Qatar Test – Day One
Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy MotoGP) topped the first day of the Qatar Test, putting in a 1m55.051s to head the grid after a late charge for supremacy.
It was close though, with the Suzuki of Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) just 0.108 back – and the two set those laps close together on track.
As always when action returns to Qatar, track conditions improve throughout the day and it was therefore fairly late on that a lot of the action took place – and the latter part of the day when Viñales blasted to the top.
That 1:55.051 to put Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP on top was one of 50 laps completed by Viñales on Day 1, and the signs look good for the factory – with teammate Valentino Rossi not far back as he completed the top five after 47 laps.
Maverick Viñales – P1
“I’m really happy, because I felt really good on the bike, especially my riding style. I felt comfortable on the bike and for me that’s the most important. This year at four different tracks I felt comfortable on the bike and we could push quite a lot. I’m happy about how we worked today. We haven’t done much testing, we tried just to focus on the main things and found a bit more grip and tried to understand which way to go. Now we have to make a plan for tomorrow.”
Valentino Rossi – P5
“The first day of testing wasn’t too bad. We worked in a good way and in the end I finished with a P5, that’s quite good. We did different work here, we worked more for the Grand Prix, so we had to improve the setting of the bike and the first feelings are not so bad. Already the lap time is quite good. There are some place on track where I have to push more, to bring the bike to the limit, but the first impression is quite positive.”
Team Director Massimo Meregalli confirmed the engine had already been decided and that focus was first on comparing data with that from Sepang. Aero, however, remains up in the air – with more to try for the Iwata marque at Losail.
Petronas Yamaha SRT, meanwhile, had more positives – first for rookie Fabio Quartararo. Quickest debutant by a stretch on Saturday, the Frenchman was a stunning seventh overall and less than two tenths off Rossi after 49 laps. Franco Morbidelli was a little further down after the first session, ending the day seven tenths further back in P14.
Fabio Quartararo – P7
“The first day here in Qatar has been very positive. We have managed a very fast lap time and our pace was good throughout. At Sepang we struggled a little to keep the pace on a used tyre but here we have taken a step forward in this area. We stayed out until the end of the session and I was able to practice my starts and also, for the first time, the bike swap. I am noticing some improvements with the starts. The objective tomorrow is to continue in the same way and try to follow some other riders on track and learn from them.”
Franco Morbidelli – P14
“Let’s just say that this was a strange day for us. The feeling was good, like at Sepang, and we started well with medium compound completing many good lap times. In the second half of the session we were not able to make the most of the soft tyre, even though we improved the lap time. Then I crashed and didn’t manage to finish the session. Tomorrow we need to keep working to find the best setting for the first race of the season.”
Alex Rins showed more good form for Suzuki after threatening the top on the first days of the Sepang test too, and this time rookie teammate Joan Mir began the test further up the timesheets as he ended the day in P11.
Alex Rins – P2
“Day 1 has been very nice; my rhythm was good. We tried a few different things, as well as confirming what we worked on in Malaysia. The team and I are happy with the progress, but we’re still trying to improve further – in the electronics area and also on my fast lap. In general we haven’t changed anything drastically, but in every area we’ve made everything a little bit better. I tried a new exhaust, in terms of riding I didn’t feel too much difference but according to date it gives us a little improvement in top speed, which is always a good thing.”
Joan Mir – P11
“I’m quite happy about today, I’ve improved a lot since my first outing on the bike. I feel confident and good. Today I focused on my riding style a bit more, and it’s nice to ride the MotoGP bike here in Qatar. In Malaysia I did a lot of work, trying a lot of parts, so here we mainly focused on confirming and retry, in order to finalise the best package. For that reason we’re turning our attention to building my confidence and my knowledge of the bike, as well as working on lap times.”
Suzuki had a new exhaust on show and Team Manager Davide Brivio confirmed that the chassis is defined, the engine spec is decided and said that focus was now on fine tuning and the details – including some final aero checks and work on the suspension and settings.
Davide Brivio – Suzuki Team Manager
“We had a good start here in Qatar. Alex did a good job and we were able to go through all of our programme today, he showed strong pace and good lap times. We also saw improvements from Joan, he put together some nice laps and he also checked some parts. We’re trying to fine tune everything to be fully prepared for the first race, so we checked the new fairing again, and the new exhaust, as well as some small parts. Now we’ll look at all the details and try to take the best out of every part of the bike. We hope to continue like this for the next two days.”
Both Mission Winnow Ducatis, with Andrea Dovizioso leading teammate Danilo Petrucci by a mere 0.044 – although they were half a second back. Both put in less laps than some of their competitors, with Dovi doing 29 and Petrucci 37. The latter was only just ahead of Rossi, but 0.010 can make the difference in MotoGP. Team Manager Davide Tardozzi says, like many up and down pitlane, focus is now on the details – but the Borgo Panigale factory plan to make their final aero decision on Sunday.
