Takaaki Nakagami put previous COVID-19 troubles behind him during FP1 in Argentina, defeating current MotoGP world champion Fabio Quartararo to take the top spot.
On several occasions, Nakagami displayed outstanding speed, as well as an impressive ability to adjust to the Termas de Rio Honda Circuit after arriving late.
Honda were able to take some comfort in the knowing that Nakagami was available when Marc Marquez was ruled out of the Argentina MotoGP due to chronic diplopia difficulties.
The LCR rider had been ruled out owing to a positive COVID-19 test, but a positive PCR test on Friday allowed the Japanese rider to make the late journey.
With track time more valuable than ever, a full line-up of riders took to the Termas de Rio Hondo Circuit in what was MotoGP’s first visit to Argentina since 2019.
With barely a few minutes on the clock, Nakagami found his stride and went first. However, defending world champion Fabio Quartararo quickly pushed the Japanese rider to second place.
Quartararo, fresh off his maiden podium of the season, was one of the first to react to the changing track conditions. Jorge Martin, a Pramac rider, was in the same boat.
The Spaniard, who has yet to gain points in the first two races, led Nakagami by three tenths of a second, until Aleix Espargaro and Aprilia jumped to the top of the standings.
Brad Binder put his KTM top on before getting very loose on entry to turn one as grip improved.
Francesco Bagnaia, in desperate need of a return to form, was languishing down the order to start FP1, not a sight Ducati would have liked to see.
With 15 minutes gone, there were no Ducati riders in the top ten; instead, Yamahas, Suzukis, KTMs, and Aprilias dominated. Fabio Di Giannantonio, a novice, lost part of his fairing along the start-finish straight, which was concerning. Before any potential incident could occur, a Dorna official promptly grabbed the fractured piece.
Bagnaia rushed off-track as he tried everything to pick up the pace. Fortunately for the Italian, there was no accident, which would have been a nightmare owing to the tight timeline.
Despite the fact that Jack Miller (outside the top ten) and Quartararo were riding at different speeds, both riders experienced significant wobbles on corner departure, since bike shaking had become the norm.
As a result, the gap between Miller and the Frenchman was quickly cut to two tenths of a second. As he exited turn 11, Luca Marini joined the bike-shaking club with a slightly less violent episode of front-end shaking.
Aprilia continued its great start to the day by demonstrating even more serious potential halfway through FP1. Aleix Espargaro began a period in which he set four consecutive fastest laps, while Maverick Vinales was comfortably running fourth.
It took several minutes for any other rider to come in on the Spaniard after he went four tenths ahead of his brother, Pol. The rider in question was Quartararo, who finished P2 on the Monster Energy Yamaha, with a margin of +0.390s between them.
With just over 15 minutes remaining, Bagnaia had worked his way up to sixth, but the Bologna bullets appeared to be having trouble with the long corners. Despite the fact that Espargaro appeared to be on track to win FP1, Nakagami took the lead after a late switch to a new rear tyre.
Quartararo, however, went fastest from the fifth-year premier class rider in what appeared to be a perfect duplicate of the start of FP1. Freshmen Marco Bezzecchi and Remy Gardner made early professions of intent. The latter climbed to P10, but it was the Italian who set the pace.
In what appeared to be his first time-topping session, Bezzecchi took the lead with less than a minute to go. Before Espargaro’s Quartararo and Nakagami’s late laps, it was the case.
MOTOGP ARGENTINA, TERMAS – FREE PRACTICE (1) RESULTS
|1||Takaaki Nakagami||JPN||LCR Honda (RC213V)||1’39.028s||24/25||335k|
|2||Fabio Quartararo||FRA||Monster Yamaha (YZR-M1)||+0.127s||25/28||331k|
|3||Pol Espargaro||SPA||Repsol Honda (RC213V)||+0.195s||23/24||333k|
|4||Aleix Espargaro||SPA||Aprilia Racing (RS-GP)||+0.196s||18/19||336k|
|5||Marco Bezzecchi||ITA||Mooney VR46 Ducati (GP21)*||+0.202s||20/21||338k|
|6||Alex Rins||SPA||Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR)||+0.246s||25/26||337k|
|7||Miguel Oliveira||POR||Red Bull KTM (RC16)||+0.290s||25/26||329k|
|8||Maverick Viñales||SPA||Aprilia Racing (RS-GP)||+0.368s||22/23||336k|
|9||Brad Binder||RSA||Red Bull KTM (RC16)||+0.397s||24/26||336k|
|10||Joan Mir||SPA||Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR)||+0.399s||26/26||335k|
|11||Enea Bastianini||ITA||Gresini Ducati (GP21)||+0.561s||18/19||336k|
|12||Francesco Bagnaia||ITA||Ducati Lenovo (GP22)||+0.594s||24/25||334k|
|13||Remy Gardner||AUS||KTM Tech3 (RC16)*||+0.676s||20/22||333k|
|14||Alex Marquez||SPA||LCR Honda (RC213V)||+0.728s||24/27||334k|
|15||Johann Zarco||FRA||Pramac Ducati (GP22)||+0.774s||23/27||336k|
|16||Luca Marini||ITA||Mooney VR46 Ducati (GP22)||+0.802s||20/20||334k|
|17||Jack Miller||AUS||Ducati Lenovo (GP22)||+0.871s||19/21||335k|
|18||Franco Morbidelli||ITA||Monster Yamaha (YZR-M1)||+0.932s||26/27||330k|
|19||Fabio Di Giannantonio||ITA||Gresini Ducati (GP21)*||+0.976s||18/20||335k|
|20||Jorge Martin||SPA||Pramac Ducati (GP22)||+1.154s||23/24||334k|
|21||Darryn Binder||RSA||WithU Yamaha RNF (YZR-M1)*||+1.265s||22/23||334k|
|22||Stefan Bradl||GER||Repsol Honda (RC213V)||+1.318s||22/23||334k|
|23||Raul Fernandez||SPA||KTM Tech3 (RC16)*||+1.446s||24/26||330k|
|24||Andrea Dovizioso||ITA||WithU Yamaha RNF (YZR-M1)||+1.693s||13/26||331k|