Fabio Quartararo led the times as the IndonesianGP fired up on Friday but despite being back on top the Yamaha man was playing down the achievement.
Setting a 1’31.608 lap on his second to last of the opening day, Quartararo was matched by his Monster Energy teammate Franky Morbidelli for second, just 0.03s behind. A more promising showing than last time out at Qatar when the pair crossed the line ninth and eleventh respectively.
The Frenchman was nonchalant of the achievement, however, explaining he expected to run at the front after a promising preseason outing just five weeks ago, and was even anticipating more from the initial action.
“"Last test we ride six-tenths faster than this,” Quartararo explained. “So I expect to be fast because to be honest, I finished second at 0.014 or something from Pol in the test.
My pace was really fast and I felt that the bike had a great potential but we had three days of test. Okay, tyre change, tarmac change, so to be honest I expect to finish in the top five today. Of course P1 is much better, but I expect to be there.”
While the MotoGP riders have experience of the Mandalika Circuit, inclement weather, new tyres and a resurfaced layout threw up plenty of unknowns.
“Basically this morning, I didn't felt so great with the wet patches and at the end I tried the hard front and was a bit of a disaster,” he continued on his day’s progress. “Didn't have a great feeling. This afternoon basically we started with the bike of the test and we had a second bike a bit different to try. I had no time to test really the bike from the test and we directly go with a new setup and we had to finish with this bike because I had an issue on the electronics. But feeling was good and I think we still have a little bit of potential to improve.
"I had the same feeling as the test,” he continued. “To be honest, when we finish the test here, you ride three days, the track basically was black of rubber from GP bikes and today was the first day and I felt a little bit like day one. We had to adapt a little bit but I feel great and I think that we have to make a step in sector one, that is the sector that I am really bad at. I have to make a step on the riding style there. But my feeling was great and I think that basically is what I expect today. Like I said not to finish P1 maybe but to be up there, one/two/three-tenths from P1.”
Discussing his potential for the weekend ahead, the reigning MotoGP Champion is remaining cautiously optimistic despite the raft of unknowns left on the table.
"We make only one practice in full conditions. We know that I don't make the race distance with tyre. I don't know which tyre to use. Maybe if you ask me this question tomorrow, I can answer more clearly but right now I feel that our pace is really fast and we are really consistent. So I guess we have a great potential for the race, but I prefer to stay quiet and work well tomorrow.”
Quartararo was one of the most vocal on the need for resurfacing after February’s testing visit, having described ‘turn one, a total disaster’ due to the degradation after just three days of action.
“To be honest, the new part was not bad, but strange,” the Frenchman admitted. “For me some area of the track had a lot of grip and some don't have. Also the new tarmac dries much slower than the old one but to be honest, I think it's not so bad. Just like I said is really strange because you expect like out of last corner the grip is much better than turn one and two, and then in turn four exit you have much more. I think when we start to let the rubber in the entry corners, it will get better.
“It was still a little bit dirty, but much less than the test,” he commented, despite Friday’s rain. "In the test we can see clearly, because like I said we ride three days, we can see really the black rubber on the lines and then outside you can see that was nobody going there. So I think was not bad.”
The final change facing the premier class on Friday was the new Michelin tyres, utilising compounds from the Mandalika test with older casing structure from 2018.
“For me, it was a little bit worse and you can feel it,” Quartararo analysed. “But it's totally different because you finished the test, like I said before, three days of test the black was full of rubber. Today's the first day of riding. We don't make so many laps like in the test to clean and put rubber on the track.
"I expect much more change with this rear tyre but for me the performance and consistency, the tyre that we had at the test was much better.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by his Monster Yamaha teammate Morbidelli, despite the pair locking out the times in FP2.
“I would say that the tyres feel worse than then the normal tyres that we use but for sure, we struggled less. As I was hoping in Qatar, here with less grip we struggled less but also these tyres bring even less grip and finally it came out today that we didn't struggle. Actually we were really fast. So I would say that the performance went down for everybody but for us a little bit less.”