Marc Marquez has revealed his surprise at ending the first day of free practice so close to pace setter Jorge Lorenzo, and admitted he believed he would be further from the front at this stage.
The championship leader ended Friday afternoon fourth fastest, just 0.152s off countryman Lorenzo, and feels that his rhythm proves “we are there” in contention for the top honours on Sunday.
“I expect to be there [in fourth] but more far from the top guys,” said Marquez. “It looks like we are there, very close, especially with the rhythm. At the moment it looks like Lorenzo is the fastest guy but then I'm there, [Maverick] Viñales, Valentino [Rossi], also [Andrea] Dovizioso… We have more or less the same pace.”
Second fastest in FP1, Marquez continued to show well in the afternoon, posting three consistent runs, the last of which included two laps in the 1m 45s, despite suffering a low-speed fall at turn ten just minutes before.
“In the last races it looks like every Friday I crash similar. But of course I don't want to crash. Some races I say, 'I don't want to try the hard tyre because I don't want to crash' but then on Sunday I think maybe it is the correct option.
“I prefer to try on Friday, check where the limit is a little bit. The hard front tyre is extreme. The limit is closer but then maybe you can find some positive things. It was a very small crash and it was OK because I took the bike, could continue, and on the same run improved my lap time.
Leading the standings by 52 points with just 100 left to play for, Marquez also confirmed his good feeling with Michelin's front and rear tyres.
From his experience in both sessions, the medium option front is his current preference, while both rear options appear to be possibilities for Sunday's race.
“With the tyres it was quite good. The front tyre I think the medium option is the best one at the moment. We need to check the hard one and the data of the bike to see if we can change the balance of the bike to use.
“Then the hard rear and soft rear are very similar. We need to reconfirm. The soft is very consistent but also the initial grip is good.”
Marquez also had a brief word for team-mate Dani Pedrosa, who was diagnosed with a broken right collarbone, after suffering a spectacular high-side toward the end of the afternoon session.
“It looks like now in the races normal Dani was coming back. I just hope he has a great recovery.”