Andrea Dovizioso – P3
“I’m happy with our progress on this opening day. We immediately found a good feeling with the track, which didn’t have much rubber on it but was quite clean, and we managed to post competitive lap times right from the start. We’re all quite close, so the rankings should not be taken into too much account, but what matters is that the feeling with the bike is good. We ticked all the boxes in our program, trying a couple of new solutions and giving a clear feedback to our engineers. Tomorrow we’ll evaluate different things, but in the meantime we can be happy with the work done today.”
Danilo Petrucci – P4
“For sure we faced different conditions compared with the ones we had found in Malaysia. Here the humidity peaked after sundown, so we decided not to put on a new tyre for our last stints out on track. We focused on the medium compound, with which we found good pace. The track is still not in perfect conditions, but I felt comfortable riding the bike. We tried a few setup changes and we managed to be fast both with new and used tyres. I’m happy, we need to keep working in this direction and tomorrow we’ll try the soft tyre to improve also in terms of pure performance.”
Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing) kept the good news rolling for Ducati machinery as he ended the day in P6 after 44 laps, happy there’s more room to improve, too, but Alma Pramac Racing, who starred in the Sepang test, were a little further back on Day 1 in Qatar.
Francesco Bagnaia was P15 after a 1:56.738, with teammate Jack Miller in P19. Miller said, however, he spent the session doing six to eight lap runs, testing different parts – and lacking the time to be able to put in a tyre to push for a hot lap.
Pecco Bagnaia – P15
“The day started very well but then I lost a bit of feeling because of a soft tyre that didn’t work at its best. In terms of set-up, we’re not in a bad way and we have to start tomorrow from the good things we did today in the first part of the test. I’m improving in braking phase and this is a positive aspect. This is a very different track from Sepang so we just have to adapt our set up”.
Jack Miller – P19
“We’ve done a lot of work trying out a lot of technical solutions on the bike. It was a really intense day and in the end, we didn’t have time to put on the tyre to try out a time attack. We also worked on the race pace trying to save especially the front tyre and the indications are positive. There is still a lot to do in terms of set up but we still have two days to improve our speed”.
Another surprise on Saturday came from the fastest Honda: Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu). The Japanese rider showed more top pace and put in 45 laps.
Takaaki Nakagami – P8
“For the first day we have had quite a good start. I had a small crash at turn two after 9.30pm, when the temperatures are really low. It was a minor mistake, but I am not injured and the bike was ok. In general the pace is not so bad, and we weren’t even really focusing on the lap times today. We were trying to find a base set-up, and it was going well. We still have another two days, so we will keep calm. We found quite a good solution today, but we need to improve it even further. We had a few problems with rear grip, but this was down to track conditions mainly. We have time, so we need to keep going like this and keep getting amongst those top ten positions.”
Teammate Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) spent some time testing parts for HRC and finished the session in P18.
Cal Crutchlow – P18
“The first day here in Qatar has been a difficult day testing for us. We didn’t have a fantastic feeling with the new 2019 Honda on this circuit, but we are here for two more days testing and hope to improve the setting over that time. Hopefully then we can look forward to the race weekend in two weeks’ time. In terms of our work plan, we are going through the general HRC programme as well as making our own adjustments to the bike and the set-up. We just have to wait and see what tomorrow brings.”
Reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), whose shoulder remains less than 100% after surgery, ended the day in tenth and, like in Sepang, put in only 34 laps. But he was positive and said he’s now back to riding in his more natural style, and he had his first crash of the season with no consequence.
Marc Marquez – P10
“Honestly today I’m happy with my physical condition compared to Malaysia, we’ve improved a lot. The power is there and I can ride more like myself now. Also, we still have two weeks until the first race and this is the focus. During the night the track got better but we need to keep trying to be closer to the other riders. Now we’ll go analyse everything because during the test here there is not much time.”
On the other side of the garage, the return of Jorge Lorenzo saw the ‘Spartan’ struggle in braking as he comes back from a broken scaphoid, and he focused on continuing to understand the bike. Despite not so many laps and not too many new things to try as yet, the five-time World Champion did mention his desire to modify the seat in an effort to make his new machine a little more ergonomic.
Jorge Lorenzo – P21
“The wrist is OK, obviously I’m struggling under braking but I am able to understand the bike. Time is the big limit, we only have maybe three hours each day because after nine the temperature drops a lot and it’s hard to learn when it’s like this. We didn’t try too many changes on the bike and focused mostly on the ergonomics. Tomorrow we will be closer, it’s still the first day.”
Repsol Honda Team Manager Alberto Puig said work on engine and aero is continuing until the last moment for the team – because every possibility is something worth trying – and a new exhaust was one thing spotted.
Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) impressed on Day 1. The Spaniard, who took the Austrian factory’s first premier class podium at Valencia last season, was the trailblazer once again as he finished up Saturday’s action in P9 after 47 laps.
