Open class Yamaha rider Aleix Espargaro topped the charts to kick off the 2014 MotoGP season with a dominant time of 1'55.201, nearly half a second faster than second-place rider Alvaro Bautista on a satellite Honda. Another satellite rider, Yamaha's Bradley Smith, came in third, six-tenths back from the elder Espargaro. In fact, the salletite and open class riders dominated FP1 taking seven of the top-ten times. Satellite Ducati rider Andrea Iannone grabbed fourth and Tech 3 Yamaha's Pol Espargaro managed fifth. The fastest factory bike, Dani Pedrosa's Honda, claimed only sixth place at slightly more than a second back from the leader.
In part, this is because only the open class and satellite bikes tested at the Losail Circuit during the off-season and so arrived in Qatar with an approximate setup. But that does not entirely explain the difference in times and certainly doesn't entirely account for Espargaro's pace.
In fact, Espargaro led the timesheet early with a 1'55.855 in the session's first 10 minutes. But then a crash by Yonny Hernandez briefly red-flagged the session. When the riders returned, Espargaro's time still held for much of the session but eventually was eclipsed by both Alvaro Bautista and Bradley Smith with about ten minutes left. Espargaro reclaimed the top spot with a little less than two minutes remaining. He upped it again and never came under threat as FP1 drew to a close. Factory rider Jorge Lorenzo (9th) appeared visibly unhappy with his bike's pace, shaking his head as he entered the pits. Current world champion, Marc Marquez, who broke his leg in the off season, managed only 11th.
Espargaro's pace on the open class Yamaha has been the focus of the entire off-season tests. Unlike Honda, Yamaha's "customer" or non factory bike essentially is the 2013 MotoGP engine, frame and swingarm with the Dorna-mandated electronics. But as an open class, customer bike, it is allowed both a softer tire choice and four additional liters of fuel. The result (at least with Espargaro on board) has been blistering quick in practice. (However, it remains unclear that it will manage the same pace over race distance.) Espargaro's Forward MGM Teammate Colin Edwards also is quicker than he was last year when he rode the Kawasaki-powered CRT bike. Edwards finished in eigth, just a tenth slower than his former Yamaha factory teammate Valentino Rossi who came in seventh fastest.
|Pos.||No.||Rider||Bike||Time||Diff. / Prev.|
|1||41||Aleix ESPARGARO||Forward Yamaha||1'55.201|
|2||19||Alvaro BAUTISTA||Honda||1'55.667||0.466 / 0.466|
|3||38||Bradley SMITH||Yamaha||1'55.816||0.615 / 0.149|
|4||29||Andrea IANNONE||Ducati||1'55.996||0.795 / 0.180|
|5||44||Pol ESPARGARO||Yamaha||1'56.020||0.819 / 0.024|
|6||26||Dani PEDROSA||Honda||1'56.332||1.131 / 0.312|
|7||46||Valentino ROSSI||Yamaha||1'56.542||1.341 / 0.210|
|8||5||Colin EDWARDS||Forward Yamaha||1'56.626||1.425 / 0.084|
|9||99||Jorge LORENZO||Yamaha||1'56.668||1.467 / 0.042|
|10||69||Nicky HAYDEN||Honda||1'56.670||1.469 / 0.002|
|11||93||Marc MARQUEZ||Honda||1'56.682||1.481 / 0.012|
|12||6||Stefan BRADL||Honda||1'56.726||1.525 / 0.044|
|13||35||Cal CRUTCHLOW||Ducati||1'57.046||1.845 / 0.320|
|14||4||Andrea DOVIZIOSO||Ducati||1'57.100||1.899 / 0.054|
|15||68||Yonny HERNANDEZ||Ducati||1'57.623||2.422 / 0.523|
|16||17||Karel ABRAHAM||Honda||1'57.779||2.578 / 0.156|
|17||7||Hiroshi AOYAMA||Honda||1'58.182||2.981 / 0.403|
|18||8||Hector BARBERA||Avintia||1'58.394||3.193 / 0.212|
|19||45||Scott REDDING||Honda||1'58.495||3.294 / 0.101|
|20||63||Mike DI MEGLIO||Avintia||1'58.732||3.531 / 0.237|
|21||9||Danilo PETRUCCI||ART||1'59.321||4.120 / 0.589|
|22||23||Broc PARKES||PBM||1'59.328||4.127 / 0.007|