Franco Morbidelli's Doha MotoGP weekend got off to a smoky start when he was black-flagged due to technical issues on both of bikes as he negotiated Turn 1 during FP1.

The images immediately drew comparisons with last year's Jerez valve problems and when rumours spread that Morbidelli needed a new engine for FP2, it seemed to confirm the problem was once again severe.

Fortunately for the Petronas rider, whose A-spec bike was dogged by a mystery rear suspension issue in last Sunday's race, the third engine was said to be just a precaution and none of the other engines have been withdrawn from use.

"I had the same problem on both of my bikes in FP1, which wasn’t a big issue luckily," said Morbidelli. "We did decide to change one engine as a precaution for the night [session], but none of the engines have been withdrawn and we will keep using it; we have solved the issue.

"I'm confident that it's not a major problem because my technician told me so," he added. "And it didn’t feel like a flashback of last year [at Jerez] because last year the engine just shut down, while this year I stopped because I saw black and orange flags around the track with my number.

"I couldn't see or hear or feel any problem. So it is different compared to last year."

Morbidelli also denied that there had been any warning lights on his dash, as had occurred during last year's valve failures.

The reigning title runner-up was still fifth quickest in the roasting hot FP1 session before securing seventh place, and provisional Qualifying 2 access, in the quicker night-time session.

While Morbidelli had been fastest of all in two of the daylight sessions last weekend, he then struggled more under the floodlights, something that was improved upon today.

"I was able to have a better balance between the afternoon and the night. I was able to have a more normal feeling at night, so that was positive," he said. "Finally, I made two time attacks, the first one went pretty okay and then the second one I got two yellow flags so I couldn’t really see my potential.

"But anyway it was enough to get into the top ten with the first one. Tomorrow we will try to understand some more things, but I think and hope that we are on the right path and we can make a good job this weekend."

Looking ahead to Saturday, the Italian said:

"I kind of felt today that it's going to be more difficult compared to last weekend to fight with the Ducatis for a single lap. But I also feel that my potential and my feeling is better than last weekend. So I feel a little bit these two things that give me mixed ideas about qualifying.

"Qualifying on top is always important and it's going to be important as well for how the race is going to go. We have seen that the Ducatis in the race are a little bit less dangerous, they still are, but a little bit less than qualifying so hopefully it's going to be like this also this weekend.

"We will give the maximum and try to qualify at least on the first two or maximum three rows."

Team-mate Valentino Rossi was 14th fastest and thus faces having to take part in Qualifying 1, should FP3 again prove slower than FP2.

 

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