Aleix Espargaro is ready for his first MotoGP race of the 2021 season after securing eighth in Saturday’s Q2 in Qatar.
Just one-tenth separated the Aprilia rider from the second row after the Spaniard completed a 1’53.315 fastest lap around the Losail International Circuit in preparation for Sunday’s 22-lap contest.
Lining up between Franky Morbidelli and Alex Rins, Espargaro’s time was just half a second shy of Pecco Bagnaia’s breathtaking pole effort, showing the considerable improvements made to the Noale factory’s RS-GP machine.
Espargaro was in animated form as he discussed Saturdays’ developments, stating “I’m having fun riding the new RS-GP and I believe in its potential. We may still have some limits in qualifying. I did some very good laps without mistakes, but it wasn’t enough for a spot on the second row. Race strategies will be fundamental. Today we saw some incredible times, but tomorrow in the final laps, race pace will go up quite a bit. We’ll see how this will translate for us. Today we did a few long runs, but this bike’s true potential is still unknown.”
“I was nervous but sincerely I was excited to go out on track because I knew I could fly. I could enjoy a lot riding the bike and the three laps on ‘53.5 pace were super good. I expected to go ’53.2, ’53.1 so I miss some tenths, but I will try to give it a go again next week.
“This is our limit with a qualifying configuration, I think it’s difficult to go faster. If you give me six days I will reconfirm next qualifying, but yes I think this is close to the limit.” The modest Spaniard continued “I don’t like to say ‘perfect lap’ but it was close to perfection, I ride very, very, very good and the problem was that every time I lose the front I couldn’t make more corner speed. If you want to be the level of the Ducati or Yamaha’s you need to be very fast in the mid corner because I don’t have their engine.
“With this temperature it was very hot and I collapse the front tyre so I couldn’t make more corner speed, it was kind of a limit and I was very angry because I could feel that I couldn’t release the brakes more, but at least to feel these already in the first race, to be able to control the losing of the front in every corner in the qualifying, it means that this bike and me, we are in a good connection so I’m happy about this.
“Everybody’s saying that here in Qatar we will have a big group but I’m not that sure. We can spot the difference between the riders in FP4, we could see that some Yamahas are very strong. There is no doubt that the first part of the race the Ducati’s will lead because there’s no way you can be in front of them with the power they have.
“The race will be very fun but I’m not sure that in mid-race we will have a group of eight, nine bikes, let’s see. We have to see that pace of everybody but I think some will start to drop a little bit earlier, before the mid-race. I will choose soft, soft. I’m not super worried about the rear tyre consumption. Tomorrow we will see - is the first race with his bike - but I’m a little bit more in trouble with a full tank, to stop the bike in the first part of the race, than with rear tyre consumption, which I think maybe can be the biggest problem for Ducati. Maybe Yamaha will struggle more at the beginning of the race to be able to stay with the Ducati’s. I think everybody has his own problems and we’ll see who is able to put everything together.”