Movistar Yamaha MotoGP teammates Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo made a solid start this morning in tricky conditions. Cold weather again proved to be the biggest challenge, with temperatures around only nine degrees Celsius as both FactoryYamaha riders focused on finding the perfect set-up for Sunday‘s race. They improved their times in the afternoon session and took fourth and eighth place respectively in the combined practice times.
Rossi secured his first World Championship podium of his career at the Spielberg circuit in 1996, with a third place in the 125cc class, and he clearly enjoyed returning to the venue twenty years later. The Doctor delivered a strong morning practice session, which saw him top the provisional results list for the majority of the time. After the session was briefly stopped due to a damaged air fence, he spent the remaining 12 minutes fine-tuning his bike‘s setting and secured fourth place with a 1’26.232s, 0.366s from the front.
The afternoon saw further improvements from the nine-time World Champion. He was riding consistently fast lap times as he tried to find the best lines on the track and a perfect balance for his YZR-M1 to go with it. He wrapped up the day in fourth with a personal best lap of 1’24.483, 0.866s from the fastest time of the day.
Teammate Lorenzo had a cautious start to the weekend. With chilly weather conditions and the tyres brought by Michelin being very different from the test three weeks ago, the Mallorcan used the first 45-minute free practice session to get a feel for the track. A late charge saw him end FP1 in seventh place with a 1’26.375s, 0.509s from first.
He was quick to resume his work during FP2. Consistently improving his pace, he bettered his morning time by over a second as he continued to perfect the set-up of his YZR-M1. With the temperature rising and the times dropping, he saved his best for the last stint when he breached into the 1’24’s with a 1’24.988s, to end the day in eighth place, 1.371s from the front.
We started FP1 with the setup we prepared three weeks ago during the test, but the conditions were very cold and the new tyres that Michelin brought are quite hard considering the temperatures. Due to this we had to almost start from zero again regarding our settings. For tomorrow it will be fundamental to reduce the gap, which is quite significant. To do so we‘ll study the data we collected today, especially as Jorge is not comfortable with his bike. Contrarily, Vale is more comfortable with it, though there are still opportunities to improve and I‘m confident that we can make another step forward for tomorrow and I hope the weather will do so as well.
There was a big difference compared to the test, with a lot lower temperatures out on the track. The bike was more difficult to ride and it was especially challenging to put in the tyre with the right grip. The first day was not so bad, it was actually quite positive because my pace was good. The biggest problem is that two factory rivals are very strong so we need to work and give the maximum to try to reduce the gap tomorrow. The tyres that Michelin brought here are better than the ones at the test, the allocation is OK. The problem is that we don‘t have summery weather anymore, it‘s another season, so we have to wait and hope for good weather tomorrow and especially on Sunday.
There‘s a difference between us and our rivals, but you know you have to work on your own bike and your own pace to try to improve it and that‘s what we did. We tried to modify the bike and improve by some tenths and we got a good pace. We didn‘t put the softer tyre on the rear like some other riders, so we have some margin to be even closer. Especially in the morning it was very cold and it‘s only been on a few occasions that it was colder than today. It was tricky because we had to be careful in some corners to avoid crashing. In the afternoon it was a little bit better, with the temperature a few degrees higher, so we had a better feeling but we hope tomorrow the sun will shine a bit more and we‘ll have more confidence.