The start of the second Valencia MotoGP weekend again saw the title leaders playing a supporting role on the timesheets.
Last Friday wet weather played a major role, but sunny skies and high grip levels greeted the riders on their return.
Nonetheless, world championship leader and last weekend’s race winner Joan Mir was left just twelfth fastest after a Friday fall.
“Overall it was a good day, talking about my feelings. But I had a crash in FP2, trying the hard front,” explained Mir, who can win the title with a podium on Sunday regardless of where his rivals finish.
“Maybe for this temperature it was a bit on the limit and I crashed, so the problem then was that with the second bike I didn’t have the same feeling and then I was not able to improve my lap time. Anyway, I have margin to improve. We know the way, so let’s see tomorrow.”
Mir’s closest rivals didn’t capitalise on the chance to apply some early pressure with Suzuki team-mate Alex Rins in ninth and Petronas Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo all the way back in 18th (albeit only 0.7s from the top). Both are currently 37-points from Mir.
“Today I focused on trying a few things that we couldn’t really work on last week because of the rain,” said Rins, second to Mir last Sunday. “In the end my rhythm was nice and I felt good, but I’ll try to improve more tomorrow with the aim of getting a great qualifying position. It’s going to be a big challenge this weekend because everybody is close, so we need to stay focused and try to find the optimum setup.”
But Quartararo, who crashed on the opening lap last Sunday, was feeling far less optimistic.
“The feeling was not good,” said the young Frenchman, a triple race winner this season but otherwise absent from the podium. “Strange. Because normally when we make big changes on the bike we feel it. Today the first time we made big changes and the feeling was the same. No worse no better.
“Normally I’m a rider that feels a lot on the bike. We need to talk really well with the team. For sure we’ll make something out of normal I’ve never tried before. Not easy to understand why because we’ve never had it.
“Trail braking and corner speed which is actually our strong point – during trail braking there is a lot of movement and in corner speed it just wanted to go wide. I never had that real big problem in the championship in 2019 and 2020. Difficult to understand. “
“We started FP1 with same base as Sunday. Then we made the bike lower, softer in front. Tried some maps, different rear spring. We didn’t feel anything. Really strange. We need to see which direction for FP3 but for sure something more extreme.
“We normally know why we have a problem. Today with all changes I go out and was exactly the same. A bit worried because tomorrow I’ll go out with a bike I never really rode and it will be difficult.”
Yamaha has lost the trackside services of some technical staff to Covid this season, adding to their difficulties.
“For Yamaha it’s been a tough year. With Covid, some issues of the bike… not the easy year for everybody for Yamaha. I can understand. I feel the support was there,” Quartararo said.
“[But] the way of working for me, my feeling, we need to change a little bit. (Be) more aggressive and take more risk. We will see after Portimao but I feel we need to go in a different direction so we have a margin to have more consistency on the bike.”
“I’d say not everybody is in the same direction but they have similar issues. What is true is the bike has a big potential. When everything goes well. Yamaha won six races this year. We can’t say it’s not good. It’s just missing consistency and (we should) take more risks to improve.”
Quartararo’s lack of consistency this season is drawing comparisons with the problems faced by factory Yamaha rider and 2021 team-mate Maverick Vinales in recent years.
“I’ve been in this position from last three or for years,” confirmed Vinales, tenth quickest on Friday. “I’ve been very critical and have always said that the more we do, the bike doesn’t change. The only thing I said was the truth.
“What I’m doing now is totally different to before. Before I was just concentrated on being first, first, first always. Now I concentrate on finding the feeling. When you have the feeling with this bike you can do incredible things.
“Where we make the lap time is in fast corners and turning. So we need good grip with the front. I give up a bit with the rear.
“I want to concentrate doing the lap time on brakes and entry of the corner. It’s very important because when I follow Marc in the past and a few riders now I think we lose a lot on the entry in the corners and that turning we lost in Misano. We are very concentrated on that.”
Vinales is fourth in the world championship, 41 points from Mir.