The practice sessions are now a memory. They're all qualifications. The new format that leads to a pole position forces all the riders to try to reach the top 10 in order to skip Q1. The results: always less time to improve the set-ups, the time available to work is increasingly reduced, and the result is a greater number of falls and errors during the practice sessions. Some unexplainable. Like Rossi's chain on the Yamaha during FP1. Careful, the chain didn't fall off, as with the Honda, it actually broke.
Like what happened to Agostini in 1967, at the time of his challenge with Hailwood at the TT.
It wasn't, however, due to this that Vale's Yamaha was the last of the M1s at Le Mans: with a 14th time. A very embarrassing position given that his teammate, Maverick Vinales, reached a provisional pole ahead of Marc Marquez and the increasingly surprising Fabio Quartararo.
Rossi, the last Yamaha, has to find a solution, but there are two Yamahas in the front row.
Rossi says he has to find a solution but, in the meantime, two Yamaha's are in the provisional front row. You can expect Morbidelli in trouble, 11th, but not the 9 times world champion way in the back, in the Bronx of the ranking.
A laughable problem since, on Saturday, the weather is expected to get worse, which could bring rain to the La Sarthe circuit. In this case, Valentino would be in pre-qualifying in a fratricidal duel with Morbido and Bagnaia, but also with riders potentially from the first or second row, like Crutchlow and Rins.
Magic Marquez is always at the center of the ring. He's the man to beat.
But this, at least for the moment, is the undercard. Magic Marc is always the star in the main match, the one that occupies the center of the ring. He's always the man to beat.
So much so that, after the tests, the world champion claimed to have added another arrow to his bow: the chameleonic ability to change strategy, race by race, and disorient his opponents.
Jorge angered over market rumors.
And if we should expect Maverick's and Fabio's Yamahas to give him a hard time, not only in the race towards a pole but also during the first laps of the race, it will also be interesting to discover the real potential of his teammate, Jorge Lorenzo, who cut to the quick regarding market rumors on his account and, even if he took a fall, he gave it his all and remedied an excellent fourth best time.
And then there's the mystery of Ducati. Both Dovizioso and Petrucci reiterated the improvement of the GP19 at Le Mans but, in the meantime, their opponents have increased in number and in quality.
Tardozzi: We've improved, but there are more opponents, and Marquez is Marquez. 5 titles in six years.
"This year, Honda has taken a big step forward, then Suzuki arrived, which was not present last year," observed Davide Tardozzi. "There is no doubt that competing for the world championship is becoming increasingly difficult. But we're here."
And if 2017 and 2018 were two missed opportunities?
True. As it is also undeniable that, perhaps, 2017 and 2018 represent two wasted opportunities for the team from Bologna.
"Arriving twice in second behind a rider like Marquez is, however, a great result, which cannot be underestimated ," underlined Tardozzi, who also added, "Marc's value obviously cannot be questioned. He won five world titles in the last five years!"
An implicit recognition. However, his name will be at the top of the shopping list for the first Ducati ride of 2021.
Ducati is the only team that can tempt Marquez in the future.
Despite this, the team manager ensures us that, they’re not looking into the riders’ market at the moment at Borgo Panigale, since they're concentrated in developing the bike. Whether we believe him or not - we don't - it basically doesn't matter. In two months, at most, they'll have to think about it and not just to decide whether to keep Petrucci in 2020. The stakes are much more important. In fact, it's a matter of deciding whether the entire team will have to then be changed in 2021 - with all the risks that this entails in terms of development - or already decide who will bear the transition. Even if, from this point-of-view, Pecco Bagnaia's role as heir is evident.
But perhaps touching these topics is too early because there are currently other interesting ones, even if not many. Think of the family feud between the Espargarò brothers, Pol and Aleix, which represents the duel between KTM and Aprilia. The two teams that continue to chase each other in pursuit of that extra step forward which, given the quality of the competitors in the field, has to become a big leap.
The podium objectively still seems far away for both but progress is visible. Neither one seems resigned to their current role.