Phillip Island, Australia
Racing is always about balancing risk and reward, but sometimes, that balance is put into very stark contrast. Phillip Island is a very fast track with notoriously blustery weather, with strong winds commonly blowing in rain showers. The weather gods have not looked kindly on this year's Australian Grand Prix, though it has stayed largely dry. Gale-force winds, icy temperatures, and the occasional downpour have, shall we say, livened the proceedings up considerably.
The upside to being battered by strong winds is that the weather can blow out again as quickly as it blew in. Scattered showers are just that: scattered away towards the mainland in the blink of an eye. But they can be scattered over the circuit again in a matter of minutes.
This does not exactly make things easy for the MotoGP riders. Heading along the front straight well north of 330km/h and seeing spots on your visor, then wondering whether Doohan Corner, a 200+km/h corner is going to be completely dry or not is, shall we say, unnerving. Doing all that during qualifying, when you know you only have 15 minutes to post a quick time, doubly so. As the reward goes up, so does the tolerance for risk.
Heart in mouth
Results and summary of qualifying for the MotoGP class in Phillip Island:
The moody weather of Phillip Island was in fine form on Saturday, going from sun to drizzle and back in record time and the setting was back on dry and sunny for the final practice session of the premier class. The man who seemed to enjoy it most early on was Valentino Rossi, the Italian picking up top spot temporarily before Andrea Iannone reclaimed a familiar position for the Italian this weekend. Once Iannone hit the front, he had little opposition and grabbed the headline with a lap posted on fairly used rubber.
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto2 class in Phillip Island:
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto3 class in Phillip Island:
Without jinxing it, sunshine was almost breaking through as the premier class had their go on Saturday morning, making the surface nearly fully dry but not any more predictable in terms of temperatures and wind. That meant both that riders were about a second off Friday’s best in the early part of the session and a few riders’ practice got cut short by more or less scary early crashes.
Despite earlier rain proving a disturbance for the lightweight class, the breezy Phillip Island circuit allowed Moto2 riders to swap back to slick tyres barely five minutes into their final practice session. That led to only a handful of times being posted in the early stages until Marcel Schrotter decided to take the reins at the top of the pile by over a second. That gap was swiftly halved by Mattia Pasini before a couple of drops of rain made another inconsistent appearance for the day.
Matters might have started unfolding much earlier on Saturday morning compared to one day ago but rainfall had already embraced the scenic Australian circuit. A damp surface with dry patches and light drizzle falling from the grey cloud cover provided a confusing backdrop to proceedings for the lightweight class. The rain flags came out for the first time ten minutes into the session, as Tony Arbolino was finding his way to the top of the timesheets and putting a second’s gap into the opposition led by Marco Bezzecchi.