"The position in the combined standings stems from the fact that I was unable to do a flying lap, first because of traffic and then due to a yellow flag. That aside, I am pleased. I confirmed that the RS-GP works decidedly well here too. Even though we still have room for improvement in acceleration, I am confident that I’ll be able to battle consistently in the top ten. As already happened in Brno, here in Austria we did not have the problems we remember from last year, and that is positive. Hopefully, we’ll be able to work on a dry track tomorrow and demonstrate our level."
THE WEATHER SHORTENS THE FIRST DAY OF PRACTICE IN AUSTRIA
The true protagonist of the first day of practice in Austria was the weather which, with rainfall in the afternoon, made the second free practice session not so indicative. In fact, many of the riders, including the Aprilia standard bearers, chose to go out on the track for just a few laps, testing out the asphalt conditions.
The first session on the fast Red Bull Ring, on the other hand, took place on a dry track and almost in qualifying conditions. Given the risk of rain, there were plenty of time attacks as the riders tried to nail down a good time in the combined standings. What resulted was an extremely heated session where, in the end, 18 riders were separated by less than one second and all the bikes on the grid were within no more than a second and a half of one another.
Aleix, after spending a good part of the session in the top 10, was unable to exploit his RS-GP when it came time to squeeze the best performance from it. In any case, the Spanish rider was able to keep the gap within less than one second.
For Bradley, on the other hand, a crash kept him from putting his best time on the sheets just as he was doing some rather interesting intermediate times. His session ended with an abrasion to his elbow which, however, is not enough to keep him from carrying on for the weekend.
He missed the top 10 by just 36 thousandths after FP1 but, with a magnificent afternoon session, Aleix Espargaró rode his Aprilia RS-GP to a provisional seventh place position. This is a good sign for the start of the Brno weekend, despite less-than-perfect grip conditions that have the techs working hard to prepare for the race on Sunday.
Bradley Smith’s performance is one that needs to be examined in detail, since he was one of the very few who did not attempt a time attack with the soft tyre. His gap behind the leader is therefore understandable in terms of the flying lap, whereas in terms of pace and feeling, the situation is rather solid for the Brit.
As already announced, great attention will be placed on preparing for Sunday’s 21 laps. Tyre wear and consistent performance will be the key factors for the race in the Czech Republic, but without neglecting good performance in the qualifiers.
"We knew we would need to take full advantage of the dry session this morning, given the forecast. That’s why I decided to use two soft tyres, and I was demonstrating good potential with the second one. Unfortunately, I pushed a bit too hard on turn 4 and went down. It’s a pity because it would have been a good lap. The afternoon, on the other hand, was frustrating, with the track in mixed conditions that didn’t let us improve. Tomorrow we’ll work primarily on managing the power coming out of the slower turns and on downhill braking - the situation in which I crashed. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and let us move forward with our programme."