The weather is looking up at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, and that is a good thing. First of all, it provided a fascinating day of practice and qualifying, with more than a few surprises and plenty of data to chew over. But secondly, and far more importantly, it meant that riders were out on track riding, and returning to the pits safely after doing so. If the weather had turned, and rain had fallen, that might not have been the case.
The reason for that is simple. The Red Bull Ring is not safe in the wet. That was the consensus of the riders at Friday night's Safety Commission. It is not particularly safe in the dry either, but in the wet, it is so bad that everyone said they would not ride if it rained. "Everybody yesterday in the Safety Commission said they would not ride in the wet," Aleix Espargaro said.
It was a point which Cal Crutchlow had made on Thursday, even before practice began. He reiterated it on Saturday. "If it rains I ain’t riding," he told the media. I have no interest, because there are barriers everywhere. As you saw, everyone was crashing in a complete straight line and they were going to the left at a right hand corner. It was just ridiculous. Until they move the barriers back, I have no interest to ride here in the wet."
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto2 class in Spielberg:
Results and summary of qualifying for the MotoGP class in Spielberg:
Dry but hardly sunbathing weather invited the MotoGP class to do some race simulations. After Marc Marquez’s FP3 run on the hard rear tyre planted some question marks around the paddock, FP4 was a jumble of all combinations imaginable.
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto3 class in Spielberg:
Probably rejoicing that the Friday rain-washed fiasco didn’t look like repeating, the intermediate class did not waste any time in getting up to speed and challenge least year’s times. Well, Tom Luthi was at least, the Swiss rider already about half a second away from the pole time record ten minutes into the session and first man into the 1:29s. The Swiss rider failed to improve on his early time but it was safe enough insurance of top position.
All the weather worries of Friday proved unfounded, the MotoGP class joining the track in a lukewarm morning offering forty-five minutes of opportunities to ensure a direct Q2 spot.
Marc Marquez used that time to sample the hard rear tyre and managed consecutive improvements of his personal best time to climb up the overall timesheets and lead FP3. The Spaniard set a series of mid to high 1:24s on the tyre, before switching to some new rubber in the final ten minutes. That helped the Honda rider improve further, Marquez putting almost half a second into his pursuers on his final lap.
The distinct lack of clouds must have been a joyful sight for the paddock, especially the part than needed to sample the track for fourty minutes. With the much nicer conditions, the riders were fast to significantly improve their Friday times.
Already owning the fastest lap around the Ring, championship leader Joan Mir set his sights on improving that record and started by setting himself up at the top of the timesheets. The Leopard rider got close to his pole record on several occasions but his exuberance over white lines saw some of those times cancelled. While the second-place roulette kept moving throughout the session, the Spaniard’s time was rarely challenged.