Raul Fernandez tops Practice, MotoGP title contenders into Q2
Saturday 18th November, 2023 - 8:12am
RNF Aprilia rider Raul Fernandez has topped Practice at the Qatar MotoGP while championship contenders Jorge Martin and Francesco Bagnaia both made Qualifying 2 despite various frustrations.
Martin was seventh-quickest and Bagnaia eighth, the Ducati pilots separated by just 0.007s after the hour-long session at the Lusail International Circuit.
Jack Miller will be going into Qualifying 1 on Saturday after crashing his Red Bull KTM twice in Practice.
For the first time this weekend, the field rolled out under lights, in conditions representative of those in which riders will race.
Raul Fernandez was quickest in the opening minutes with a 1:55.093s and 1:54.309s on his RNF Aprilia, before factory Aprilia Racing rider Maverick Viñales clocked a 1:54.148s just before the quarter-hour mark.
Meanwhile, Martin had pitted at the end of his first run with obvious signs of frustration, after which Pramac was spotted preparing his second bike.
Miller crashed his KTM at Turn 14 and then Pramac Ducati rider Johann Zarco went down at the same spot just over 10 minutes later, while Miguel Oliveira (RNF Aprilia) took over top spot on a 1:54.005s.
Most had started on a hard or medium Michelin slick on the rear, some of which were used from Free Practice 1.
As Practice moved into its second half-hour, though, a handful of riders started to switch to soft rubber in a sign that they might have been pursuing banker time attacks.
Viñales took a chunk out of the fastest lap of the session when he set a 1:53.340s, as did Gresini Racing’s Fabio Di Giannantonio when he wheeled his Ducati to a 1:52.892s.
With 15 minutes to go, the time attacks were on in earnest, and Martin moved up to third on a 1:53.336s.
That became fourth when Raul Fernandez set a 1:52.843s and the Pramac rider was sixth – and frustrated again back in his garage – after Bagnaia had moved to fourth on a 1:53.322s.
Many started one last run with six minutes to go, and a yellow flag for a Pol Espargaro (GasGas Tech3) crash at Turn 16 meant cancelled laps for Bagnaia and Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda), who was following the #1 Ducati.
Viñales set a 1:52.652s which constituted a new outright lap record at Lusail but that also would not stand due to a yellow flag.
Martin was right on the cusp of being consigned to Q1 until he elevated himself to sixth with a final-minute 1:53.195s and Bagnaia crept up to seventh on a 1:53.202s.
With the chequered flag out, Luca Marini (VR46 Ducati) moved up from 11th to sixth on a 1:53.094s, bumping Miller out of the top 10 with no chance to respond given he had just crashed again.
The top 10 was thus Raul Fernandez, Di Giannantonio, Viñales, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM), Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing), Marini, Martin, Bagnaia, Augusto Fernandez (GasGas Tech3), and Marc Marquez.
Notables on the outside include Miller, Alex Marquez (Gresini Ducati) in 12th, Zarco in 16th, and Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) all the way back in 21st.