Morbidelli and Márquez star in thrilling Argentina qualifying
Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS riders Franco Morbidelli and Álex Márquez are confident they can mount a strong double podium challenge in tomorrow’s Termas de Rio Hondo Moto2 race, after both qualified on the front row of the grid at the end of a pulsating qualifying session.
After setting the quickest time in practice, Morbidelli was always confident he could compete for the front row, and the World Championship leader didn’t disappoint in a dramatic qualifying session that saw numerous changes at the top of the timesheets.
This afternoon’s 45-minute session started on a damp track, and Morbidelli preferred to adopt a conservative approach by using Dunlop’s rain tyres until he was confident enough the surface had dried sufficiently to switch to slick rubber.
The 22-year-old quickly got into a fast rhythm as track conditions improved lap-by-lap and he was a constant challenger for a second successive pole position. A best lap of 1’45.715 eventually placed Morbidelli second on the grid and he was only 0.099s adrift of today's pole man Miguel Oliveira.
Morbidelli may have employed a safety-first approach in the early part of the session, but Márquez took the bold decision to start qualifying on slick tyres. It seemed to be a genius decision when he moved immediately into top spot before further rain spots started to fall on the fast and sweeping South American circuit.
But no sooner did the rain arrive than it quickly ceased and Márquez returned to the circuit to continue posting a sequence of blisteringly fast lap times.
He finished the session with a quickest pace of 1’45.864 that preserved his 100% front row starting record in 2017, and the confident Spaniard is now determined to compete for his first Moto2 victory in what promises to be a classic 23-lap encounter in Argentina.
Franco Morbidelli: 2nd – 1’45.715
“At the start of the session I wasn’t brave enough to start on slick tyres because it looked like the track was still quite damp. I preferred to build up my pace and confidence on the wet tyres first and my team then told me on my board when it was the time to come in and switch to slicks because the lap times were dropping. I’m happy to be on the front row of the grid because that is always important and I am very optimistic that I can be fighting for the win again. My pace in FP2 was very strong but it should be a great battle and I’m looking forward to it.”
Álex Márquez: 3rd – 1’45.864
“I am happy to be starting from the front row again because the track conditions were changing all of the time and so many different riders were challenging for the top three. It was a brave decision to start the session on slicks but I felt like it was worth gambling in case it was not possible to improve the lap times if more rain came. On another day perhaps that strategy would have worked but being on the front row gives me another opportunity to fight for the podium and the win. I’ve felt strong all weekend and the team have given me a great package, so we start the race tomorrow with a lot of confidence and the expectation that we can be right in the mix.”