MotoGP

MotoGP riders split on Sunday Phillip Island qualifying

MotoGP riders have offered differing views on Australian Grand Prix qualifying being moved to Sunday morning, after high winds forced Saturday’s action to be abandoned.

After a high-speed crash for Tech3’s Miguel Oliveira during FP4, caused by a sudden gust of wind into the first corner, a safety commission meeting was called during the red-flag period.

The riders agreed to cancel the rest of Saturday’s activity on safety grounds, with qualifying now schedule to run directly after Sunday morning’s warm-up session.

However, Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro revealed the decision to run qualifying on Sunday was not made with the riders present.

“The question of doing Q2 tomorrow was not debated, [as] it was not a safety issue,” he said.

“The theme of the meeting was only for safety, not for deciding whether or not qualifying was run.”

While most riders are fine with qualifying on Sunday, some have voiced concerns, including LCR stand-in Johann Zarco – who believes none of the riders will push at their maximum given the race will take place just a few hours later.

“[It’s] hard, because you’ll have to push a lot on Sunday morning,” he noted.

“[You need] to really think we will not push as [we would on a normal] Saturday afternoon because if something happens, we have to race few hours later.

“But it is more fair. Better to do a qualifying on Sunday morning than [base the grid on] combined session [times].

“Good for some, bad for some others. It’s tricky conditions, tricky decisions.”

His LCR team-mate Cal Crutchlow, who was third on combined times from practice, said he does not “agree” with running qualifying on Sunday, as he is not convinced track conditions will be much safer to push on at 10am local time.

“I don’t agree with qualifying tomorrow,” Crutchlow said. “[My idea is] to take the FP2 times [to base the grid order].

“Obviously people will think I’m saying that because it’s a benefit to me because I’m on the front row.

“But you also have to think that the situation of going in Sunday at 10am in the morning, trying to qualify, and if the wind is still quite strong it’s going to be difficult.

“We will get to assess the track conditions before, because we will get a practice [warm-up], but I don’t think it’s necessary.

“I’m not saying that for my own benefit, I’m saying that for the safety. I can still get on the front row if I have to qualify again.”

Crutchlow also intimated that riders who were out of position after FP2 were behind a push to move qualifying to Sunday.

“They’ve [Dorna] got pressure haven’t they from people who never made their time in FP2?” he said. “That’s what it is.”

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