Maverick Vinales led an almost identical Yamaha 1-2-3 lockout in FP2 as the Iwata manufacturer sent a warning signal to its rivals by revelling in the blustery conditions at Motorland Aragon.
Having prevailed in bitterly cold conditions in FP1, Vinales was markedly quicker this time around, taking a full two seconds off the erstwhile benchmark with a 1m 47.771secs to head off M1 counterparts Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli.
Indeed, FP2 could prove a critical session for the riders as very cold conditions are forecast for tomorrow’s Q2-deciding FP3 session. Though organisers have pushed it back 30mins – as they did this morning – the huge difference in times between FP1 and FP2 suggest it will be difficult for riders outside the top ten right now to get close to the times they’d need to guarantee a Q2 spot.
That was of little concern to Vinales though, who comfortably got the gauntlet down to head series leader Quartararo by three tenths of a second, providing a sure reminder that at 19 points off the top overall, he is far from out of this title fight.
Quartararo and Morbidelli bounced back from their FP1 tumbles to look assured in second and third, the result no doubt adding to Valentino Rossi’s frustration in the wake of his COVID-19 enforced absence.
Given cool conditions hampered Suzuki last week, Joan Mir will take fourth as a very good indication of a competitive weekend, while Cal Crutchlow and Aleix Espargaro brought some smiles to the Honda and Aprilias camps with a solid fifth and sixth respectively.
Pol Espargaro brought KTM into the mix with the seventh best time, while Alex Marquez could be looking at his first Q2 entry of the year with a confident run to eighth, just ahead of Takaaki Nakagami and Alex Rins on the second Suzuki.
The only manufacturer that will be poring intensely over data this evening, however, will be Ducati as not one of its six entries cracked the top ten with Andrea Dovizioso down in 13th, Jack Miller 14th, Danilo Petrucci 15th and Pecco Bagnaia 16th.
In fact, rather sobering for Ducati will be the fact both Avintia Ducatis were ahead of the GP20 quartet, with Johann Zarco its best representative in 11th – despite crashing for a second time today – and even Tito Rabat in 12th.
There were fewer tumbles in FP2 compared with FP1, but Brad Binder hit the deck early on at the troublesome downhill Turn 14, the South African suffering a crash identical to that of Morbidelli and Zarco in FP1.