Fiat Yamaha Team riders Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards got the first ever Grand Prix of the new 800cc era off to a flying start in Qatar today, both lapping comfortably under the 990cc circuit record and finishing the day in first and second places after two free practice sessions. Following a long winter of testing it was a relief for the team to finally get the season underway, with this the first time the championship has begun outside Europe since Rossi's historic first win with Yamaha in South Africa in 2004.
After an excellent performance at the test here just a few weeks ago, Rossi and Edwards were both confident of a strong start today and there were no surprises from their 800cc M1s, running in their new Fiat Yamaha Team livery for the first time. Edwards finished the morning session on top with his team-mate close behind in third whilst Rossi dominated the second free practice this afternoon, sitting at the top of the time sheets for the majority of the hour-long session. Edwards, despite not bettering his time from this morning, was second, just over three-tenths of a second behind his Italian team-mate.
Today was also the first day of the new MotoGP tyre regulations, which stipulate a maximum of 31 tyres (14 fronts and 17 rears) per rider during a Grand Prix weekend. This has forced the teams to alter the way they work throughout the practice sessions but Rossi especially is confident that these new rules will help rather than hinder the riders, bringing increased clarity on set-up decisions and making it easier to plan the weekend's work.
Valentino Rossi, Position: 1st - Time: 1'56.464, Laps: 47;
"It was a very good beginning for all of the team; it's a new season and we have a new sponsor and livery so it's good to start with both Colin and I at the top! We were in a good situation at the test here also but really the most important test was Jerez, because there we understood a lot more about our bike and we made some important changes. It seems here that the setting is very good and we were fast from the start this morning. I'm very happy with my Yamaha today, I can ride it well, I have a good rhythm and it's great fun to ride here in Qatar! For me, the new tyre rule is very good. Like this you know just what you have from the start, it's much more logical and there is less confusion for everyone. It means we can make decisions more quickly and I think, especially with a delicate bike like ours, that it's going to be helpful to have such a clear situation with tyres from the start of every weekend. Now let's see how we get on tomorrow and try to keep this rhythm going throughout the weekend."
Colin Edwards, Position: 2nd - Time: 1'56.665, Laps: 45;
"Today's gone pretty good, I think we can say we've made a strong start to the weekend. After finding a great setting here at the test we made a few more changes in Jerez and made the bike even better. We started off today with the bike set-up pretty similar to Jerez, with just a few small changes, and it seemed to work well from the off. We had a little bit of an issue this morning with a tyre, but we compared notes with Valentino afterwards and sorted that out pretty quickly between us. It's the first day of the new tyre rules and it's a little bit scary to know that there's no longer an inexhaustible supply, but we just have to slightly adapt the way we work to accommodate it and I think it will work well in the long run. Here it could be more of an issue because the conditions can be quite changeable from day to day, but we'll keep our fingers crossed that we stay in the 'range' and save one of each of our best tyres for race day."
Davide Brivio - Team Director;
"This is a very good start to the season because both riders are feeling comfortable and finding it easy to keep a good pace. Now the most important matter is to make a good tyre choice, especially considering the new rules. It's definitely helped that we've tested here not long ago but we also made a lot of progress in Jerez and this has showed today. It's only Thursday of course and the race is a different matter, but it's nice for the team to be in first and second and we couldn't have hoped for a better start to the weekend."
Nicky Hayden - 1'57.922 sec, 45 laps, 242 Km;
"It hasn't been the way we really wanted to start the first race weekend of the season. We had a few little issues with one of the bikes this morning which cost us some time. The problems I had testing here seem to have followed me back and it feels like I'm still in that little rut with trying to get the front to steer as I want it.
It's still early though, so we're confident of improvements as we go on. There are some parts of the track where I feel really good and other parts don't feel that quick. So there's a lot of work to do and we'll definitely have a busy night trying to come up with some answers. It's too early to say how the new tyre regulations will work out - we'll find that out on Saturday!"
Dani Pedrosa - 1'56.990 sec, 49 laps, 263 Km;
"Well the season has begun and we're working hard again! Today we made some progress and were able to achieve a fairly fast lap time, though we need to make further improvements with the set-up of the bike because we are a little bit behind the leaders.
It's still too early to decide how the new tyre regulations will affect us in the race and we have to work hard with Michelin tonight and tomorrow to choose the best race tyre from the ones we have selected. This will be one of the major goals for tomorrow. The condition of the track seems to be improving and we expect it to become a little cleaner still."
