Aleix tops Aprilia 1-2, Morbidelli impresses | Catalan MotoGP FP Results

Free practice for the ninth round of the 2022 MotoGP World Championship, the Catalan Grand Prix, ended up being dominated by the new star- or stars - of 2022. 

Aleix Espargaro, 2022 Catalan Grand Prix. - Gold and Goose

Aleix Espargaro ended the first day in Barcelona over 0.3 seconds clear of the rest of the field. Espargaro may live in Andorra now, but he grew up in Granollers, which is like growing up in the town of Silverstone: there is going to be an environmental influence. Espargaro has not finished in six of his last seven starts in Barcelona, but this year is seeing something of a renewed Espargaro. Now a title contender, he seems in contention also for the race win on Sunday, and possibly for pole position on Saturday, too. 

He is backed up by Maverick Vinales, showing the Aprilia to be very much the bike to have in Catalunya. Vinales’ recent races have been limited by his poor qualifying performances, but if he can throw in another second-placed time attack on Saturday afternoon his chances of a good finish on Sunday are increased. 

The top three on Friday was completed by Enea Bastianini, who is looking to bounce back this weekend from his non-score in Italy. Barcelona was the scene of Bastianini’s first Grand Prix podium eight years ago in the 2014 Moto3 race, and with tyre drop-off looking significant this weekend, the #23’s famed tyre conservation could prove decisive. 

Not only that, but beating Francesco Bagnaia for one-lap pace on the same bike is never easy, and especially not at the moment. But that is what Bastianini did, and meant Bagnaia was absent from the top three at the end of FP2. But, fourth place is no disaster for Bagnaia, who, despite his win last week, remains in something of a ‘must-win’ situation with his 41-point deficit to Fabio Quartararo in the championship. 

The battle for the second Ducati seat has certainly swung in the direction of Enea Bastianini early on in 2022. The Gresini rider has won three races so far this year, whereas Jorge Martin has only finished three races. Martin’s problems are down to a nerve issue in his arm stemming from the free practice crash he suffered in Portugal last year, and he will have surgery on that next week, missing the post-race test in Barcelona to do so. Therefore, this will be Martin’s last opportunity to perform before surgery, and he ended Friday positively, in fifth. 

Completing the top six was Brad Binder with something of a last gasp run into the top 10. He was strong on Sunday in Italy, but qualifying - as usual - compromised his result. Sorting that would be a good way to go this weekend, and ending the first day in a top six spot is certainly a good way to kick that off. 

Jack Miller was languishing down on the fringes of the top 20 for much of practice, but jumped up to seventh in the end. Rumours suggest he could be confirmed to be leaving Ducati this weekend, with a move to the factory KTM team in place of Miguel Oliveira seeming the most likely option for Miller. Oliveira himself ended the day in 19th, as momentum begins to gather behind a potential move for the #88 to Gresini for 2023. 

Neither Alex Rins, nor Suzuki, have finished a race since the Hamamatsu brand announced their 2023 exit from the MotoGP World Championship. Rins’ own title chances are in tatters, with a 53-point gap between himself and Quartararo, but being in a provisional Q2 spot with eighth place overnight is a positive start for the #42. 

Fabio Quartararo spent much of the day behind teammate Franco Morbidelli. The Frenchman confirmed his retainment of a place in the factory Yamaha team for 2023 and 2024 earlier in the week. It was never really in doubt, since Yamaha have no better options, and Quartararo himself had no concrete better choices than remaining in black and blue, either. The pairing has proven fruitful in the past, and there is a good chance it will do so again this year, too. But, he nonetheless would have been relieved to pop up ahead of the disappointing Morbidelli at the end of FP2. 

Morbidelli had topped FP1, looking typically slow (not an insult, but in a prime Dovizioso-esque kind of way) while doing so. Ordinarily, a slip to 10th by the end of the afternoon would be a disappointment after a morning like that, but even remembering back to his Moto2 title winning campaign, Morbidelli has never gelled especially well with Barcelona. And, anyway, after the way Morbidelli’s season has started, a top 10 after day one will no doubt be just fine with him at this stage. 

Full MotoGP FP1 and FP2 combined times from the Catalan Grand Prix are below.

2022 Grand Prix of Catalunya | Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto | FP1 + FP2 Results

2022 Grand Prix of Catalunya | Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto | FP1 + FP2 Results | Round 9 / 21
PosRiderNat.MotoGP TeamMotoGP BikeTiming
1Aleix EspargaroESPAprilia RacingAprilia RS-GP1:39.402
2Maverick VinalesESPAprilia RacingAprila RS-GP1:39.705
3Enea BastianiniITAGresini RacingDucati GP211:39.890
4Francesco BagnaiaITADucati Lenovo TeamDucati GP221:39.950
5Jorge MartinESPPramac RacingDucati GP221:39.989
6Brad BinderRSARed Bull KTM RacingKTM RC161:40.083
7Jack MillerAUSDucati Lenovo TeamDucati GP221:40.095
8Alex RinsESPTeam Suzuki EcstarSuzuki GSX-RR1:40.101
9Fabio QuartararoFRAMonster Energy YamahaYamaha YZF-M11:40.123
10Franco MorbidelliITAMonster Energy YamahaYamaha YZF-M11:40.204
11Pol EspargaroESPRepsol Honda TeamHonda RC213V1:40.237
12Takaaki NakagamiJPNLCR HondaHonda RC213V1:40.256
13Fabio di GiannantonioITAGresini RacingDucati GP211:40.346
14Marco BezzecchiITAVR46 RacingDucati GP211:40.428
15Luca MariniITAVR46 RacingDucati GP211:40.448
16Joan MirESPTeam Suzuki EcstarSuzuki GSX-RR1:40.650
17Johann ZarcoFRAPramac RacingDucati GP221:40.752
18Alex MarquezESPLCR HondaHonda RC213V1:40.785
19Miguel OliveiraPORRed Bull KTM RacingKTM RC161:40.821
20Darryn BinderRSAWithU RNF Racing YamahaYamaha YZF-M11:40.871
21Andrea DoviziosoITAWithU RNF Racing YamahaYamaha YZF-M11:40.943
22Michele RacingDucati GP221:41.051
23Stefan BradlGERTeam HRCHonda RC213V1:41.074
24Raul FernandezESPTech3 KTM RacingKTM RC161:41.083
25Remy GardnerAUSTech3 KTM RacingKTM RC161:41.330