dangerous. We hope for the next days we have some clear conditions, full dry or full wet. The first feeling is not so bad, but for sure after today’s rain the track needed too much time to dry out.”
Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was P7, just behind compatriot Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing), who returns to Avintia this weekend following his substitutions for Iannone at the factory Ducati Team. Yonny Hernandez (Pull&Bear Aspar) had a stunning session to spend some time in the top three, before ending Friday in P8 overall.
Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was ninth fastest as the Spaniard again impressed for the Noale factory, with 2010, 2012 and 2015 MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) completing the top ten after losing his final hot lap to a problem in sector two in FP1.
“Today was a strange day with mixed conditions. In the morning we rode on the new asphalt for the first time and it seems grippy. We couldn‘t stay with the quickest riders because at the last stint we put in the hardest tyres and I didn‘t have enough time to improve the lap time. In the afternoon with the wet track it was complicated, because the asphalt started to dry up and finally we decided to stay in the garage. It‘s difficult to draw conclusions from today.”
In the wet afternoon session, some riders got in some wet weather time as well as trying the Michelin intermediates, but it was Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) who finally topped FP2 from Crutchlow when conditions were just able to take slicks – with Hector Barbera, Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Loris Baz (Avintia Racing) completing the top five.
Jack Miller: 16th – 2’02’600
“This afternoon was all about timing because I was fortunate to put on the slick tyres just at the right time when the track was in its best condition. You still have to go out there and get the job done, so I’m happy to see my name at the top of the timesheets. It was also tricky in FP2 to pick out where the track was wet and dry because of the new surface, so you had to be pretty careful. This new surface doesn’t seem to dry as quickly as the old one but they’ve done a great job taking a lot of the bumps out because it feels really nice and smooth. I felt pretty comfortable in the dry this morning but I got caught out on my last flying lap at the revised final corner. It is quite a big change compared to the previous turn 15 and the off-camber caught me out. It’s a shame because I’m sure my potential was better than 16th this morning.”
With weather for FP3 not a certainty in the unsure climate of Sepang, the biggest names who could find themselves out of Q2 if laptimes don’t improve on Saturday morning are Australian GP winner Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) and Motegi podium sitter Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team). The third practice session will be the final decider for direct entry to Q2, with Marquez leading the way and hoping to be back to full power for qualifying day.
“Obviously today we are very disappointed to be outside the top ten, when I’m sure we have the pace to be in the top three. We didn’t change the tyre this morning and I was unable to go faster in my last run, because we were trying something for Honda that we had agreed to try. We made a bit of a tactical error and this afternoon was then wet. I went out with the slick to see if I was able to push, but it didn’t dry up enough. Now it also looks like tomorrow morning will be wet so it’s going to be difficult to go directly into Q2 – where we should be. Let’s see what tomorrow brings. We have to remain positive and go through the motions with the team tonight to improve things on the bike and then we will see how qualifying goes.”
Franco Morbidelli rules Malaysia
With Moto2 only getting limited track time at the start of FP1 before the rain came down, it was Championship challenger Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) who was quickest in that session, from Marcel Schrotter (AGR Team) and Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS). The afternoon saw MotoGP FP2 finally end just dry enough for slicks, and conditions improved further to allow the intermediate class to begin dropping laptimes in their second session of the day.
It was Marquez first down below the 2:09 barrier, then knocked from the top spot by home hero Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia) as the Malaysian put in a stunning lap to lead at home. It was then Marquez’ teammate Franco Morbidelli who took over and took times down into the 2:08s, with the Italian holding the advantage to the end of the session to go fastest on Friday.
Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) leapt up the timesheets in FP2 after not setting a representative lap in the morning, finishing the day in second overall – ahead of 2014 Moto3 World Champion Marquez, who improved his time further. Jonas Folger (AGR Team) was fourth fastest after a more difficult FP1, with reigning Champion and Championship leader Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) closing out the top five, staying clear of any issues after a crash at Turn 14 in the morning. A Red Flag briefly came out for track conditions at the penultimate corner in FP1, with Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) first to fall and then Zarco collecting his re-joining rival.
Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) had a solid second session fresh from his podium finish in Phillip Island in sixth, ahead of FP1’s fastest Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten), who improved his time but wasn’t quite able to retain the top spot.
Local hero Syahrin was eighth after the Malaysian had a crash with no consequence at Turn 15 towards the end of the session, with FP1 crasher Sam Lowes ending Friday in ninth as the last man within a second of Morbidelli’s best lap.
Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing) completed the top ten in another impressive showing, with the big name missing from the top echelons of the timesheets proving to be Paginas Amarillas HP40 rider and Championship contender Alex Rins – who was down in P17 by the end of Day 1. More news saw Julian Simon (QMMF Racing Team) declared unfit for the remainder of the event with cracked vertebrae, after a crash in FP1.
Binder home free on Friday
2016 Moto3 World Champion Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) topped timesheets on Friday at the Malaysian GP, after going quickest in FP1 and the grid finding FP2 soaked through. With laptimes not dropping, times from the first practice session of the weekend remain the quickest combined and the South African headed day one – ahead of home hero Khairul Idham Pawi (Honda Team Asia). Pawi, who won in Argentina and Germany in the wet, and put in an impressive session in the mostly dry conditions of the morning before finishing third in FP2 – with trademark pace in the rain.
The morning session dawned with overnight showers having left some patches of damp on the track surface, with riders cautious and laptimes taking some time to start becoming representative as the riders checked both the conditions and the newly resurfaced circuit. With Pawi in second in that first session, Francesco Bagnaia (Pull&Bear Aspar Mahindra) was third fastest then and on combined timesheets – as well as topping the wet FP2 session from Estrella Galicia 0,0 rider Jorge Navarro. Navarro suffered a small crash in the afternoon, with no consequences.
Marcos Ramirez (Platinum Bay Real Estate) kept his impressive P4 position from FP1 as he heads into the weekend following a points-scoring finish for the first time, ahead of Livio Loi (RW Racing GP BV), who ended day 1 closing out the top five.
Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) looked immediately at home at Sepang as he proved a consistent early pacesetter in first practice, and comes into the Malaysian GP high on confidence following his first podium. Compatriots Jorge Martin (Pull&Bear Aspar Mahindra) and Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) were seventh and eighth in the morning and on combined timesheets despite struggling more for pace following the afternoon downpour.
Despite his small crash in the wet, Jorge Navarro was P9 by the end of day 1, hoping to get a good qualifying result as he prepares to make gains on injured and absent Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3) in the fight for P2 in the Championship. The Italian is replaced for this weekend by 2015 Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup winner and 2016 Red Bull Rookies champion Ayumu Sasaki.
Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing) was another of those on top in the early stages of the first session of the day, and completed the top ten in his first weekend riding at the track after missing the 2015 weekend due to injury – also quick in the afternoon in ninth.
Brad Binder, although quickest in the dry by eight-tenths, finished the wet session in P19 on the timesheets.