Results and summary of qualifying for the MotoGP class in Misano:
The premier class made the best of the final opportunity to show off their pace and quite a few men earned their bragging rights at the end of the 30 minutes. Pecco Bagnaia was first of those men, a tenth faster than Joan Mir’s top time but both riders had pace to spare in the low 1:32s. While the still convalescent Italian decided to rest a little by only doing one run, Mir managed to run full race distance on his tyres, to impressive results.
The premier class put on a show for the crucial FP3 session and it started early in the morning, when the cooler conditions led to some early mistakes from the likes of Jack Miller and Miguel Oliveira, who sat in gravel traps in quick succession. Once the yellow flags stopped waving, Pecco Bagnaia was quick to improve and join the top ten, eventually snatching the lap record on his home playground. The Italian did end the session with a tumble of his own at turn six, adding to the yellow flag party prompted by late crashes from Pol Espargaro and Oliveira once again.
Just how close is MotoGP at Misano? The gap between Brad Binder in first and Taka Nakagami in second is just 0.002s, two thousandths of a second. The top five are all within 0.071, just over seven hundredths of a second. The top ten are within half a second, and there are eighteen (18) riders within a second. It seems fair to say it is insanely close.
Or it would be if that were an accurate reflection of the actual state of the MotoGP grid. But the combined standings at the end of the first day of practice at the second MotoGP round at Misano in two weeks is rather deceptive. Precisely because it is the first day of practice for the second race on consecutive weekends at the same track.
Coming into Friday, the MotoGP riders had three days of riding at last week's San Marino Grand Prix at Misano, then a full day of testing on Tuesday. It seems fair to say that the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli holds no secrets for the MotoGP grid any longer. And with the weather predicted to be stable on Saturday, there was no real reason to push for a fast lap on Friday if a rider was comfortable with their pace.
Some new names added a bit of spice to the top of the standings in the second practice session for the premier class in Misano. While usual contenders like Fabio Quartararo or Pol Espargaro took early turns in the lead, it was Brad Binder who eventually robbed them of the headline after benefitting from a fine tow from a rapid Maverick Vinales.
Having spent the best of the past week circling around the Misano circuit, premier class riders were quick to get on the pace, none more so than new victor Franco Morbidelli, who lost no speed from last weekend and spent most of FP1 at the top of the timing screens. Ultimately, teammate Fabio Quartararo found an extra tenth on fresh soft rubber and stole the headline at the checkered flag, demoting Morbidelli to second.
We are in the toughest stretch of the punishing 2020 MotoGP schedule, ahead of the second race of the first of three triple headers – 9 races in 11 weeks, in three sets of three. It is a brutal start to this stretch, with last Sunday's race followed by a test on Tuesday, then practice starting again on Friday. Over the course of 10 days, the MotoGP riders will have been riding for 7 of them.
What will the second race at Misano look like, after the MotoGP riders have already have 4 days of riding at the track? "For sure everything will be very close after a Grand Prix, race, then a test, then another race," Alex Rins predicted. "Everything will be so close, so we need to be at 100%, we need to give our 100% to be at the front, to be concentrated, and giving our best."
Why will everything be closer? Because the second race at the same circuit gives everyone a chance to try to correct the mistakes they made at the first. Take Jack Miller. On Sunday, he was persuaded to race with the medium front instead of following his gut instinct, which told him to go with the hard front. It is a decision he will revisit come Sunday, and something he worked on at the test.
MotoGP is set to make its debut at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimao in November, as the last race of the 2020 season, and as a brand new track on the calendar, the teams, factories, and riders have no data on the circuit. To help them prepare for the race, Dorna has organized a test at the circuit ahead of the race.
The timing of the test is a little unfortunate. The test is due to take place on October 7th and 8th, directly before the French Grand Prix at Le Mans. Though only a limited number of riders are due to take to the track - one from each team and factory, with the exception of KTM and Aprilia, the factories who have concessions for the 2020 season - those riders face a punishing schedule. Two days of testing at Portimao on Wednesday and Thursday, a flight to Le Mans on Thursday night, then practice for the French Grand Prix on Friday morning. That is then the first weekend of three, with a double-header at Aragon following on from Le Mans.
The Covid-compressed 2020 season has very little room for maneuver. To fit fourteen races into nineteen weeks means making a lot of sacrifices. One of those sacrifices is testing: of the original three one-day post-race tests planned, only one remains, at Misano, on Tuesday.
What is the point of a midweek test in the middle of a year where so much development has been frozen to cut costs? "I think it's just a lot a people getting bored during the week, not moving anywhere, not doing anything, so they're trying to keep each other busy, keep themselves busy," joked Jack Miller.
The Pramac Ducati rider may have said that in jest, but it is easy to believe he is right. Engine and aerodynamics development is frozen for the 2020 and 2021 seasons, which already cuts down dramatically on the options for progress with a bike for this year and next. So surely the teams and factories wouldn't have much to test?