In the warm – but less so than Friday afternoon – Assen morning there was no hurry to improve at the top or escape the dreaded Q2 positions. The most popular look for the morning session was the used medium front-soft rear tyre combination, with the likes of Marquez or Morbidelli predictably going harder, on the medium rear. While the Italian ended up in the medical centre for a precautionary check-up, the world champion wobbled his way into the lead of the session, showing similarly impressive pace on the medium as on the hard one day ago. Perhaps unusually, Jorge Lorenzo seemed to fancy the hard rear but it proved not to be the most comfortable option for the Ducati man.
The final five minutes gave way to the usual shootout for prime positions going into the qualifying session and while Marquez was no surprise at the top of the timesheets come the checker flag, the gaps amongst the top five were minuscule. Maverick Viñales got within a thousandth of a second of his leading compatriot, with Cal Crutchlow another five thousandths behind in third position.
Valentino Rossi was also half a tenth of a second away from the top place, with Andrea Iannone rounding out the half a tenth club. Lorenzo’s half a second gap from Marquez seemed gargantuan by comparison but the Spaniard was sixth in the session and seventh on combined standings. The one to mess up the two classifications was Danilo Petrucci, who was one of the few riders who failed to improve their times from Friday. The Italian dropped to 13th in the session but his FP2 time was good enough to save him sixth position on combined standings.
Aleix Espargaro had no such problems and the Aprilia man secured his Q2 presence with seventh in FP3 and eighth overall, at the expense of his brother Pol, who got pushed out of the top ten by only half a tenth. Alvaro Bautista continued his recent progress with a fine eighth position and ninth overall, while the final guaranteed Q2 place went to Andrea Dovizioso, who also failed to improve on his Friday benchmark and narrowly escaped Q1.
No such luck for the likes of Pol Espargaro, Johann Zarco, Jack Miller or Dani Pedrosa, who will have to battle their way into Q2, despite being little over half a second slower than the reigning world champion.
UPDATE: Franco Morbidelli was declared unfit to race after suffering a small fracture on his third metacarpal following his fast crash in turn seven.