MotoGP French GP: Under pressure Espargaro tops crash-strewn FP1

An under pressure Pol Espargaro on the Honda topped a crash-strewn opening practice for the MotoGP French Grand Prix ahead of Suzuki’s Alex Rins.

MotoGP French GP: Under pressure Espargaro tops crash-strewn FP1

Perfect conditions greeted the MotoGP paddock for the opening practice at Le Mans, with Suzuki’s Rins pertinently setting the early pace on the team’s first race weekend since the shock news of its decision to quit the series at the end of 2022.

With track conditions already at a good level, lap times continued to tumble across the session as Rins improved to a 1m32.545s 10 minutes into the session.

Maverick Vinales – winner at Le Mans in 2017 with Yamaha – took over from Rins with a 1m32.418s moments later on his Aprilia, before Jack Miller went faster on his Ducati.

Last year’s Le Mans race winner Miller would regain top spot from Fabio Quartararo with 25 minutes remaining with a 1m32.101s, before he beat his own lap in the final five minutes with a 1m31.961s.

Most of the field elected against fitting fresh rubber for the closing moments of FP1, but lap times remained strong despite this.

Home hero Quartararo shot to the top of the order on his Yamaha with a 1m31.912s, but would be denied ending FP1 fastest of all by Honda’s Espargaro.

Espargaro guided the Honda – which typically works well in high-grip conditions – demoted Quartararo with a 1m31.771s, while Rins shadowed him 0.109 seconds behind in second.

Alex Rins, Team Suzuki MotoGP

Alex Rins, Team Suzuki MotoGP

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

With Suzuki's bombshell news blowing open the rider market, Joan Mir has been linked to Espargaro's seat at Honda for 2023 - though he branded this as "fake news" on Thursday at Le Mans when asked about it.

Spanish GP winner Francesco Bagnaia completed the top three on the factory Ducati ahead of Quartararo and Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro, who debuted a new shoulder onboard camera this morning.

Mir was sixth on the second of the Suzukis ahead of Miller and Vinales, with another home favourite in Johann Zarco ninth on his Pramac Ducati.

VR46 Ducati rider Luca Marini rounded out the top 10 from Takaaki Nakagami on the LCR Honda and Gresini Ducati’s Enea Bastianini, who was one of five riders to crash in FP1.

Bastianini slid off his bike in the opening stages, but remounted to complete 18 laps, while KTM endured a bruising 45 minutes.

Brad Binder took a tumble at Turn 3 just under 15 minutes into FP1, while factory team-mate Miguel Oliveira had two tumbles – once at Turn 10 with 17 minutes to go, with the second at Turn 6 10 minutes later.

Compounding KTM’s misery was Tech3 rookie Raul Fernandez, who fell from his RC16 at Turn 10 with 15 minutes remaining as he makes his return from the wrist injury which ruled him out of the last two races.

Brad Binder, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, crash

Brad Binder, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, crash

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Yamaha’s Franco Morbidelli was the final faller in FP1, with the Italian left down in 20th ahead of Oliveira, Tech3 duo Remy Gardner and Fernadez, with Binder ahead in 18th.

Marc Marquez had a low-key start to his French GP weekend in 13th, though was only 0.495s off the pace and managed a remarkable save at the Turn 8 right-hander when he ran wide on the kerb and tucked the front-end of his Honda.

FP2 for the 2022 French GP will get underway at 2:10pm local time (1:10pm BST).

Results:

Cla Rider Bike Time Gap Interval
1 Spain Pol Espargaro Honda 1'31.771    
2 Spain Alex Rins Suzuki 1'31.880 0.109 0.109
3 Italy Francesco Bagnaia Ducati 1'31.893 0.122 0.013
4 France Fabio Quartararo Yamaha 1'31.912 0.141 0.019
5 Spain Aleix Espargaro Aprilia 1'31.933 0.162 0.021
6 Spain Joan Mir Suzuki 1'31.942 0.171 0.009
7 Australia Jack Miller Ducati 1'31.961 0.190 0.019
8 Spain Maverick Viñales Aprilia 1'32.078 0.307 0.117
9 France Johann Zarco Ducati 1'32.112 0.341 0.034
10 Italy Luca Marini Ducati 1'32.128 0.357 0.016
11 Japan Takaaki Nakagami Honda 1'32.165 0.394 0.037
12 Italy Enea Bastianini Ducati 1'32.255 0.484 0.090
13 Spain Marc Marquez Honda 1'32.266 0.495 0.011
14 Spain Jorge Martin Ducati 1'32.491 0.720 0.225
15 Italy Marco Bezzecchi Ducati 1'32.674 0.903 0.183
16 Italy Andrea Dovizioso Yamaha 1'32.736 0.965 0.062
17 Italy Fabio Di Giannantonio Ducati 1'32.755 0.984 0.019
18 South Africa Brad Binder KTM 1'32.756 0.985 0.001
19 Spain Alex Marquez Honda 1'32.762 0.991 0.006
20 Italy Franco Morbidelli Yamaha 1'32.937 1.166 0.175
21 Portugal Miguel Oliveira KTM 1'33.021 1.250 0.084
22 Australia Remy Gardner KTM 1'33.302 1.531 0.281
23 Spain Raúl Fernández KTM 1'34.151 2.380 0.849
24 South Africa Darryn Binder Yamaha 1'34.624 2.853 0.473
shares
comments
Leading MotoGP riders react to “ugly” Suzuki exit
Previous article

