Nakagami leaves it late to top a wild Argentina MotoGP FP1

Back from the sick bed, Takaaki Nakagami put recent COVID-19 issues behind him as he got the better of reigning MotoGP world champion Fabio Quartararo to top spot during FP1 in Argentina.
Takaaki Nakagami, Qatar MotoGP, 5 March 2022
Takaaki Nakagami, Qatar MotoGP, 5 March 2022
© Gold and Goose

Nakagami showed impressive pace on more than one occasion, while also demonstrating an impressive ability to adapt to the Termas de Rio Honda Circuit after arriving late.

With Marc Marquez ruled out of the Argentina MotoGP due to ongoing diplopia issues, Honda were able to take some comfort in the fact Nakagami was available. The LCR man was initially ruled out due to testing positive for COVID-19, however, a negative PCR test on Friday was enough for the Japanese rider to make the late trip.  

In what was MotoGP’s first visit to Argentina since 2019, a full line-up of riders immediately took to the Termas de Rio Hondo Circuit, with track time more valuable than ever. 

With only a few minutes gone Nakagami settled into his rhythm as he went quickest. However, the Japanese rider was soon relegated to second by reigning world champion Fabio Quartararo. 

Off the back of his first podium this season, Quartararo was one of those who also adapted quickest to track conditions. Likewise was Pramac rider Jorge Martin.

The Spaniard, who is yet to score points through the opening two races, went three tenths clear of Nakagami, before Aleix Espargaro and Aprilia shot to the top of the leaderboard. 

As grip continued to improve, Brad Binder put his KTM top before getting very loose on entry to turn one. 

In desperate need of a return to form, Francesco Bagnaia was once again languishing down the order to begin FP1, not a sight Ducati would have wanted to see. 

With 15 minutes gone there were no Ducati riders inside the top ten, instead it was heavily dominated by Yamahas, Suzukis, KTMs and Aprilias.

Alex Rins Argentinian MotoGP, 2 April 2022
Alex Rins Argentinian MotoGP, 2 April 2022

There were worrying signs for rookie Fabio Di Giannantonio, who lost part of his fairing alongside the start-finish straight. 

The broken piece was quickly retrieved by a Dorna official before any potential incident could take place. 

Trying everything to find more pace, Bagnaia got turn seven all wrong as he ran off-track. Luckily for the Italian it wasn’t a crash, which would have been a nightmare due to the condensed schedule. 

Despite the difference in pace between Jack Miller (outside the top ten) and Quartararo, both riders got a considerable wobble on, as bike shaking was becoming quite the norm on corner exit. 

With that said, the pace difference was soon reduced to two tenths as Miller went second behind the Frenchman.

Joining the bike shaking club, Luca Marini suffered a slightly less aggressive case of front-end shaking as he exited turn 11. 

Still looking for its first MotoGP win, Aprilia added to what was an impressive start to the day by showing even more serious potential half way FP1. 

A. Espargaro began a stint that saw him set four consecutive fastest laps, while Maverick Vinales was running a comfortable fourth. 

Aleix Espargaro Argentinian MotoGP, 2 April 2022
Aleix Espargaro Argentinian MotoGP, 2 April 2022

After going four tenths clear of his brother Pol, it took several minutes before any other rider closed in on the Spaniard. 

That rider was Quartararo as the Monster Energy Yamaha rider went P2, however, +0.390s was the margin between the pair. 

While Bagnaia clawed his way up to seventh with just over 15 minutes to go, it seemed as though the long corners were proving troublesome for the Bologna bullets. 

Although Espargaro looked set to close out FP1 fastest, a late change to a new rear tyre saw Nakagami go quickest. 

However, in what appeared to be a carbon copy of the beginning to FP1, Quartararo went fastest from the fifth-year premier class rider.  

Making early statements of intent were rookies Marco Bezzecchi and Remy Gardner. The latter went as high as P10, however, the real pace was coming from the Italian. 

Bezzecchi went top with just under a minute to go, in what looked to be his first time-topping session. That was before late laps from both Espargaro’s Quartararo and Nakagami.

Read More