The revised Qatar schedule left some confusion and complaints, but also had some fans. The disadvantage was a huge temperature drop between afternoon and evening sessions; the biggest advantage one day less spent at a generally unpopular venue. Plus reduced risk of crashing, with earlier action finishing before the dew settles.
The opening round has been cut from four days to three, with practice starting soon after mid-day instead of in the cool of the late afternoon, and the racing also earlier: Moto3 to run in daylight at 4pm, Moto2 round sunset at 5:20 and MotoGP at 7pm. Last year all races were two hours later.
The timing was discussed at the riders’ Safety Commission meeting, with no conclusions drawn, but general agreement that while racing earlier was better, the first sessions of each day were basically meaningless.
As Ducati manager Davide Tardozzi said: “With the temperature so much higher there is no grip … lap times are at least one second slower.”
Marquez said, in his Friday press debriefing: “Sure, it’s not ideal. But anyway Qatar is a special weekend, with the night GP. So you can’t set the bike up in the afternoon at 15:00 for the race at 19:00. In reality, we have only two useful practices – FP2 and FP4. But we tested here three nights two weeks ago, so everyone knows the set-up and the tyres.”
Rossi said: “I prefer this system. Four days here are too long. The race start at 19:00 is also better than 21:00, because the asphalt temperature is higher and the track in better condition. The timing for FP1, FP3 and warm-up is not ideal, because it is still very hot. But we can live with that.”