The Mugello circuit played host to the opening day of the Italian Grand Prix today under cloudy skies and although the rain stayed away the imperfect track conditions for first free practice saw a number of riders prefer to stay in their garage. Aspar Team rider Yonny Hernándeztook the opportunity to set the fastest time of the session, running the new intermediate Michelin tyres with impressive effect on the damp track as he clocked a 1’54.199. Fastest in the afternoon was factory Ducati rider Andrea Iannone, who took seven seconds off Hernández’s morning benchmark to top the combined classification ahead of series leader Jorge Lorenzo. Ducati test rider Michele Pirro impressed with the third fastest time ahead of Aleix Espargaró in fourth, with Lorenzo’s main title rivals Marc Márquez and Valentino Rossi rounding out the top six.
Aspar Team rider Yonny Hernández adapted better than anybody to the mixed conditions in the opening session, caused by rainfall some hours earlier. Hernández was one of the first riders out on the new intermediate Michelins and he was the fastest by a gap of some seven tenths. In the second session the Colombian was fourteenth quickest, just over a second off Lorenzo, with narrow differences between all of the riders considering that this circuit measures more than five kilometres in length. Hernández was only three tenths off the top ten today, giving him real hope of a challenge for Q2 tomorrow.
His team-mate Eugene Laverty was seventh fastest this morning but was unable to draw too many conclusions as his track time was limited by a crash in the second session. The Irishman will now have to complete his set-up programme in the two remaining free practice sessions tomorrow before qualifying.
19th Eugene Laverty 1.49.852 (15 laps): “You never need a crash but today’s was untimely because we missed the session this morning so everybody was trying to fit two sessions into one this afternoon. My first exit was good but on the second one I got caught out by the hard right hand side of the tyre. I thought it was up to temperature but it clearly wasn’t and it tucked in and let go. It’s a shame that we lost the rest of the session but we did a 49.8 on the hard tyre on the first run so that’s a positive. I think that tyre will be okay tomorrow and Sunday, it’s just the conditions so far are not what we are used to at Mugello and it probably needed another half a lap. My target this season is to go directly into Q2 but now I think we need to use FP3 and FP4 to prepare ourselves for Q1, focus on improving the bike and make up for the time we have lost today.”
14th Yonny Hernández 1.48.832 (24 laps): “I am really happy to have started the weekend like this. To see myself in first position this morning was a great satisfaction. I felt comfortable in the wet and I was pleasantly surprised by the performance level of the intermediate tyres. I also felt comfortable in the afternoon, my pace was good and we took the opportunity to test the new hard tyre, although it turned out to be too hard. Tomorrow I will try to be in the top ten, it wasn’t possible in the end today but we are only three tenths off so in general it has been a positive day and now we will work on the set-up of the bike to find those few missing tenths. Hopefully we can qualify well and I would love to be fighting for a place in Q2.”