One of the biggest questions posed by Michelin's first appearance in a MotoGP qualifying and race sessions since 2008 is its tyres' ability to come up to working temperature quickly, and how that will affect riders' strategies.
Compared to previous years in which riders used Bridgestone rubber that could take between three to five corners to achieve full working temperature, several riders were still not completely sure how to approach 2016's first qualifying shootout.
Pol Espargaro was one of those, who, at the close of Friday, admitted that he may use the end of FP4 as a qualifying test run, to see whether he can extract maximum from his set-up in just one or two flying laps.
“Because we didn't use one tyre today in the afternoon we have one tyre extra for FP4,” explained the Spaniard. “Maybe at the end of FP4 we will try to do like a qualifying to start with a new tyre and check everything, to see if I'm able to improve and see what happens. Right now that's my main option. To put a tyre and make laps, to be with the used tyre at the end of the qualifying.”
It is one of several unknowns regarding tyre performance through the first round of 2016. Aside from qualifying strategy, Espargaro was relieved to end FP3 inside the top ten, meaning he automatically qualifies for the Q2 shootout.
“We expect a bit better but it is good, we have already qualified for Q2. This is important because looking at the guys that are out; Bradley, my brother and Cal… If one of them is out then the level is high. I'm happy to be directly on top.
“Anyway, it was quite strange. I did the lap time with a so used tyre I didn't have the chance to pit. It looks like I felt better with a tyre with a lot of laps, not a new one. My feeling is not focussed. Everything seems strange. Tomorrow it will be good to confirm everything to see how it is working.”
Asked to comment on where he is in relation to the rest of the field, Espargaro continued that it currently difficult to judge as, unlike the Tech 3 Yamaha rider, many haven't completed a full race simulation throughout preseason.
“Right now it's so difficult to know. Ducatis are able to make four or five laps in an amazing rhythm but the race is 22. Who says that maybe they do 15 laps at an amazing rhythm but they start to decrease their rhythm and we can catch them by the end of the race?
“Looking where we are now, I'm optimistic. We're after the official bikes and then with Scott, Brad, me, we are there. Really, we don't know what is going to happen. There are a lot of riders that during preseason didn't make one race simulation, or one of them did and it was really bad. Everything is so confused. We need to wait until Sunday to so if it will be like other races, the same of different, so we have to check on Sunday.”