On the back of two disastrous qualifying sessions, Jorge Lorenzo had something to prove on Saturday. And prove it he did, with a fine showing at the Red Bull Ring, which resulted in a fourth place slot on the second row.
The reigning world champion qualified tenth and eleventh in the Netherlands and Germany – his worst Saturday run since the beginning of 2004 – but displayed the speed and confidence in Austria that made him such a formidable force in the first six races of the year.
The Majorcan was on course for pole position until a late, all-Italian salvo from team-mate Valentino Rossi and the factory Ducatis pushed him off the front row. Nevertheless, Lorenzo spoke of the “huge recovery” from the first day to the second in Spielberg, and stated his contentment with his riding and set-up for Sunday's race.
“I'm very pleased about today,” said Lorenzo, whose fastest lap was just 0.219s off the fastest Ducati compared to 1.3s at the close of Friday.
“Not only the position, which is not the best but also is not bad, but especially for our progression, and for the distance to the Ducatis, the huge recovery we made to the Ducatis from yesterday to today.
“Especially in the qualifying, both Yamaha riders made great laps, my lap was not perfect, but close to perfect. Maybe I miss two or three tenths in T3. During all the weekend, I wasn't fast in this section, and in qualifying I lose too much.
“But apart from this, in the rest of the sectors I'm quite competitive, and I was able to fight for the pole position. Finally, we couldn't be faster but we are there. So [I'm] happy with my riding, the setting of the bike and everything in general.”
Pressed to expand on where the biggest improvement on Saturday came from, Lorenzo continued, “A little bit of setting, a little bit of balls in the qualifying, a little bit of aggression and pushing a little bit more, and the temperature was perfect today.
“So all together, it helps to be closer to Ducati. To be honest, I expected 1'22.9, 1'23.0 from Ducati, but it didn't happen, so it wasn't easy for them to make the perfect lap, I guess.”
On race expectations, Lorenzo went on to state maintaining a level of grip in the second half of the race will be key to challenging the front runners.
“A good pace during the whole race, the whole long race, because it will be a very good race. And especially, from the second part of the race to the end, to be strong, to have grip and to be competitive, to be in 1'24, and not go slow.
“Yesterday the soft tyre was destroyed in a few laps. With the cold temperature, the medium one was better. Today there is not so much difference, but we need to analyse this afternoon if it could be possible to use the softer tyre that gives you some quite big advantage at the beginning of the race, but we don't know how it's going to react at the end of the race.
“Nobody make a long run or a lot of laps with it. So a good question mark that we need to solve for tomorrow. Not only on the rear, but also on the front.”