Danilo Petrucci proved the might of Ducati in Qatar by ending the first day of MotoGP practice of 2018 with the second fastest time, just 0.006s behind compatriot Andrea Dovizioso.

However, anger and frustration had taken hold earlier in the afternoon after a high-speed altercation with Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro, which led to both riders being called to race direction to explain their actions.

Petrucci said he was approaching the first corner when he found the Catalan exiting pit lane, and drifting over to the racing line. According to the Italian, Espargaro had seen him approaching on his Ducati GP18 but did nothing to alter his course into his path. A surge of rage ensued.

“We had a problem with [Aleix] Espargaro,” explained Petrucci on Friday evening. “I was pushing a lot in the last minute of the first session and he was going out of the pits. He saw me. Blue flags were waving and he was in the middle of the line, already pushing but for sure I was very, very fast.

“The first sector was yellow so I was improving my lap time. Then I found him in the middle. I got very, very angry. Then we tried to explain to each other with the hands. Maybe I was too aggressive with him. Race direction called us but he didn’t come because he was in the Safety Commission.

“It was strange because he was looking at me and then already pushing out of the pit. I think he had enough time for one lap. He said to me he couldn’t imagine that I arrived so fast but it’s lik this for everyone. The problem is he always asking for punishment for the riders in the middle of the line. For this reason, I got so angry.

“He said, ‘I saw you but you were pushing and I didn’t believe you would reach me in a few moments.’ I said, ‘OK, in MotoGP it’s not like I’m going to the seaside with the bike. Usually I’m pushing a lot.’ We explained it, we didn’t punch one another and we are still friends.

“I’m sorry for him because I showed him this [middle] finger for half a lap. Then in the safety commission we clarified. I said sorry for the middle finger but I was very angry, and he saw me. Nothing happened. We shook hands.”

On a day which saw four Ducatis occupy the first four places, Petrucci said he was mildly surprised by his quickest time in FP2, which was only bettered in the final minutes.

“I’m happy. Today we found the track in the first session like always. We have a good bike, so we stayed in the front even if we are not so fast. At the end the second session was more important. FP3 will be with some curiosity. I don’t know if it will be faster or not.

“For sure, it will be difficult but we are there. I’ve never done a lap time like this in Qatar. In testing my feeling was better. I think it’s because I rode more in the test. I stayed in the top three with the medium tyre all session.

“Then when I put the soft I did a very good lap, even if I missed a gear in three corners. I didn’t imagine I’d do a lap time like this. But it’s OK. We are here and we are happy.”

On Ducati’s decision not to use the aerodynamic fairings this weekend, he added, “With the winglets there are some positive points and some negatives. Here there is a long straight. For sure it helps in some braking area.

“We saw the lap time and we have one weapon more on the straight in fifth and sixth gear. I think we are able to pass at the end of the straight. With the winglet fairing it is not possible so for this race we will not use it.”


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