Is it going to be Argentina or Austin on Sunday at Silverstone? Two of the bumpiest circuits of the first half of the season had very different outcomes. At the Termas De Rio Hondo circuit, Marc Márquez took off like a scalded cat to try to take the win, and claw back the valuable points from Maverick Viñales he had handed him at Qatar. In undulating Austin, Márquez rode his usual imperious race to take victory, while it was Viñales' turn to make a silly mistake.
The perils of a American bumps were rather bike-specific. It wasn't just Marc Márquez who crashed out of the lead in Argentina, Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa managed the same feat. Cal Crutchlow rode cautiously to finish third, while there were four Yamahas in the top six. At Austin, Márquez won, Pedrosa finished third, Crutchlow fourth. Valentino Rossi's charge came too late, and he finished well behind Márquez. A year earlier, it had been Rossi making a silly mistake in Texas, and slipping off.
So how does Silverstone compare to the two American tracks (North and South)? In Austin, the bumps were on corner exit, Maverick Viñales explained, whereas at Silverstone, the bumps are on corner entry. "So it seems more difficult to ride," the Movistar Yamaha rider said. In Argentina, it wasn't so much bumps as massive undulations which were causing the problems.
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto2 class in Silverstone:
Results and summary of qualifying for the MotoGP class in Silverstone:
It was back to sunny predictions weather-wise for FP4, the welcome sight of a nearly cloudless sky helping the premier class in getting some useful dry running done.
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto3 class in Silverstone:
This morning’s damp track sorted itself out by the time the intermediate class got its turn at FP3, Alex Marquez taking no time to beat his own Friday benchmark by half a second. That early time proved unbeatable, the Spaniard showing consistently good pace at the British track.
Teammate Franco Morbidelli also posted his fastest time of the morning on only his fourth lap, getting as close as three tenths of a second of the leader and keeping close to his Marc VDS colleague’s rhythm.
After the rain comes the... slowly drying track. Despite the Moto3 session showing that slick tyres were an option on the damp British circuit, the premier class was cautious in the tricky conditions, both slicks and wets getting trialled for an outlap or so, while even more riders decided to just sit it out until the track improved further.
Things livened up in the final twenty minutes, most bikes lapping around, and riders got even braver in the final ten minutes, several attempts at a soft slick rear suggesting overly optimistic thoughts of changing the Q2 order. Conditions were definitely improving towards the end of the session, Johann Zarco sneaking in some red sectors on his very last lap to get within a second of Friday’s best time.
The forecast might have promised a rare sunny weekend but it wouldn’t have been Britain without a splash of rain to tease us. Rain falling intermittently in the morning dampened the track so the lightweight class went out on wet tyres on a slowly drying cold track – although little surprise that several riders bided their time before joining the action.
While riders were reporting the track was too wet for slicks in some parts and too dry for wets in others, Fenati braved a change to slick tyres in the final five minutes, showing that to be the better option as he went two seconds faster than the rest. He only went to improve that by another second, leaving his rivals to fight for ‘best of the rest’.
Silverstone was its glorious best on Friday. The sun shone, fans wandered round in t-shirts and shorts, and bikes bellowed their way around a magnificent circuit. It was a good day for motorcycle racing. "First of all, riding the MotoGP at Silverstone with this incredible weather is great," Valentino Rossi summed up his day. "I enjoy it a lot, because this track is fantastic and this weather is a big surprise for everybody."
So good has the weather been that it has given the small contingent of British journalists in the MotoGP paddock a new hobby. A conversation overheard on Friday afternoon: "I've just been over to taunt some Italians about the sunny weather." "Ah yes, I was just doing the same to an Australian." Two weeks ago, we English speakers were getting stick about having to pack winter coats and rain gear for Silverstone. Revenge is all the sweeter when served up under blue skies and radiant sunshine.
The good weather complicated tire selection for the MotoGP teams. Many a rider was out trying the hard rear much earlier than expected, trying to judge how it would hold up over race distance. The warm weather has pushed the temperatures to the upper range of the Michelins' operating window. The tires are still working, but everyone is having to go a step harder than expected.
After leading almost the entirety of FP1 only to see his headline stolen by Dominique Aegerter, Alex Marquez looked determined to pick up where he left off, at the top of the timesheets. Mission accomplished early on and the Spaniard’s early time went unchallenged until the checkered flag came out. In a deja-vu from this morning, Miguel Oliveira followed him closely to finish second, two tenths down on his rival.
After the morning session offered some insight into the soft and medium rear tyres, it was the hard’s time to shine in FP2. And its time in the sun started with a dramatic high-side for the reigning world champion, Marc Marquez thrown off his Honda in fast turn four, on his first timed lap.
Meanwhile, Cal Crutchlow was the first rider of the day into the 2:01s, on the same hard tyre combination as his factory colleague. Marquez fought back on his number two machine but Crutchlow was keen on some home headlines by putting on a hard front with a soft rear in the final few minutes and grabbing the lead once again, this time keeping it to the flag.