Aleix Espargaro thinks any advantage he and Aprilia gained at last month’s Portimao test will now be gone by the end of the extended Friday MotoGP practice.
The Concession rules meant that, while the other full-time race riders were limited to learning the challenging Portuguese track on road bikes, Espargaro was able to join factory test riders in using a MotoGP machine.
The Spaniard set the fastest lap time of 1m 40.170s during his day on track, which remained unbeaten by the factory test riders that remained for a second day.
But Espargaro feels any head-start gained has now been diminished by a change to the Friday schedule, which will see the pair of free practice sessions extended from the usual 45-minutes to 70-minutes each.
“In this new track, maybe we have a little bit of an advantage or maybe we can be a little bit closer, but unfortunately tomorrow we [now] have nearly two and a half hours of free practice. So I think by tomorrow night everyone will be very similar,” he said.
“I don’t like at all this new schedule because if with the [Concession] rules we were able to come here one month ago to test, we had some advantage. But with the extra time that Dorna gave to everybody, our advantage will disappear.
“So I’m not happy about this new schedule, but I accept it is how it is. So I will try to improve my bike after the test we did in October.”
Honda test rider Stefan Bradl, currently replacing Marc Marquez, is the only other rider present this weekend with Portimao experience on a MotoGP bike.
Of the track itself, Espargaro added: “We have to see how it is after the F1, but even with no rubber on the track the grip was quite okay. So I think with many bikes tomorrow the grip level will be more than acceptable.
“The track safety is good. The only corner that is very tricky is the last corner, because when we accelerate we are close to the grandstand, a little bit like Barcelona. But I think it’s safe enough.”
Turning to the subject of his 2021 team-mate, Espargaro lamented Andrea Dovizioso‘s decision to turn down the RS-GP chance and thinks a young Moto2 rider is now probably the best option.
“Dovizioso was everything advantage, experience, very fast, know-how from Ducati. So everything was perfect on Dovi and I know that Massimo [Rivola, team boss] pushed a lot, a lot but at the end we couldn’t sign him,” Espargaro smiled.
“So right now, it’s difficult. There are no riders with experience so maybe the best option will be a young rider, fast, from Moto2. I think they already have me with experience, so to have a young rider will be also good.
“But I don’t want to say names because already it’s very difficult for Massimo! He knows my preferences and let’s see what we can have.
“Massimo and me talk a lot. Obviously, it’s not my job, but anyway Massimo always asks me how I see this rider, how I see the other.
“It’s their decision and I will fully respect it, but I’ve said d many times if we work as a team, as a family, we’ll achieve our goals easier. I think a very good example is like Suzuki did, they are like a family, they work together and in Aprilia we are trying to do the same.
“But this year after Iannone’s case it’s very difficult to have the perfect team-mate [for 2021].”