Pol Espargaro – P9
“It was quite successful and we were quite close to the lap-time we did here last year. For sure we are missing a bit to the top guys but this is not one of the best tracks for us however we are not so far. With better track conditions tomorrow everyone will improve so we need to make sure we do as well. We’ve been working well. We had a big plan and we still have to test some things that we didn’t have time for in Malaysia as well as confirm other ideas we had from Sepang, things like chassis modifications and some other big things that Mika had tried and we had to see. We are looking forward to continue the test tomorrow. Everything moved so fast today and we didn’t have many hours so tomorrow we’ll have more time and we have to plan.”
KTM team-mate Johann Zarco put in 53 laps and was P16, around eight tenths back, and he was just 0.121 ahead of rookie KTM rider Miguel Oliveira on the Red Bull KTM Tech3.
Johann Zarco – P16
“We began at a better level than I expected, with a good pace and were improving step-by-step. We were sliding more here than in Malaysia and it was making the bike act differently; I was quite happy at the beginning but then we reached a point where we could not improve and I could not find a better feeling. I hope we can find the solution tomorrow and get faster and faster. We have a lot to test and not too many hours and I just want to feel good and improve. Tomorrow I will analyse and maybe see what I was doing wrong.”
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Manager Mike Leitner specified they’re working on confirming chassis and aerodynamic modifications, and said the goal was to first finish off the test program from Sepang and then find a base setting for the race – as you’d expect. He also added that the items on the agenda are now less, something that speaks of the scale of KTM’s development program given the amount of track time already gone in preseason.
Miguel Oliveira – P17
“The first day felt quite short, to be honest. We started a bit later because of the track conditions but finally we could manage to do some work on the bike. We tested two completely different settings looking for a little bit of stability on the rear and more drive out of the corners. So far, I’m happy with the work.”
Hafizh Syahrin – P23
“We were trying to improve on the last test in Sepang today. We didn’t experiment a lot on the bike, I just tried to further get used to the KTM, working on changing my style. I know, that I’m still a bit far from the front but we keep working on the feeling on the bike. I felt it has been already better than in Malaysia.”
Aprilia, meanwhile, slotted into P12 and P13 with Aleix Espargaro and Andrea Iannone respectively – despite crashes for both. Espargaro did 34 laps and confirmed the bike is a definite improvement on last year’s, and Iannone catapulted himself up the timesheets after struggling with illness and missing much of the Sepang test. The Italian managed 30 laps and was only 0.089 off Espargaro by the end of the day. One key thing the Noale factory were spotted trying was an aero fairing.
Aleix Espargaro – P12
“It was a classic first day of testing. At the beginning, I struggled to find those good sensations I had in Malaysia. I also had a harmless crash, but here in Qatar, the actual time of track use is rather low, so it is always a shame to lose time. Then, my confidence gradually increased, but we are only at the beginning, so we will move forward getting to know the 2019 bike, which is proving to be significantly better than the 2018. We are looking for a good setting, also thinking about the first race, so that’s why we’ll be working primarily on the electronics tomorrow and with used tyres, with the goal of being competitive in the second part of the race.”
Andrea Iannone – P13
“I am satisfied with the work done today in what is my first true day of 2019 tests. We are starting from a good base. The bike works well and I am convinced that there is still a lot of potential to explore. This is precisely our goal, to get to know the RS-GP and to keep improving, outing after outing. We have already succeeded with the front. I am braking harder and with better sensations. We also worked to reduce the chattering a bit that limited us on some turns, making steps in the right direction. But above all, we are a united group, with common goals and great harmony, and this is something that is very important for me.”
Testing continues over the next two days.
MotoGP Qatar Test 2019
Day One Times
- M. VIÑALES Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP 1’55.051
- A. RINS Team Suzuki Ecstar 1’55.159
- A. DOVIZIOSO Mission Winnow Ducati 1’55.550
- D. PETRUCCI Mission Winnow Ducati 1’55.594
- V. ROSSI Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP 1’55.604
- T. RABAT Reale Avintia Racing 1’55.694
- F. QUARTARARO PETRONAS Yamaha SRT 1’55.772
- T. NAKAGAMI LCR Honda Idemitsu 1’55.943
- P. ESPARGARÒ Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 1’56.040
- M. MARQUEZ Repsol Honda Team 1’56.167
- J. MIR Team Suzuki Ecstar 1’56.264
- A. ESPARGARÒ Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 1’56.358
- A. IANNONE Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 1’56.447
- F. MORBIDELLI PETRONAS Yamaha SRT 1’56.511
- F. BAGNAIA Alma Pramac Racing 1’56.738
- J. ZARCO Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 1’56.770
- M. OLIVEIRA Red Bull KTM Tech3 1’56.891
- C. CRUTCHLOW LCR Honda Castrol 1’56.921
- J. MILLER Alma Pramac Racing 1’56.932
- K. ABRAHAM Reale Avintia Racing 1’57.053
- J. LORENZO Repsol Honda Team 1’57.090
- B. SMITH Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 1’57.137
- H. SYAHRIN Red Bull KTM Tech3 1’57.459