Saturday at Assen only deepened the enigma that is Maverick Viñales. After being fastest in both sessions of practice on Friday, the Monster Energy Yamaha man added FP3 to his belt in the morning, then finished second in FP4. That result was a little deceptive, however: he started FP4 on a used soft tire with 15 laps, nearly two thirds race distance, on it, and put nearly race distance on it, ending with a couple of 1'33.7s. For context, the race lap record at Assen is 1'33.617, set by Marc Márquez on lap 4 of the 2015 race. Viñales' second run was on a new medium tire, assessing tire choice for the race.
Seven days ago, Viñales was just twelfth fastest in FP4, and qualified in 21st. The contrast could not be greater with Assen. Here, he qualified on pole position, smashing the lap record and becoming the second rider to lap the Circuit van Drenthe in under 1'32, after teammate Fabio Quartararo posted a 1'31.922 in his first run during Q2. Both Monster Energy Yamaha riders ended with laps of 1'31.8, Quartararo posting three 1'31s to Viñales' two. But it was Viñales who was the quickest of the pair, taking pole with 1'31.814.
Results and summary of qualifying for the MotoE class in Assen:
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto2 class in Assen:
Results and summary of qualifying for the MotoGP class in Assen:
With rain keeping away from the Assen circuit despite the pessimistic forecast, the premier class got to enjoy good conditions in their chase for race pace in FP4 and it looked like a Yamaha vs Suzuki party throughout. Fabio Quartararo put the darker shade of blue at the top of the timesheets early on and did not budge, responding to any challenge by going quicker and quicker. The Frenchman was one step ahead on both the medium and hard rear tyre, but all tyre options got significant airtime from the field.
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto3 class in Assen:
In the improved conditions presented on Saturday morning, riders were quick to set personal best times and flip Friday’s hierarchy, although it was still Alessandro Zaccone who took control of proceedings. The Italian ended practice over two tenths of a second ahead of rivals Eric Granado and Dominique Aegerter. Lukas Tulovic and Jordi Torres joined them in the top five, followed by Matteo Ferrari and the persistently impressive rookie Fermín Aldeguer, who was half a second slower than the leader. Yonny Hernandez, Hikari Okubo and Miquel Pons completed the top 10 positions.
In typical Moto2 fashion, riders were keen to attack the timesheets early on but could not quite touch Augusto Fernandez’s Friday benchmark until Raul Fernandez dethroned him with 25 minutes left of the session. Despite a small tumble at turn three soon after, the rookie rejoined the action and kept top spot to the end of the session. After the Sky Racing team tinkered a bit with his machine, Marco Bezzecchi made a late jump to second, two tenths off the leader and another tenth ahead of Jorge Navarro.
Blue skies were back over Assen after the rainy adventure on Friday afternoon and the premier class found their rhythm in the dry before attacking the top 10 once more. Improvements came quick and the hierarchy frequently changed throughout the session but, as usual, it all came down to the final handful of minutes. Friday leader Maverick Viñales might not have been particularly chatty off track but did his talking on it, leading the way once more for most of FP3. He was only briefly demoted by teammate Fabio Quartararo, the Yamaha duo one step ahead of their rivals.
After rain surprised the field on Friday afternoon, the lightweight class started Saturday on a dry track and with a mission to challenge the top 14 positions. Despite the improved conditions, improvements were slow on the combined timesheets and it meant that Tatsuki Suzuki remained the fastest rider overall with the time he set on Friday. However, it was Dennis Foggia who was fastest in the morning session, the Italian improving his top time early on and keeping his name at the top of FP3 throughout.
Eventful. That was the best way to describe the first day of practice at Assen. The riders got a chance to sample the new asphalt, and they also got a chance to sample typical Assen summer weather: cool and dry in the morning, sprinkles of rain in the afternoon, followed by a downpour harsh enough to soak the track and allow a few laps in full wet conditions. Not ideal for working on bike setup, especially if your name is Garrett Gerloff, and you have been drafted in to replace Franco Morbidelli, who spent the morning having surgery on his meniscus and ACL, and faces an 8-week period of rehab. That would mean a return after the two races in Austria. But more of Gerloff later.
The verdict on the new asphalt was unanimously positive. "The grip is fantastic," Jack Miller echoing the thoughts of almost everyone. "I mean, Moto3 was close to the lap record. We’re already going really fast, from the beginning this morning. The way the tires are working with the asphalt seems to be really good. The tires are not really dropping off. We were all doing our best lap times at the end of FP1 with the same tires, which generally doesn’t really happen."