MotoGP began the Spanish Grand Prix in cool, overcast conditions. Fabio Quartararo was the easy favorite after taking two wins on the trot and being the reigning Jerez winner. Marc Marquez comes back to Jerez 9 months after he broke his arm badly at turn 3, and will hope 2021 will serve him better in Andalucia.
FP1 is the session where the riders dial into their bikes, feel the track, and put early banker laps on the board in case of rain. Jerez is the first track on the calendar where every rider has significant experience. The track is a favorite for testing and every junior class rides there at some point during the year.
There were a few minor rider changes for this weekend. Jorge Martin is replaced by Tito Rabat as the Spaniard recovers from his massive FP3 crash in Portimao, and Stefan Bradl rides as a wildcard for Honda, alongside Marquez and Pol Espargaro. This means there will be 23 starters for the race on Sunday.
The green flag fell and the Spanish Grand Prix weekend was underway. All riders quickly went out on circuit to get in the groove and put early times on the board. By 10 minutes in, the times had dropped from 1.40s to 1.38s, with Yamaha largely in front. Aleix Espargaro spent the early session in second, splitting the Factory Yamaha of Quartararo and the Petronas Yamaha of Franco Morbidelli.
The times were, of course, not representative as it was so early in the session. Pol Espargaro ran off at turn 5 about 12 minutes in, while having a little battle with Enea Bastianini in the Esponsorama Ducati. There was a lull between runs in the middle of the session, and Aleix in the Aprilia was on top, from Quartararo, Morbidelli, and Maverick Vinales.
Joan Mir spent much of the early session in the pits, and was seemingly uncomfortable with the bike, laying last at halfway. He had been in and out more times than anyone, possibly with a problem too. There were only three riders on track with 25 minutes to go. All other riders were in the pits doing setup changes, refueling, and putting a fresh set of tires on.
Honda looked strong in their first FP1 run, with the three factory bikes 6-7-8 with 20 minutes left. Most riders were by this stage out on their second runs, with times continuing to drop. Red sectors were beginning to pop up, and world champion Mir was finally out on a run after 25 minutes in the pit lane.
With about 10 minutes to go, there was another moment of quiet, as riders readied themselves for the first qualifying run of the weekend. The top 16 were split by one second at this stage, but it was likely to change at the end.
The sun came out late in FP1, and it seemed as though the session would end with little change up front. Then, Brad Binder put a fantastic lap in to go top over Espargaro. It wasd KTM over Aprilia in FP1, which wasn’t what anyone expected. One second covered the top 19 in an incredibly close session.