Three hours to shake the dust off, to start racing again, forgetting the months of forced inactivity. A breath of fresh air for the riders, it could be said, were it not for the fact that that in Jerez the temperatures are African and 60° on the asphalt is enough to cook an egg. No problem, the desire for MotoGP is so great and the two practice sessions have reopened the curtain once again, with many confirmations and some surprises lying behind it.
It's time to draw up the first conclusions...
Honda: still (Marc) Marquez-dependent
The 2020 aerodynamics ended up in the bin, but it is not clear if it was possible to recover some pieces to make masks or partitions from it. What has remained the same as before is Marc Marquez, which makes it virtually pointless for the engineers to bother. First in the morning, 3rd in the afternoon, soft rubber or whatever, the ‘bogeyman’ from Cervera demonstrated with the facts that the operation on his shoulder is just a distant memory. Nothing new under the Jerez sun.
As for the second row, the man on-his-way-out Cal Crutchlow is the only one that managed to put together something good. At least in the first session, because in the afternoon he slipped back (even a little further down the rankings). The Brit pointed his finger at the Michelin tyre, which no longer allows him to turn the bike by sliding, but Marc continues to do so.
Remaining in the Marquez family, Alex, as a rookie, is continuing his apprenticeship, which does not seem to be downhill at all. While Nakagami, also back from an operation on the shoulder that made him miss the last races of 2019, was virtually invisible.
Yamaha: The Phoenix studies to be a world champion
A brace in the afternoon for the future Vinales-Quartararo factory team, while in the morning it was Valentino who saved the day (morning) with 3rd fastest time. Morbidelli, on the other hand, always remained in the Top 10, but without showing any sparkle. The balance is still positive, the best from a brand perspective, which is a confirmation of what we had seen in Malaysia and Qatar.
The M1 has always remained the same (no revolutions for the Iwata conservatives) but its edges have been smoothed out. A bit more top speed (but not yet enough), some tweaks to the electronics, the usual fantastic chassis. At this point, there seem to be no more excuses not to aim for the title.
Internal rivalry will see to the rest, as long as it doesn't cause more damage than anything else.
Ducati: factory riders in the infirmary, Pramac saves the day
Not masks, it’s bandages that are needed in the garage of the Rossa. Dovizioso came off the back of an operation on his shoulder, Petrucci crashed (due to oil) and found himself in the Clinica Mobile. All in all, it could have been worse, Danilo only missed an hour of testing and Andrea at least had the confirmation that his shoulder was holding up, without taking too many risks.
In the limelight, then, were the Pramac men. Miller, with a factory team contract already in his pocket, was the best in the morning (7th), Bagnaia in the afternoon (6th). Good but not very good, with the extenuating circumstance that Ducati has never liked Jerez too much (only when Lorenzo was on the bike, on the podium in 2018). The impression is that we will not expect any particular debacle over the weekend.
And then there is the Michelin mystery, in the sense of the new rear tyre. Dovizioso says he still has to understand it, Miller and Bagnaia promoted it unconditionally. We’ll see who is right.
Suzuki: few special effects but a lot of substance
Sometimes Suzuki seems to be invisible, overshadowed by other more noble but not faster bikes. Then you has a look at the times and open your eyes. The GSX-RR (nothing new here) has improved and with it Rins and Mir. Alex took 2nd time in the morning and then 4th in the afternoon, right in front of Joan.
The two were also relaxed in their evening debriefs, but it’s always the quiet ones. So the Spanish pairing go (fast) their own way, leaving the spotlight to others. At least for now. Their tranquillity could be their secret weapon. We will see.
Aprilia: technical tests for a revolution
The RS-GP is like a new-born baby, who has been able to crawl for a few metres and who is missing one of its two dads. Yet it is lively, is elbowing for position and shows itself to be present. Its young age, however, creates problems and an oil leak has to be taken into consideration. On the other hand, Aleix Espargarò gets along very well with it and satisfaction over one lap was not lacking. Smith, chucked back into his role as a rider, is taking longer, but nobody can work miracles.
Anyway, Aprilia has made an incredible leap forward, even if malicious observers claim that it didn't take much to improve the old bike. If they are roses, they will bloom, but the first buds are already visible.
KTM: nothing new on the Austrian front
The Austrian battleship struggles to take off, it wades around cheerfully in calm waters but without ever going near the waves. The composition of its teams does not help, with two rookies and a decent enough Oliveira with only one year of experience on his shoulders. Pol Espargarò tries to go for it, but he can't do much.
The RC16 is a different bike from all the others (in chassis and suspension), but so far, its diversity has not paid off. It is not exactly a total hatchet job, but a lot more was expected from this.