Leading MotoGP riders react to “ugly” Suzuki exit

Next article

MotoGP alters engine allocation for expanding calendars

MotoGP alters engine allocation for expanding calendars
The signs Quartararo’s 2022 MotoGP title is slipping away from him Plus

The signs Quartararo’s 2022 MotoGP title is slipping away from him

Prior to the summer break, the 2022 MotoGP title looked like it was Fabio Quartararo’s to lose. But a crash at Assen and the consequential penalty he had to serve last weekend at Silverstone stopped him from capitalising on a main rival’s injury woes, while a resurgence from another, plus the rise of a former team-mate, look set to conspire against the Yamaha rider

Why Marquez’s toughest MotoGP foe is stopping at the right time Plus

Why Marquez’s toughest MotoGP foe is stopping at the right time

On the eve of the British Grand Prix, Andrea Dovizioso announced that he will be retiring from MotoGP after September’s San Marino GP. The timing of his departure raised eyebrows, but his reasoning remains sensible and what has happened this year should not diminish a hard-built legacy

MotoGP
Aug 6, 2022
Why a Suzuki refugee feels he deserves MotoGP's toughest challenge Plus

Why a Suzuki refugee feels he deserves MotoGP's toughest challenge

Alex Rins’ MotoGP future was plunged into sudden doubt when Suzuki elected to quit the series at the end of 2022. Securing a deal with Honda to join LCR, he will now tread a path that many have fallen off from. But it was a move he felt his status deserved, and it’s a challenge – he tells Autosport - he faces with his eyes wide open…

MotoGP
Jul 27, 2022
How Formula 1 has driven MotoGP's changing nature Plus

How Formula 1 has driven MotoGP's changing nature

The hiring of technicians from Formula 1 has clearly contributed to a recent change in the MotoGP landscape, with the role of engineers gaining greater significance relative to the riders. Here's how this shift has come about

MotoGP
Jul 19, 2022
The revolution behind Aprilia's rise from MotoGP tail-ender to pack-leader Plus

The revolution behind Aprilia's rise from MotoGP tail-ender to pack-leader

Coinciding with the arrival of Massimo Rivola as head of its MotoGP division, Aprilia has undergone an internal revolution that has spurred it from occupying last place in the team standings to leading the table in the space of just two years. Those entrenched in the project reveal how the ex-Ferrari F1 chief has achieved the dramatic turnaround

MotoGP
Jul 15, 2022
The battle Yamaha's wayward son is fighting to be fast again in MotoGP Plus

The battle Yamaha's wayward son is fighting to be fast again in MotoGP

Franco Morbidelli was long overdue a promotion to factory machinery when it finally came late last year, having finished runner-up in the 2020 standings on an old Yamaha package. But since then the Italian has been a shadow of his former self as he toils to adapt to the 2022 M1, and recognises that he needs to change his style to be quick on it

MotoGP
Jul 13, 2022
Why Honda and Yamaha have been left behind in MotoGP's new era Plus

Why Honda and Yamaha have been left behind in MotoGP's new era

The once all-conquering Japanese manufacturers are going through a difficult period in MotoGP this season. With Suzuki quitting, Honda struggling to get near the podium and Yamaha only enjoying success courtesy of Fabio Quartararo, Japanese manufacturers have been left in the dust by their European counterparts. Key paddock figures explain why.

MotoGP
Jun 28, 2022
Who is Valentino Rossi’s newest MotoGP star? Plus

Who is Valentino Rossi’s newest MotoGP star?

Valentino Rossi’s protégés stole the show at Assen as Francesco Bagnaia stormed to victory to arrest a recent barren run. But it was the rider in second, on Bagnaia’s old bike, who had all eyes on him. Securing his and the VR46 team’s first MotoGP podium, Marco Bezzecchi has all the characteristics that made his mentor special

MotoGP
Jun 27, 2022