Reigning WorldSBK Champion Alvaro Bautista is looking up after the Free Practice 1 and Practice sessions in Malaysia
Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) completed his first Friday back in the MotoGP™ paddock in 22nd place after ‘not feeling so comfortable’ on his Desmosedici GP machine in Malaysia. The Spaniard is wildcarding at the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang for his first MotoGP™ appearance in five years, with the double MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship title winner concluding the day reflecting on where he can still make gains as he looks to move up the order.
THE STORY OF FRIDAY: lap timed gained in the afternoon Practice session
In Free Practice 1, the reigning double WorldSBK Champion was 22nd out of 23 riders, with only LCR Honda Castrol’s Iker Lecuona – also a WorldSBK competitor – behind him. His best time was a 2’02.516s and three seconds off pace setter Jorge Martin’s (Prima Pramac Ducati) session-best time of 1’59.513s. Martin’s times were around a tenth away his best race lap record set last year.
Bautista completed three runs during FP1 using only one set of tyres, with a soft front on his bike as well as a hard rear for all 15 laps. His first run was seven laps including the in and out lap, with the Spaniard setting five timed laps in his first stint. His times improved consistently throughout the first run, ranging from a 2’06.566s to a 2’02.821s on his final timed lap. The second run featured three timed laps, including his best time, although he did have a quicker time of 2’02.431s deleted. The final run was just two timed laps, a tenth and two tenths slower than his best.
His first run in Practice, to determine the Q2 spots in Qualifying, was on medium front and rear tyres and he immediately found time as he posted a 2’01.233s. In total, Bautista – running his traditional #19 this weekend – completed 21 laps as he used medium tyres throughout. His best lap time came on the 20th lap of the session as he posted a 2’00.370s to once again claim 22nd place, ahead of compatriot Lecuona. In Practice, the Spaniard completed four runs using only the medium-medium combination. His third run, the first time he hit the 2’00s, was with two new tyres will run four was used to set his best time and he had a used front and new rear to complete the two timed laps.
BAUTISTA’S REVIEW: “I don’t feel so comfortable on the bike yet…”
Looking back on his first Friday in five years in the MotoGP™ paddock, Bautista said: “I started with the base setup from Ducati and maybe, because I was not pushing too much, for me it was too hard. We needed to work on it for Practice. This afternoon, we definitely improved the setup. I improved my feeling and also my lap time by almost two seconds. That means we made a step forward. I don’t feel so comfortable with the bike yet. We need to make another step for tomorrow. I hope to have a better feeling tomorrow. After the first day, your mind starts to work in the night and, tomorrow, the feeling will be a bit better. I enjoyed riding the bike and I’m happy.”
ADAPTING FROM THE PANIGALE V4 R: what does Bautista need to change?
The 38-year-old also outlined how and where he would like to improve on Saturday, with Free Practice 2 kicking off the action followed by Qualifying and the Tissot Sprint. It’ll be Bautista’s first Sprint in MotoGP™ although he does have five seasons of experience regarding shorter races thanks to his time in WorldSBK. Speaking after Friday’s action, Bautista expanded on how different riding the Panigale V4 R is compared to the Desmosedici GP machine and how different conditions are impacting him when compared to when he tested the MotoGP™ machine.
He said: “It’s very different. I only did a test at Misano and it’s a very different track from this one. The grip is different, you have more at Misano. Everything was a bit easier. With less grip, everything becomes more difficult and the feeling with the bike was not the same as Misano. Step by step, we are improving. Every time, I felt a bit more comfortable on the bike. I hope to keep this trend and try to improve. The way I have to ride this bike is very different from the WorldSBK machine. I cannot force the rear tyre too much like I do in WorldSBK. I have to re-adapt my style.”
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