There is a move afoot among MotoGP riders to have qualifying changed. Or rather, to have the way the selection is done for Q1 and Q2. A lot of riders have complained about the current system of prequalifying using combined times from FP1 through FP3. The riders complain that they lose too much time to trying to set a fast lap in each session, just in case conditions change. The current counter proposal from the riders is to use just the FP3 times to select which riders go through to Q2 directly, and allow the teams to spend Friday focusing on setup.
Saturday morning exposed the weakness of such an idea. A combination of cold tires, strong wind, a bumpy track, poor tire selection on Friday night, and the narrow temperature working range of the Michelins saw eight riders crash a total of ten times in FP3. Alex Rins crashed so heavily he broke both the radius and ulna in his left arm, and put himself out of action for Austin and Jerez, and possibly for Le Mans as well. The rest escaped relatively unscathed, but with many a temper blazing.
Basing passage into Q2 solely on FP3 results was not without risks of its own, Valentino Rossi told the Italian media. "Today, that would have been a stupid idea, because we would have had to take a lot of risks in difficult conditions," Rossi said. If there had been a total of ten crashes in a session in which most riders hadn't pushed to improve their time, how many would have fallen if they had all been pushing to get through to Q2?
Marc Marquez has finished the final session of free practice as fastest, the Repsol Honda rider leading an eventful session throughout. Dani Pedrosa ended as second quickest, though Pedrosa then immediately crashed in Turn 1 after setting his best time. Pedrosa was not the only faller: Sam Lowes also crashed in the same spot.
The jockeying for manufacturers among satellite teams has begun. First out of the gate is the Reale Avintia Racing team, who have renewed their contract for another year with Ducati. Ducati will supply two Desmosedici GP17s to the team for the 2018 season.
Cooler temperatures, gusty winds and a bumpy track conspired to create a crash-filled third practice at the Circuit of the Americas Saturday but the season's dominant rider so far, Maverick Vinales, appeared untroubled by the chaos around him.
Vinales, winner of the seasson's first two races, became the first MotoGP rider at the Circuit of the Americas to dip into the 2'03s this weekend with a 2'03.979 on his second-to-last lap of the morning session that saw multiple crashes including two from reigning world champion Marc Marquez.
It looks like we have been wrong all along. As usual. All this time, we thought it was the engine which was the problem for Honda. This would be a major issue, as engine designs are sealed and fixed for an entire season in MotoGP, at least for factories which have gathered sufficient podium credits to qualify as competitive under the rules. With nine wins last year, and a MotoGP title, Honda definitely does that.
Maybe the problem isn't the engine after all, however. Honda riders are starting to express the apparently unpopular opinion inside HRC that maybe the solution isn't to rejig the engine again by playing around with firing orders, crankshaft counterweights, and other internal moving parts now set in aspic until the season ends at Valencia. Perhaps, they suggest, Honda could take a look at its chassis, and try finding solutions there.
Cal Crutchlow was the most vociferous, though that is an extremely relative term when speaking of rider statements about the Japanese manufacturer they ride for. "I think we need to start working with the chassis a bit more," Crutchlow told us after another hard day at a very physical track. "That's not a comment against my manufacturer, against my team, it's just a comment that we've looked at the engine for the last two years, and I believe that a lot will come from the chassis. Sure, some electronics, but I think it's chassis. I've ridden other bikes, so I know what the chassis is doing. And I believe that's where we could improve a lot. Because the engine is sealed, that's done, it's done and dusted."
Marc Marquez apparently didn’t like the view from second so he returned to the timesheet position of which he is accustomed at the Circuit of the Americas near Austin, Texas. The reigning world champion set the best time of the day on his final lap with a 2'04.061 to lead the pack by more that two-tenths of a second at Friday's final practice.
Miguel Oliveira grabbed the top spot with a fast final lap Friday during FP1 at the Circuit of the Americas Friday near Austin, Texas. Oliveira’s 2’11.606 dropped Franco Morbidelli into second, a mere three-hundredths back. Morbidelli, who has won the first two races of 2017, led for much of latter half of the first practice.