Although teams and riders had many references thanks to the two days of testing completed in Portimao, the first free practice session of the 2023 MotoGP offered some surprises, probably also due to the rain droplets that fell in the first minutes of the session which effectively delayed the actual start of the works.
In fact, the standings are commanded by two names that few would probably have expected: the fastest was Alex Marquez, very good at taking advantage of the new soft tire he has mounted on the rear of his Ducati to stop the clock at 1’38” 782, a time that still remains eight tenths away from the best reference of the tests two weeks ago.
The biggest surprise, however, is the second time of Joan Mir, who among other things obtained his 1’38″827 with a soft, but used tyre. If we think of the difficulties that Honda had shown in the pre-season, it was difficult to imagine such a performance, also because team-mate Marc Marquez is only tenth, even if his 1’39″537 was achieved with a medium tire at the rear.
If there’s one thing that confirmed the values seen in the tests in the Algarve, it’s the excessive power of the Ducatis, because there are no less than six Desmosedici GPs that at the moment would cut the pass for Q2. Following Mir are the two GP22s of the Mooney VR46, with Luca Marini third at 140 thousandths and Marco Bezzecchi fourth at 236 thousandths.
Behind them is Johann Zarco’s GP23, just 50 thousandths slower. And looking at Pramac, it is curious to point out that the Frenchman and Jorge Martin, seventh, have approved a different aerodynamic package from that of the factory team, choosing the one with the step.
The last Ducati in the top 10 is that of reigning world champion Pecco Bagnaia, ninth, who however is also among those who did not use the soft tire in the final stages. A speech that also applies to Fabio Quartararo, who precedes him in eighth place with his Yamaha and managed to stay even under half a second behind.
On the other hand, it is not clear which tire Maverick Vinales used to set the 1’39″180 which earned him sixth position, because the live timing graphics did not indicate the compounds of the Aprilia rider. The other RS- GP of Aleix Espargaro, fresh from an operation to solve a compartment syndrome problem, is instead in 11th position, ahead of a Jack Miller who seems to have made a good step forward in the search for feeling with his KTM.
13th time for Alex Rins on his first outing on the LCR Team Honda, while behind him is the Italian tandem made up of an Enea Bastianini who is a bit in the shade compared to the other Ducatis, even if with the same medium tire on the rear he is a couple of tenths from Bagnaia, and from Franco Morbidelli, also the victim of a highside at turn 8 in the opening minutes, when the track was slippery, so fortunately at low speed. Fabio Di Giannantonio also ended up on the ground at turn 5, 21st at 1″6 with the second Gresini Racing Ducati.
The new format now provides for a second longer session in the afternoon, lasting one hour, which will already be decisive for access to Q2. In fact, the cumulative result of these first two sessions will decide the 10 who will automatically qualify, without the need to play tomorrow morning’s Q1.
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