Morbidelli storms to front row in stormy Sepang
Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Franco Morbidelli’s challenge for a sixth podium finish in 10 Moto2 World Championship races will commence from the front row of the grid at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.
The Italian’s superb streak of form continued in a tricky qualifying session that saw the Moto2 field encounter yet more incredibly difficult track conditions.
After a rain-disrupted final practice session this morning in which Morbidelli finished a strong second behind Takaaki Nakagami, heavy early afternoon rain meant the 5.5km Sepang International Circuit was still soaked when the 45-minute qualifying session resumed.
Sepang’s new asphalt offered superb levels of grip and feedback but the treacherous conditions demanded intense concentration and Morbidelli brilliantly rose to the task once again.
A late lap of 2’20’755 was fast enough to secure the 21-year-old second place on the grid for his fifth career front row start. Morbidelli’s pace in both dry and wet conditions suggests he is going to be capable of launching a strong challenge for a fourth successive podium finish in tomorrow’s 10-lap race, which is the penultimate round of the 2016 campaign.
Álex Márquez was left mystified after a disappointing qualifying session in the tricky conditions at Sepang. The 20-year-old Spaniard was fast in mixed conditions yesterday but was unable to find a confidence inspiring feeling with his Kalex Moto2 machine today. Set-up changes during the 45-minute session brought no improvement and Márquez will start tomorrow's race from 21st position on the grid.
Franco Morbidelli: 2nd – 2’20’755
“That wasn’t an easy qualifying session considering the condition of the track but at least we knew earlier on that it was going to be wet and we could be prepared for that. I felt confident to push from the beginning and we knew it was going to stay wet because it seems a feature of the new surface is that it is quite slow to dry. The problem is that it is quite difficult to gauge where the track is wet and where it is dry because of the new asphalt, so you have to be careful to understand where you can attack to make the lap time. Conditions did improve but at no stage did I think the track was drying out sufficiently enough for slick tyres. At the end of the session the wet tyres were getting worn a lot but in that situation it is quite good fun to ride when the bike is sliding around. I’m happy to have got on the front row of the grid again and this gives me a good chance to be on the podium for the fourth race in a row. We have to wait now to understand what the weather will do but I feel confident that I can be at the front in wet or dry conditions.”
Álex Márquez: 21st – 2’24’145
“I was hoping to be stronger in qualifying but unfortunately we haven’t been able to improve the bike like we needed to in the wet conditions. I just didn’t have the right feeling to push close to the limit in the wet and I felt like I was risking crashing a lot. I had many big moments and I decided not to take too many risks after my big crash in qualifying last weekend in Australia. Tomorrow is another day but I am anticipating a difficult race in the dry or the rain. We haven’t had enough dry track time to find a good set-up for slicks and we need to make a big step in improving my feeling in the wet if the rain comes again. I am still in a positive frame of mind and my goal is to be aggressive in the early part of the race and leave here with a good solid points finish heading to the final round in Valencia.”