Petrucci: No points for new Sepang record, Vinales strongest

New all-time Sepang MotoGP lap record for Danilo Petrucci, but 'I don't know if it's enough for the podium… the hottest conditions are the weakest point for us'.
Petrucci: No points for new Sepang record, Vinales strongest

Danilo Petrucci became the fastest ever rider at the Sepang circuit with an all-time unofficial MotoGP record of 1m 58.239s on the final day of this week's test.

But the Italian, who led four Ducatis at the top of the timesheets, was just as quick to play down the achievement.

"For sure I'm happy, but it counts for nothing. I didn't score any points or even get the watch for pole position!" he said.

"I was not focussed on the lap time this morning even if I did a very, very good time. I used medium tyres in the previous run to understand where the limit was, then when I used the soft I found a big difference."

But it was far from a perfect day for Petrucci, who was forced to pack-up at lunchtime after a fast fall on his out-lap with the new Ducati fairing: "Unfortunately I broke the new fairing and especially I took some skin off my hand."

Speaking with half-an-hour of testing still to go, the Italian fully expected the likes of Maverick Vinales to beat his lap time. But the Yamaha star, quickest on day two, didn't improve despite the aid of the new Michelin rear tyre.

"Maybe someone now, Vinales I think, will be faster," Petrucci said. "The temperature is going down. Vinales is riding very fast in the hot weather and now he has the new soft rear tyre and I haven’t tried that one. Other riders and Michelin say the new tyre is three tenths quicker."

Although Vinales did push at the end of the day he remained in fifth place, behind the Ducatis of Petrucci, Francesco Bagnaia, Jack Miller and Andrea Dovizioso.

Yet if the race was tomorrow, Petrucci wasn't sure if he would have the pace for the podium.

"I think Vinales - Marquez is injured - is the strongest rider over these three days, especially in the heat. He is very, very fast in the heat, when the race is," he said.

"I think we are okay to be in the top five. I don't know if it's enough for the podium. Because now you see Valentino in tenth, but if you remember in last year's race he was absolutely impressive.

"Rins is also very fast when the conditions are very hot - Marquez, Dovizioso, Morbidelli… there are ten. So fighting for the top five is still hard and lap time doesn’t count too much.

"Fortunately the race here will be in November, so we have still some time to work, but at the moment I think the hottest conditions are the weakest point for us."

Vinales set an average lap time of around 2m 0.1s (removing two very slow laps) during his Friday simulation. Petrucci and Dovizioso had set an average of 2m 0.7s during their two-part Thursday race simulation.

But looking back over the test as a whole, Petrucci was most proud of his performance while riding with team-mate and double MotoGP title runner-up Dovizioso during the race simulation.

"Yesterday following Andrea I got to see many things. For sure, it was a big help to have him in front of me and it's quite difficult.

"I mean, talking is easy because he simply said, 'you have to wait before opening the throttle'. But when you fight for every tenth it's difficult to say when you have to open. I have to wait, but how much?

"So if you try to always go quicker, you always try to brake one metre later or open the throttle a metre earlier. It's not easy but yesterday I understood many things. Hopefully, also Andrea understood some things, ten laps behind me."

Less clear to Petrucci is the potential advantage of the rear brake torque arm, which reappeared on the final day after first being seen at Jerez in November.

"Some positives and some negatives… for example at Jerez it was better, now not so much, we have to try again."

Petrucci's 1pm fall restricted his Friday track time to 32 laps, less than half the number of Vinales for example.

Might the change in feeling from the radical new fairing have caused the accident?

"We are trying to understand why. Because it was at the fifth corner on the out-la and everything was like the other out laps," he replied. "I don’t think a fairing can be so important for a crash.

"I mean, if you go to turn five and see how fast we go down turn five, it's impressive. It’s impressive for me riding, from the outside it's unbelievable. Sincerely I don’t know why I crashed."

Dovizioso was 0.299s slower than new team-mate Petrucci on the final day. The final pre-season test will be held at Qatar later this month.