Teammate Valentino Rossi found the 15-minute qualifying heat a bigger challenge.
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider Jorge Lorenzo kept the pressure on in qualifying this afternoon for tomorrow’s Gran Premio d’Italia, taking third on the grid. Teammate Valentino Rossi found the 15-minute qualifying heat a bigger challenge, taking tenth position on the fourth row.
Lorenzo made his trademark early exit from the pits as the session began, the first rider to attack the Mugello circuit. He immediately dropped below the ’48 mark with a first flying lap of 1’47.605s. Hot laps by rivals Marc Marquez and Andrea Iannone then dropped him to third, but just 0.167 from the front. With just over eight minutes remaining it was a super quick pit-stop for Lorenzo, and back to the track less than a minute later. He was able to improve on his earlier time, scoring a session best of 1’47.521s to secure third on the grid, 0.251s from pole.
Rossi was also quick to exit at the start of the session, just one rider back from teammate Lorenzo. He too immediately dropped under the ‘48s with a first flying lap of 1’47.791s to take provisional third. As the times fell he dropped down to 5th, 0.521 from first as he entered the pits mid-session. An extended pit stop saw him return to the track with five minutes remaining having taken extra time to change to a softer front tyre in the hunt for a quicker turning bike. Unfortunately he was unable to improve on his first hot lap and make the softer front tyre work for him, wrapping up qualifying in tenth position, just over half a second from pole.
His first run ensured the Spanish rookie’s best personal time of 1.47,612min was enough to cement a start on the second row with his impressive performance only 0.342 from pole position. Afterwards the reigning Moto2 World Champion unluckily paid for his inexperience with a fall while going out for his second run, which prevented Espargaro from lowering his lap time anymore. Nevertheless the young Spaniard remains confident to battle for another high scoring points finish during tomorrow’s premier class race.
His teammate Bradley Smith produced a resolute display to guide his Yamaha YZR-M1 around the 13 corners of the Mugello circuit to score 7th place on the grid for tomorrow’s 23-lap sprint. Having made progress in terms of building a confidence boosting setup this week with his Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team, the British rider progressed further by aggressively riding to a best time of 1.47,618 in Q2, over a second quicker than his qualifying time from last year.
Additionally with the pole position time being quicker last year, Smith’s best lap today was much closer to the front in comparison to the competition highlighting his leap in improvement with both performance and knowledge this season. In addition, it was only four tenths of a second off pole with the top twelve MotoGP riders being covered by under a second. The 23-year-old British rider remains optimistic in his race ability aboard the Yamaha YZR-M1 as he aims to be the fastest satellite rider in tomorrow’s race.
It was a difficult qualifying session for the NGM Forward Racing riders on the fast and technical Mugello track.
A crash, fortunately without consequences for the rider during the FP4, made the qualifying session of Aleix Espargaro even more complicated. With 1’48.580 in the Q1, Espargaro entered the Q2 and he finally closed in 12th position with a best lap time of 1’48.218.
It was a tough day also for team mate Colin Edwards, who continued to work on the electronics in order to improve the set up of his Forward Yamaha. The solutions tested during the practices didn’t bring the expected results and the team will continue to work tomorrow during the warm up. Colin will take the start of the Italian GP tomorrow from the 18th position on the grid.
Jorge Lorenzo (3rd, 1'47.521): “I’m satisfied with third place because it’s important to start in the first row here to try to avoid some problems with the first laps and be with the front group. I feel like it's a second place because Iannone has extra soft tyres that can maybe get some extra tenths. I’m happy with the lap time, but more I’m happy with the consistency and the work we’ve done with the bike. My physical condition is getting better as well so I’m happy. Circumstances are different to last year so it’s more difficult to be in front, but little by little we adapt to be as competitive as possible.”
Valentino Rossi (10th, 1'47.791): “We made a big mistake in the qualifying, we decided to change the front tyre at the same time as the second rear. It was the wrong decision, I felt really bad with the softer front and I was unable to improve my lap time. It's a great shame, because I had a good potential and could have started on the front, my pace is good and I feel good with the bike, but it’s like this. Tomorrow from the fourth row everything will be harder and more difficult. We have good pace, we need to fix some small problems and try to make the maximum. I want to try and make a good race because it’s my 300th Grand Prix and also we are in Mugello! I’m quite desperate for the tenth position but nothing is lost yet. It will be hard but we can do a good race.”
Massimo Meregalli - Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director: “Jorge’s front row is very important here in Mugello, it comes as a result of hard work and confident riding through the practices up to today. His pace is really promising, even with a used tyre we have been very competitive this afternoon in the last practice. For sure it’s going to be a bit more difficult for Vale starting from the fourth row. Unfortunately we made the decision to change from a hard to a soft tyre midway through the session to try and gain some benefit and turn the bike better. Due to the track temperatures it gave no advantage and compromised his results. His pace has also been very good over the weekend so we know he will do his best to fight back to the front.”
Pol Espargaro (5th, 1'47.612): “I am pretty happy with P5 but at the same time I think we were a little lucky that nobody beat my lap time after I fell off. I really wanted to improve so to fall and be unable to is a bit disappointing. Our performance today was good and I am sure that we could have gone faster even by just a few milliseconds as it was so tight at the top, so just a small gain could have moved us up. With regards to fall it was a rookie crash as I was too keen to get going and ride fast a bit too fast on the new tyres which were cold. I pushed a little to warm them up but then fell at the fast corner. Still I am pleased to be on the second row in 5th position as I feel this is another important qualifying result for me. I feel comfortable with the bike and together with the team we are building my own Yamaha. Also, I am still recovering in confidence since the injury at Qatar but overall am feeling quite happy. Tomorrow will be a difficult race for sure especially at the start but I feel good with the bike so I look forward to a positive race.”
Bradley Smith (7th, 1'47.681): "I am pleased with my qualifying performances today and especially this morning’s FP3 session where I had a great feeling on the bike and some positive work was undertaken. In FP4 we weren’t as competitive from the word go as we would have liked to have been due to the changing nature of the track which required us to alter the bike to accustom it to the changing grip and temperature. The Tech3 team have a done a great job especially with qualifying and after we changed the setting, the bike felt good straight away giving me the confidence to run in the 47’s comfortably. I still need to improve in the third sector of the track especially Arrabbiata 1 and 2 but feel very comfortable with how the bike is in the first two sectors of the track. We need to make a good setting for sector three but on the whole I am happy to be competitive and back riding a bike I enjoy and understand, so I am excited for the race tomorrow.”
Aleix Espargaro (12th, 1'48.218): “In the morning we continued to work on the electronics in order to solve the problems we had at Le Mans. Then, the crash in the FP4 complicated a lot my qualifying session because I had to use the second machine and I couldn’t find the same feeling as with the bike nr1. We will keep on working but we know that it will be a tough race. Mugello is a very demanding track and we suffer a lot in terms of top speed on the long 1141mt straight. Anyway I will give my best to get the best possible result”.
Colin Edwards (18th, 1'49.780): “I’m not really happy. We worked on the electronics but we didn’t get the expected results. We had to start again from where we were yesterday and we couldn’t improve the set up of the machine. Tomorrow in the warm up I want to test another solution with the rear suspension and I hope that we can make a step forward for the race”.