Due to the long delay of morning warm ups due to fog, Dorna has had to rejig the race schedule for Sunday's Aragon MotoGP round. Moto3 and Moto3 races will start later than normal, and the Moto3 race has been cut from 20 to 13 laps. Below is the race schedule:
11:40 Moto3 Race (13 laps)
12:40 Moto2 Race (21 laps)
14:00 MotoGP Race (23 laps)
A fog has descended on the Motorland Aragon circuit, and brought on-track proceedings to a halt. A combination of cool nights and moisture in the air causes frequent morning fogs here, but a near absence of wind means it is failing to blow away so far.
So far, the Moto3 warm up session remains red flagged, but the most likely scenario (as of 10am) is that all morning warm up will be canceled, and the riders given extra sighting laps to check their bikes before each race.
When you lose the first day of a MotoGP weekend to rain, the remainder of practice becomes incredibly hectic. FP3, especially, becomes insane. Teams and riders are trying to force 90 minutes of practice into half an hour, and then throw soft tires at the last 15 minutes in an attempt to avoid Q1.
Unfortunately, the constraints of temporal physics make it impossible to put the best part of race distance on the different compounds of tires, try different bike balance and electronics settings to measure their effectiveness, try to follow a rival or two to figure out where you are stronger and weaker than they are, and finally throw a couple of soft tires at a quick lap, all in just a single session of free practice. Sure, there's another 30 minutes of FP4 to try to figure things out, but usually, that is where you are trying to nail down the fine details, not evaluate radically different bike setups.
So on Saturday evening, when riders are asked what their strategy is and which tire they will be racing, there is a lot of shrugging of shoulders. Andrea Dovizioso was a case in point at Aragon. "Still we don’t know," he said. "Still there is a lot of work to do about setup and also the decision of the tires, because we didn’t really have time to work on them. The temperature was so cold in FP3, and in the afternoon the temperature change a lot. In the morning you can’t work on the tires. We have only 30 minutes in the afternoon to try and understand something. I think for everybody, the decision is not clear. Still we have to study a lot of data and take a decision about the tires and the set-up. Maybe all three are an option but I don’t know."
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto2 class at Motorland Aragon:
Results and summary of qualifying for the MotoGP class at Motorland Aragon:
The sun finally shining down on Motorland Aragon must have looked inviting for the premier class gang, with some race trimmings to be found. The first few minutes saw Valentino Rossi leading briefly, Alvaro Bautista sliding out after getting too comfortable with Dani Pedrosa’s rear tyre and Marc Marquez joining Cal Crutchlow in various gravel traps around the track.
Their Honda colleague was more well-behaved and Pedrosa sat at the top of the timesheets for most of the session. The Spaniard continued to improve throughout FP4, his time only bettered by a final lap on soft tyres from Maverick Viñales. The Yamaha rider looked in pretty bad nick at the start of the session but once he ditched his old used medium tyres he was right back at the top.
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto3 class on Motorland Aragon:
With the tiniest bit of experience on a dry Motorland Aragon from Friday afternoon, there was more consistency in the hierarchy of the intermediate class. Surprising no one, world championship leader Franco Morbidelli planted his flag at the top of the timesheets as soon as he hit the track.
FP2 leader Mattia Pasini was the only rider not to improve on his Friday time straight away, the Italian testing some new aero developments. Unconcerned with the issue, the Italtrans rider instantly found some speed in the final fifteen minutes to head straight to the top of the timesheets and relegate Morbidelli to second in a repeat of FP2. Unlike FP2, Morbidelli retaliated on the very last lap and snuck ahead by a mere hundredth of a second.
Saturday morning saw the first fully dry session for the premier class, a welcome sight after the tricky and setup-irrelevant Friday. A little mist was still in the air and the extra bit of confidence on fresh slick tyres saw more crashes than in the previous rain-ridden practice sessions, the likes of Sam Lowes and Johann Zarco testing the gravel traps early into the session. Their colleagues had no problem going ten seconds faster than Friday right away but were about a second away from the circuit record after their race runs on the medium rear tyre.
Usually fast out the box, Marc Marquez led the field after the first run and it took until the qualifying dummy run of the final ten minutes for that lead to be challenged. After a slow and steady start, Andrea Dovizioso found himself behind his main title rival on their hot laps and stole his lead in the final five minutes. Marquez replied on the very next lap to go half a second faster and never relinquished that position again.
After the Friday washout, the paddock would have been relieved to see that a bit of mist was all they had to contend with this morning. Jorge Martin was one to welcome the dry conditions most, the Spaniard finally able and willing to run for the entire length of the session. The Gresini rider led the beginning of the session and bookended his morning by taking back the lead on his final lap in full qualifying trim.
I, along with almost every photographer and a good part of the journalists present at Aragon, made my way down to the pit lane on Friday morning, to watch Valentino Rossi's first exit on the Yamaha M1 since breaking his leg in an enduro accident. It was overcast but dry, and there was a real sense of anticipation as Rossi limped to his bike, swung his leg awkwardly over it, then exited the garage smoothly and headed off down pit lane.
Before he and the rest of the MotoGP field had reached the exit of pit lane, the rain had started to fall. Not hard enough to leave the track properly wet, but enough rain to make using slicks impossible. FP1 was a wash. Fastest man Marc Márquez was 13 seconds off lap record pace.
The track dried out again during the lunch break, but once again, just as the MotoGP riders were about to head out, the rain started to fall. They found the track in FP2 much as they had left it in FP1: too wet for slicks, not really wet enough for a proper wet test. And with Saturday and Sunday forecast to be dry and sunny, any data collected was of very little use indeed.
With actual sunshine being back for the start of the Moto2 session, it was the first real dry session of the weekend. Occasional spits of rain did return but the intermediate class was not intimidated and continued to drop their times throughout the session.