Jorge Lorenzo remains cautious about his chances of snatching the MotoGP title lead from team-mate Valentino Rossi at Catalunya on Sunday.
Utterly dominant at the last three races, Lorenzo is now just six points behind the Italian. And while Rossi qualified seventh in Barcelona, Lorenzo claimed a front-row place (behind the soft-tyre Suzukis) for his home race and has set the standard on long runs.
“Valentino is a Sunday rider,” Lorenzo said. “Not so many pole positions if you compare with how many victories he has. And he's always there in the race. Our bike is very competitive, keeping a constant pace at all the tracks so for sure Vale is trying to get the best set-up. He is going to be one of the favourites for victory, no doubt about it. The championship lead? I don't know. It depends on the result tomorrow.”
Given the tightening title fight, Lorenzo admitted to mixed feelings about the strength of the non-Yamaha riders.
“From one side I think it's good for the two Yamahas to finish one-two, for the factory, because we are fighting against Honda and now Ducati and Suzuki,” he said. “If I think about myself my first rival is Valentino and the most riders that stay in front of him the better for me for the championship. But for sure it's going to be complicated because Valentino always goes very fast in the race and tomorrow will be there.”
Commenting on the Honda and Ducati riders, Lorenzo said: “The results suggest Marc is the strongest. For the moment I think Marc has a better pace and chance to fight for victory than Iannone, who can also make a good race.”
But it was Suzuki that stole the Saturday headlines with a dream one-two for Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales, albeit with the aid of the soft Open class rear tyre.
“Suzuki is making a great job, improving the bike a lot. I had the opportunity to follow them and the bike seems very stable and they have a lot of traction on the exit of the corner,” declared Lorenzo. “Obviously tomorrow they are going to use the normal tyre and for sure for them it will be a little more complicated, but for sure the brand is making a big improvement. Honda is improving and Ducati made a great job during the pre-season and we also made our improvement.
“We need to continue because MotoGP doesn't sleep.”
In terms of last-minute Catalunya improvements, Lorenzo is targeting a few small details during warm-up but is otherwise 'ready to fight'.
“I'm pleased with the work we are doing on the bike because this track seems a little bit more difficult for our bike. We needed to work more than normal to set-up all the areas, but finally little-by-little we make a stable bike, especially when the tyre drops. Which here drops a lot compared to Mugello which has a really grippy tarmac and the pace is very similar all race.
“Here when you put a new tyre you can go very fast, then when the bike starts moving and spinning it's very difficult to keep a pace if you don't have a constant bike. So we made it, I think we have a little bit of margin to improve in small details in some corners, but in general the bike is ready and I'm also ready to fight.”
Many of Lorenzo's rivals agree, Cal Crutchlow stating: "Nobody's got the pace of Lorenzo, again. No [not Marquez in FP4] because Lorenzo was using the tyre he used in the morning. He did a 1m 43.0 after 33 laps, most people are doing 1m 43.0s after ten laps. That's the reality. But this morning, he was doing 1m 41s like they were easy. But again, it shows you don't need the horsepower or the speed, you just need the grip."