The premier class was straight out of the gates when the light turned green with the overcast sky giving some minor cause for concern. Marc Marquez took this opportunity to sample the hard rear tyre and dragged a decent result out of it by taking charge of the session while most people fancied the medium. Fellow Honda rider Cal Crutchlow was the only other rider tempted by the hard, while Yamaha picked the mediums and Ducati flirted with the soft.
The battle for direct Q2 places started in the final eight minutes and it found Valentino Rossi and Alex Rins on the back foot once again, outside the combined top ten as they headed out of pitlane with dark clouds awaiting in turn one. The rain thankfully stayed away just long enough to get a proper fight but Rossi turned up improperly armed, on mediums while seemingly testing a setup change. There were no such problems for teammate Maverick Vinales, the Spaniard demonstrating impressive pace on mediums and excellent speed on the soft in his journey to the top of FP3 and the combined standings. A couple of whoopsies later, Marquez joined the top two, his heart presumably set on the hard rear that he used to post impressively consistent low 1:32s.
Local favourite Fabio Quartararo was not too far from his slightly older rivals, the Petronas youngster sharing fastest sector times with Vinales and trailing the reigning world champion by less than a tenth of a second. Meanwhile, Jorge Lorenzo stopped being miserable for the final three minutes of FP2 as he came from quite low down to briefly take over top position and eventually settle for fourth at the flag. Former teammate Andrea Dovizioso completed the top five but his sluggish start and low key finish masked a pretty good long run on the soft tyre, rivalling Vinales and Marquez’s pace. Another tenth back, teammate Danilo Petrucci finished sixth after starting his afternoon with a bizarre crash into turn 8 – adding to Ducati’s early troubles as Jack Miller immediately took his first tumble of FP3.
The Espargaro brothers had a bittersweet session, Pol leading Aleix in seventh and eighth positions as the session closed but that barely told the story of their afternoon. With KTM's recent test at Le Mans, Pol showed great speed from the off, as well as a carbon fibre swingarm that he trialled in the morning session. However, the new piece of kit also got its first crash test as the Spaniard went down at turn 14 early on, causing limited running from then on and closing the day with another tumble in the last minute, just as brother Aleix took his Aprilia off road.
Takaaki Nakagami kept a low profile on his way to ninth, seven tenths down on the leader. Franco Morbidelli completed the top ten in FP3 but it was Jack Miller who snatched the final provisional Q2 spot despite failing to improve on his FP1 time. The Pramac man didn’t get much time to do that in between two crashes but got lucky to stay in the combined top ten ahead of the rainy forecast for FP3.
Amongst the least lucky, Crutchlow went from hero in second position to zero in 12th overall after a late crash hindered his time attack. Unless the sun decides to make a proper appearance on Saturday morning, the LCR man will have to battle the likes of Rossi, Mir and Rins for a Q2 ticket.