Due to looming clouds and a persistent threat of rain, the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team had to make every dry minute of today’s free practice sessions count, ahead of this weekend’s NeroGiardini Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich. Riders Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi were fast to find their rhythm in the quite cool conditions, taking 2nd and 13th position respectively in the combined times.
This morning Viñales calmly prepared for Sunday’s race at the Red Bull Ring – Spielberg, steadily upping his pace. He consistently posted lap times within the 1’25s, only to turn up the heat a notch on his last run in the final mini time attack. He set a 1’24.752s for fourth place, 0.121s from the front, making sure of a provisional spot in the top-10 in case of rain in the afternoon and tomorrow morning.
The young gun again displayed his patience before pouncing at the right moment in the afternoon session. A wet spot in turn 3 made it impossible for the riders to improve their time, despite the rest of the track being dry. Having seen this from his pit box, Viñales bided his time until, with 25 minutes of the available time left, the sun came out and the track was ready for action. The Spaniard was quickly on the pace and continued to work hard, concluding the session with a 1’24.280s lap for second place, 0.234s from first.
Though not feeling 100% fit, teammate Rossi stuck to the same approach he had at the previous Grand Prix weekend. He worked diligently on his bike’s setting in FP1, to be fully prepared for the qualifying tomorrow. Focusing on improvement, he ended the morning practice with a best time of 1’25.251s for 12th place, 0.620s from the top of the timesheets.
Once the track dried midway through FP2, the Doctor used the second session to fine-tune the balance of his bike, to match it to the Austrian circuit’s layout and the expected weather variations for this weekend. The Italian rider pushed hard at the end of the session to improve on his morning time by 0.368s, posting a 1’24.883s lap, for twelfth position in the FP2 results. He ended the first day of practice in 13th place in the overall standings, 0.837s from first.
Position: 2nd – Time: 1’24.280 – Laps: 35
“We are really pleased, because we’re starting with a good feeling again. Today we did a really good job, I was feeling quite good on the bike. Especially after the Brno test we improved the set-up a lot. For tomorrow, I think it will be very important to work further on the electronics and also on the acceleration, which is really crucial here.”
Position: 16th – Time: 1’24.883 – Laps: 39
“It wasn’t a very good day, we had some problems, especially this morning was a difficult practice. When I woke up this morning I also didn’t feel very well, I didn’t have energy, it felt like the flu, so this morning was difficult. This afternoon, unfortunately, in the end my position was not in the top-10, which was the target, but we improved the bike and we improved the feeling. We’re not strong, we need to make some other modification to try to be faster, but we’re all very close and we are there. We need to improve, but for tomorrow we have a lot of things to try. Braking is very important, but also acceleration. I suffer a bit on acceleration because I spin a bit too much and lose time. Also in sector 3, where last year I was strong, this year I am very bad because we don’t have the right balance of the bike, so for tomorrow we will try something different.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – Team Director
“Considering that the Spielberg circuit is one of the more challenging tracks on the MotoGP calendar for us, today’s results are quite positive. It was a pity we lost some track time in FP2 because of a wet spot on track, but all in all our riders’ pace is good. We’ve been quite productive. Today we were able to compare fairings, tyre specs – both front and rear -, and also different set-ups. The FP2 session ended up quite well for Maverick, with a significant second fastest lap time as well as a good pace. Although Valentino felt a little under the weather this morning, he had a strong rhythm with the race tyres in both sessions. When he went out for his time-attack in FP2 the decision to use the soft front tyre didn’t pay off, but he still has FP3 to improve his lap time and promote directly into Q2. In general, there’s a margin for improvement for both riders’ bikes.”
Zarco Ignites Austrian GP Campaign with 4th on Day 1 Folger Remains Focused Despite Tricky Start
Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider Johann Zarco fired a warning shot to his rivals by finishing the opening day of action in Austria in 4th and as the top independent rider. After building his pace in the morning, the French star ran a series of highly impressive times at the end of FP2, with his fastest lap leaving him only 0.048 back from 3rd as he confidently looks on to tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Jonas Folger endured a challenging first day at the undulating Spielberg circuit as he worked relentlessly with his team, yet he still powered through and finished only 0.470 behind his teammate. The young German aims to make strides forward tomorrow with his sights fully set on clinching a strong grid position for the headline event on Sunday. He will return to the track along with the rest of the MotoGP field at 09:55 for FP3.
Position: 4th – Time: 1’24.522 – Laps: 40
“I am pretty happy with how the first day went. We were waiting for wet conditions, but in the end, both sessions were dry and I was competitive. When we use the soft tyre because it’s the safer option, I always end up inside the top ten and today, I was only just outside of the leading three. Therefore, it was a very good first day because I like this track and everything is going well with the Yamaha. I feel comfortable on the brakes so the Tech3 team and I are worked hard on the acceleration, which is strong and we can be satisfied when we compare ourselves to the other riders. I think that we can still make some steps forward to improve because the references and lap times from last year are really fast and I’m sure that the top riders will be on this pace again.”
Position: 16th – Time: 1’24.992 – Laps: 37
“It was a tricky day for us but I’m certain that we can bounce back tomorrow. When we started, we headed towards a direction that worked well in the Czech Republic, yet, it turns out that it is not as effective here. The main issue at the moment is the braking, and I am experiencing some locking and instability. However, I am more than confident that we will be able to amend this so that I can lower my lap time and then get a really solid qualifying position for the race on Sunday. Anyway, I can’t wait to get back on the track tomorrow and continue the hard work.”