Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) upset the odds on day 1 at the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas at Circuit of The Americas after ending FP2 at the top of the time sheets, his 2m03.857s enough to beat red hot Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) by 0.044s, with Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) completing the top three as just 0.146s split the trio.
With 11 minutes to go, the stage was set for a mini qualifying session to take place in Austin. Wet weather is forecast for most of Saturday, meaning the times in FP2 look likely to be your Q1 and automatic Q2 classifications.
Rossi was the first big improver, jumping up to P2 from P9 on the soft-soft tire combination to place himself 0.105s off leader Marquez, with Rossi then pulling into pitlane to put a fresh rear tire into his M1 machine.
It was red sectors galore as FP2 entered the final seven minutes with Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) shadowing Marquez — who was sporting a Ducati style air deflector in FP2 — as the pair went into qualifying mode, and it was the Ducati man who took top spot as the pair crossed the line exchanging fastest laps. But it wouldn’t last long as Vinales took the P1 baton, going quicker by over a tenth and just when it looked like Marquez would go back to the summit, a mistake at Turn 18 cost him time.
Rossi then went up to second with 15 seconds to go, with Alex Rins (Team Ecstar Suzuki) and Andrea Dovizioso (Mission Winnow Ducati) on the fringes of being out of the top 10. Rookies Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) had managed to get themselves into the top 10 and as the checkered flag dropped, Rins needed to pull something out the bag on his last flying lap. And that’s exactly what he did, the Spaniard clambering his way to P6 to push Dovizioso out of the top 10. His teammate Danilo Petrucci also missed out on a provisional automatic Q2 place.
So in the end, Vinales took spoils over Marquez to lead the reigning champion by 0.044s, with Rossi and Miller both a tenth away. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) was fifth at the end of Friday’s running, the British rider 0.261s off Vinales, with Rins P6. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Pol Espargaro went very well on the soft-soft tire combination to finish 0.507s from P1, cementing his top-10 pace shown by finishing P6 in FP1. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) got himself into the top 10 in the latter stages to finish eighth after an 11th place in FP1, just ahead of teammate Quartararo. Bagnaia occupies the final provisional automatic Q2 spot in P10, a good improvement from his P19 in FP1 as the two Pramac Racing Ducatis are the only Desmosedicis in the top 10.