Casey Stoner, 3rd fastest, 1m 56.745s;
"We found some reasonably good tyres and straight away we were quicker than in testing a few weeks back, plus the track condition is good, so I'm really happy. This morning and this afternoon I only had one set of tyres each session, so I'm quite happy with tyre life and the way they've performed. This afternoon we ran into a few little problems with the bike but other than that everything is going quite well. We had to work at getting some traction with the last tyre I used, the front end wasn't turning as well as we'd like it to, so we improved that a little bit towards the end. We've still got a fair bit to go through tomorrow, though we've pretty much narrowed rear choice down to two tyres. The new tyre rules aren't a drama - during testing we worked with that system to get accustomed to it, though we pretty much know what tyres to use here and Jerez because we've tested at both tracks recently, so we've been able to minimise the selection."
Loris Capirossi, 8th fastest, 1m 57.247s;
"We started here with two different chassis set-ups, with very different settings in the rear end. I first tried one of these solutions at Jerez and I liked it very much, so I am continuing in this direction, though after just two hours of practice it's not yet perfect for this track. We use a very hard front here, a specific tyre for this circuit only, and I don't yet feel 100 per cent confident in the tyre, but Casey is using the same front and he's done a lot of laps with it and done some very fast times, so that gives me confidence. The new tyre rules do change the strategy of practice. You are restricted to how many tyres you can use, so sometimes you have to do a lot of laps on a tyre even if you don't feel totally happy with it. But it's the same for everyone and it's okay. The bike is working very well in race trim, racing is always different from practicing, so I'm feeling positive about the race."
"We're pretty happy with today. The pain level in my hand has been quite high so my pain threshold has had to withstand that all day. I've been working hard with the MotoGP clinic and my trainer Johnny Louch, and Team Physio Dean Miller, have been doing a tremendous job getting me back to fitness. Bridgestone has also done an exceptional job here this week by bringing some really good tyres, they have stepped it up massively from what we had here at the test. I think this is the first time in my career that I have only used two rear tyres in a whole day! I ran one for this morning session and another for the whole of the afternoon and set my fastest lap-time on the last lap in both cases. We still have a couple more things to do to the bike tomorrow but we will be ready for qualifying and I'll be doing every thing I can to bring the pain in my hand down. Then we'll be ready to go racing when Saturday comes!"
"We were well prepared for this track this morning as we were only here a couple of weeks ago. We didn't have a lot of things to test so the biggest issue was tyre choice - now that we have a limited amount it's important to pick the right ones. In the morning I had a bit of a brake issue on both bikes and it cost us a bit of time getting it sorted. This afternoon we managed to get it all sorted and I was able to get into more of a rhythm. We have found a good direction with the bike and the tyres and we have some good ideas of things to try tomorrow."
Shinya Nakano - Rider, KONICA MINOLTA Honda (55 laps - 1'57.474" - 10th position);
"I think I was riding OK this morning but we had a different tyre on this afternoon. I made some changes to the front and rear suspension to get the bike to turn quicker and this made a big improvement, but the tyre I used in the afternoon wasn't as good as the one I had in the morning, so I'm looking forward to using these settings on a better tyre. These new rules are the same for everybody, but we decided to keep some tyres for Friday's practice and qualifying. I think we need around half a second or more from tomorrow, so I will be trying my best to find that time. Track conditions have been better for a first day than I've seen them before, but they're sure to improve when more rubber gets laid down. Tomorrow I'll be looking at refining my race set-up - which is vital - and then using two qualifying tyres to find my place on the grid.
Alex Barros (11th - 1'57.620):
"I am very happy with my debut for this first race of the new season; I was anxious to breath deeply once again the competitive spirit within MotoGP. Despite the no t-so-good conditions of the track, today's session was satisfying. The goal was to work in the racepace, because that's what counts. We started working with the good base setting we found here in Losail last month, tweaking a few things with the suspension and testing the front and rear tires we will choose for the race. I am feeling quite comfortable on the bike but we have to improve in the slower, 180° corners, where we're suffering a little bit. Tomorrow, we will continue to work on tires selection and on the electronics of the engine to make the bike easier to ride for the entire race. We have some space to improve. We are looking to find a few tenths here and there to be competitive and fighting for the podium, which is my objective for this season. I am ready to start this new season and do my best!"
