Takaaki Nakagami headed Friday’s morning times at Red Bull Ring, as the heavens opened in FP2.

After five weeks of waiting, the MotoGP fans cheered when practice one got underway for the premier class. The motorcycling world was shaken on Thursday when it was announced Valentino Rossi would retire from MotoGP at the close of 2021.

There were changes in the riders this weekend, the field would increase to 23, with Dani Pedrosa making a long-awaited MotoGP return. Cal Crutchlow replaced the still-injured Franco Morbidelli too, it was a very high class of returnees in the Styrian hills.

The MotoGP engines roared to life and the first practice session got underway. After five weeks of not being on the bike, every minute was vital for getting back into shape for the second half of the season.

In the early part of the session, reigning world champion Joan Mir was flying, with current title leader Fabio Quartararo going fast too. Iker Lecuona was the first rider to go down, having a lazy low-side at turn 3. He and the bike were ok, and he continued back to the pits. Marc Marquez had a moment at turn 9, but he too gathered it up and continued on.

With the session about halfway done, most riders were in the pits changing setups and putting new tires on. It was still Mir on top, though it was Maverick Vinales in second from Quartararo. Pedrosa was doing an unbelievable job to be in the top 10 after not racing for almost three years.

Mere minutes after, Pedrosa was out of the session, with some kind of technical issue. Moments after that, fellow KTM rider Miguel Oliveira was down too. He looked fairly hurt, but he was up and made his way behind the barrier.

It was time for the quick runs to come in then, Aleix Espargaro looked fast and took top spot. It did not last long though, as Honda’s Takaaki Nakagami took the top spot, and there he stayed.

The top 5 from FP1 is as follows:

PositionRiderTeamTime/Gap
1Takaaki NakagamiLCR Honda1.23.805
2Joan MirSuzuki Ecstar+0.076
3Aleix EspargaroAprilia Gresini+0.378
4Alex RinsSuzuki Ecstar+0.416
5Pol EspargaroRepsol Honda+0.449

After the lunch break, it was FP2 time, and it was pouring rain. This could prove crucial for teams’ preparation because the race could be wet too. It did mean there would be no fast times, and it will throw a spanner in the works for the whole weekend.

Danilo Petrucci was the first rider to test the conditions, but there was no great rush to leave the pit lane. Tech3 teammate Lecuona made it 2 crashes on Friday, going down at turn 1. Despite this, he was fastest in the early part of the session.

By the halfway mark, it was Marc Marquez on top, but he did have his troubles, running off the track at turn 9. His brother Alex also ran off into the gravel at turn 4, but both continued on.

In the end, the rain made the session very tame. A dry line did begin to emerge in the dying moments, but only Jack Miller was keen to try a slick. It was Lorenzo Salvadori on top from Johann Zarco.

That concluded MotoGP’s Friday running. The top 5 from FP2 is as follows:

PositionRiderTeamTime/Gap
1Lorenzo SalvadoriAprilia Gresini1.31.304
2Johann ZarcoPramac Ducati+0.154
3Joan MirSuzuki Ecstar+0.262
4Francesco BagnaiaDucati Lenovo+0.878
5Aleix EspargaroAprilia Gresini+0.927

Journalist, writing various articles for ASN. MotoGP specialist and ASN's resident motorsports history nerd. Can generally be found screaming at stupid strategy choices while watching the tv.