The first day of practice on the futuristic Red Bull Ring has passed and it is time for the first reflections. In the Honda camp, the combined standings have Dani Pedrosa third and Marc Marquez seventh, a sign that the games are much more open than they were in Brno seven days ago. The championship leader needs to make up seven tenths of a second to climb to the top of the pack, and his first assessment conveys optimism. “Right now I am rather pleased –Marc begins – since we are closer than last year, going onto the track with a different setup than last year and with a few upgrades we tested at Brno. This afternoon, my pace was not bad; we worked on the race and we are close.”
The comparison with last season remains one of the current themes for number 93.
“We have improved in acceleration and, thanks in part to a different balance, we are losing less than in the past. We have taken a step forward in this sense, but we lost in braking stability. We need to find a good compromise between the two things. The tyres? In the morning I tried the intermediate and I had positive feedback, whereas in the afternoon, I tried the soft on the front to get into the top five, but a mistake on the second lap kept me from doing that. In any case, I had good sensations with that one too.”
The Spaniard is convinced of his means and does not want to leave anything untried.
“Last year, Ducati was superior to everyone, whereas this year we are all closer. Dovi has an excellent pace, but right now I am convinced that I can make a play for it; a lot will depend on tyre choice. It’s hard to know what everyone’s pace is, but Yamaha also got close, especially Viñales. Lorenzo? I think he is a contender for the podium, since last year he was fast here and the Ducati performs very well.”
Marquez’s eyes betray the awareness that a win in Austria would be fundamental for the championship.
“If I were to win – number 93 comments – it would be 25 points on a circuit where we expected to lose something to our rivals. I know that this is a track where we struggle, but I want to finish as far forward as possible: given the results today, if the race were tomorrow, we would be able to battle for the podium.”
The championship leader’s final thoughts are dedicated to the new fairing.
“I lose a bit of agility but I gain in acceleration, which is our weak point. I have slightly lower performance in those areas which were my strong points, but I compensate in the areas where I was really losing a lot.”
PEDROSA: "WE TOOK A STEP FORWARD COMPARED WITH LAST YEAR." The best of the day in the Honda garage is Dani Pedrosa, who consequently cannot help but smile. “We have definitely improved compared with last year –Dani analyses – especially our race pace. Nevertheless, we still need to work, since we need to improve in a few sectors of the track; an aspect to focus on is tyre choice and for this reason I hope the weather will be good tomorrow so we can turn as many laps as possible.”
Of the various technical topics, a recurring theme of the day seems to be braking.
“Braking is very important on this track. On acceleration, we are at almost the best possible level, whereas we need to focus our efforts on that aspect. This is a very difficult track that changes from morning to afternoon and where power plays an important role. We need to work on better carburetion.”
Like last year, the issue of safety is a hot topic, also following the numerous crashes seen in the Moto2 FP1 session.
“I do not think that what happened is the fault of the riders, so we need to understand the real reason. It will probably be a topic in safety commission so that something can be done for next year. We cannot simply hope to be lucky and find a dry track.”