The first Friday of the 2023 season has already gone into the archives and once again presents us with a Ducati domination, which takes six of the top ten positions. Right on the edge of the top 10 we find Enea Bastianini, who grabs the provisional direct qualification at the end of a troubled second practice session.
The new official Ducati bearer concludes his first day as a “rider in red”. Sure, he made his debut in the tests, but the adventure really begins with the Portuguese Grand Prix, now it’s the race weekend and it’s getting serious: “It was a new sensation compared to the tests, I liked it very very much. More than anything else, always riding with riders who have the same two tires makes you understand something more. In the tests everyone rides with a tire and it’s more of a mess to figure out. Instead, this way you ideally see what the rhythms are in the same time slot. Then it’s also exciting to be dressed in red in free practice”.
A pace that for now seems to decree Pecco Bagnaia as the great favorite of the race. Both in terms of pace and time attack, the reigning world champion made the difference. Bastianini, on the other hand, is continuing to familiarize himself with the Desmosedici GP23, which he found again today after the winter tests.
This first Friday of free practice somewhat displaced Bestia, who somehow had to start all over again picking up the pace on a track that he found different from two weeks ago: “Above all this morning I was hoping to pick up where I left off in the tests, instead I found myself blown away. Certainly racing after Moto2 offered us less grip, there was more wind than in the tests, so I had to find the right path. But in the end this afternoon I was able to work a little better. Too bad the two red flags, especially the second one that we didn’t need. I’m sorry for Pol, I hope he recovers soon ”.
The lack of grip and the wind affected the riders the most. However, if you look at the times, these conditions don’t seem to have been a huge problem. Jack Miller, author of the best time, even broke the track record: “It’s actually strange, also because there was enough wind but the track was pretty fast. Obviously when we did the tests the track was dirtier. At this point I believe that tomorrow he will run much faster, I think that in qualifying he will set very fast times”.
Enea Bastianini, Ducati Team
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
Bastianini arrives on Saturday with the tenth fastest time, but he still isn’t quite clear what his true potential might be on this track and with this bike: “I haven’t figured it out yet either, I want to see the data and try to understand. We have always improved and we have always been a little bit faster. Over the course of the day my pace improved, the second time attack went better despite a few mistakes, so I think the potential is good, but I still lack that special feeling to be faster”.
Ducati dominated the top 10, but in the top 3 there is only the reigning champion Pecco Bagnaia. The Australian of KTM was the surprise on this first day of the Portuguese Grand Prix, whom Enea involuntarily towed for a few laps. However, today’s surprise could only be a prelude to an extremely competitive season: “Miller is here! I pulled it without too much trouble, but I underestimated it! (laughs, ed.). I think it will be a very interesting year starting tomorrow. If I do a good qualifying I expect to have good pace to stay up front. But it will be tough, there aren’t many points where you can overtake, so it will be important to start from the front.”
Starting this year, the MotoGP has a new format, with the second free practice session lasting one hour. In Portimao, two red flags prolonged and complicated the work, however Bastianini is happy with the duration of this session, which allows him to work well on the bike: “I must say it was interesting. Apart from the red flags, such a long shift can be good because you get enough work on the bike. It is obvious that you have to do two time attacks and if there is something wrong and you get screwed. But today I got in by a whisker, I’m happy”.
Then there is the inevitable issue of safety, which already came to the fore in the tests, where Fabio Di Giannantonio had missed the last day due to a simple fall that became disastrous due to the gravel. Today it was the turn of Pol Espargaro, who in a bad fall ended up against the barriers recovering a pulmonary trauma: “It’s incredible that there isn’t an air fence, because with the speeds we do, the wall is attacked. This is why in my opinion the Safety Commissions should be done on Thursday and not on Friday. Maybe we would have said it, like yesterday we said a lot of things during the briefing, so in my opinion it’s an aspect that needs reviewing”.
Leave a Reply