"Setting the fastest lap time by Honda rider is not the most important thing, I would prefer to be the fastest Honda rider in top speed. We made positive steps today with braking stability and I feel very good on the bike, better than at the Qatar test last month. But we still need improvements, including top speed, it is critical for overtaking, but I have every confidence in Honda. The new tyre rule is OK for me -- less confusion and easier -- and our main job now is to improve the consistency of the rear-end set-up and make a final tyre choice for the race."
Randy de Puniet: 13th - 46 Laps - Best Lap 1'57.686;
"The base set-up we have is working well here and I was able to put in some fast and consistent laps this afternoon. Late on in the session we tried another race tyre option and I think that, with more time on this tyre tomorrow, it could well lead to an improvement in my lap time during Saturday's race. We still need to work a little more on refining the overall set-up of the bike, but it's fairly obvious that we are a little bit down on top speed here. The bike is quick through the few fast corners on this track, but we're losing out at other points, like on the main straight."
Olivier Jacque: 17th - 40 Laps - Best Lap 1'58.523;
"After the crash that I had here during the test, we decided to take it easy and not hurry today. We had a tough morning, firstly with a gearbox problem that caused me to run straight on a couple of times, and then with a complete lack of feeling on the front like I had no grip. I was not confident of ending the first day with a good feeling, but we did a couple of front suspension modifications for my last run and I feel that we are now going in the right direction."
Alex Hofmann ( 16th - 1'58.206):
"Today was a special day for me because I started another Championship with the same Team I had last year, and because I'm facing this new challenge with a fighting spirit like I've never had before. This season represents to me a crucial turning point and I want to give my all so I can show everybody I'm really fast. Today's set-up was the one defined at last month's test here in Losail therefore I focused my work today on the Bridgestone tires that work well here. In the morning I didn't have any problems and the feeling with the bike was good. In fact, my best time of the morning was 1'58.021, while in the afternoon, maybe because of the higher track temperatures, I lost my good feeling with the front. The several changes we tried didn't solve this problem today, but I am sure that tomorrow we will find the right setting for the bike which will allow me to make a good race. I want to t hank the team because I know they've worked long and hard during the preseason, and now it's finally time to race!".
Andrew Pitt, Ilmor GP Rider:
"We had a few problems during the second practice session and I had to use
my spare bike - minor electrical issues, nothing major. I did 35 laps over the two practice sessions and had
some good consistent time to try out the different tyre compounds - we have the front sorted now and I think
we're nearly there with the rear. Overall I'm pleased with today, I got into the 1.59's which is good and we're
slowly closing the gap - I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
Jeremy McWilliams, Ilmor GP Rider:
"Today was positive - the bike is getting better. Again we made good
progress but we're still some way off where we want to be - it wasn't a bad start though. We tried some new
Michelin rubber today and I'm pleased with the performance. I had a couple of minor handling issues but we
collected a lot of information over the course of the day so we'll definitely be in better shape tomorrow."
2007 MotoGP Qatar - Free Practice;
- 1. Valentino Rossi, Yamaha (ITA) 1'56.464
- 2. Colin Edwards, Yamaha (USA) 0'0.201
- 3. Casey Stoner, Honda (AUS) 0'0.281
- 4. John Hopkins, Suzuki (USA) 0'0.508
- 5. Carlos Checa, Honda (ESP) 0'0.517
- 6. Daniel Pedrosa, Honda (ESP) 0'0.526
- 7. Marco Melandri, Honda (ITA) 0'0.648
- 8. Loris Capirossi, Ducati (ITA) 0'0.783
- 9. Toni Elias, Honda (ESP) 0'0.918
- 10. Shinya Nakano, Kawasaki (JPN) 0'1.027
- 11. Alex Barros, Ducati (BRA) 0'1.156
- 12. Chris Vermeulen, Suzuki (AUS) 0'1.172
- 13. Randy De Puniet, Kawasaki (FRA) 0'1.222
- 14. Kenny Roberts, Team Robert KR (USA) 0'1.274
- 15. Nicky Hayden, Honda (USA) 0'1.458
- 18. Sylvain Guintoli, Yamaha (FRA) 0'2.256
- 21. Makoto Tamada, Yamaha (JPN) 0'3.724