So much for Ducati domination. Sure, the two factory Ducatis are on the front row, Andrea Iannone on pole, Andrea Dovizioso in third, but they did not destroy the competition in qualifying the way they did so in practice on Friday. Austria is still Ducati's best chance of a win since Casey Stoner left for Honda at the end of the 2010 season, but it is no longer the sure thing it seemed on Friday.
What happened? A lot of things, but most of all, the weather improved dramatically. That certainly helped Jorge Lorenzo find some confidence, and put him back into contention after a couple of tough races. Valentino Rossi found some acceleration, and improved his pace. Marc Márquez worked on making up on the brakes what he is losing in acceleration. That puts the Ducatis, the Yamahas and Márquez all within a tenth or two of each other in race pace. We really are going to have to wait for the fat lady to start singing on this one.
Romano Fenati will not be on the starting grid at the Austrian round of MotoGP on Sunday. The Italian has been suspended by his team for "repeated behavior not in line with the disciplinary rules of a team".
Though the team has not made a statement on the exact reason for suspending Fenati, there are reports of repeated bad behavior by Fenati in the team. Motorsport.com state that Fenati became abusive towards his crew during qualifying at the Red Bull Ring, and this was the final straw.
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto3 class at the Red Bull Ring:
As Saturday started, sunshine decided to actually make an appearance this time around and delight us with seventeen degrees of track temperature. Even so, the riders took their time in improving their lap times from Friday.
Yesterday’s fast men Brad Binder, Joan Mir and Fabio Quartararo were the first riders to beat the benchmark and drop into the 1:36s, ending the session in that exact same order and without any real challenge from behind. The challenge for Quartararo seemed to be respecting track limits, the Leopard rider seeing several of his laps cancelled.
After a session of accommodation to the new track, FP1 leader Brad Binder dropped his time even further, nine tenths of a second faster than his time from the morning session. The rest took their time to drop into the 1:37s, with second placed Enea Bastianini and third placed Fabio Quartararo the next men to do it. While both Binder and Quartararo swapped times at the top, they also exchanged cancelled lap times throughout the session.
It was another good showing from Bo Bendsneyder, the rookie finishing in close proximity to Quartararo, while a rather incognito afternoon was in store for the Sky VR46 gang, with Romano Fenati grabbing fifth position late into the session.
We might hope for the fight to heat up this weekend but the weather did not. With the track displaying some mere fourteen degrees in temperature, the riders gingerly took to the new Red Bull Ring.
Brad Binder was the early leader, the first rider into the 1:38s and he kept shaving tenths off his time until dropping down to 1:37.902 with little over four minutes left of the session. Joan Mir and Fabio Quartararo joined him in the 38 club, the trio switching places at the top for a good part of the session.
The MotoGP test in Austria brought to light several safety issues with the Red Bull Ring. At least one of those issues is to be addressed before the start of the Austrian round of MotoGP. After consultation with several members of the Safety Commission, the FIM Safety Officer Franco Uncini has ordered the final corner, Turn 10, to be modified.
Press releases from some of the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after their test at Spielberg in Austria:
Positive Spielberg test for Morbidelli and Márquez
Franco Morbidelli and Álex Márquez gave the Spielberg circuit in Austria their seal of approval, after concluding a successful two-day test at the track this afternoon.