Marquez earns fifth consecutive Phillip Island Pole
Marc Marquez taking pole position at Phillip Island is nothing new, but it was not easy today for the 2018 MotoGP World Champion to secure his fifth consecutive pole at the track (equaling Casey Stoner’s five poles in a row).
Tricky weather conditions, including occasional rain, low temperatures and cold wind, made the search for bike setup challenging and the track conditions demanding.
Marquez, wearing gloves and boots in Mick Doohan’s colors as a tribute to the Aussie legend, was able to choose exactly the best moment to push, and his 1’29.199” lap time proved to be untouchable in the final minutes of the session.
Maverick Vinales, who finished on the podium in Australia last year, was 0.310 off the pace and will begin Sunday's race from second with fellow Yamaha rider Johann Zarco in third.
Veteran Valentino Rossi (Yamaha), Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) are behind them.
"I was doing quick laps, the corners were really fast and there were small drops of rain on my visor. It was hard and I just tried to take care," said Marquez.
The Spaniard, who has an insurmountable 102-point lead from Dovizioso at the top of the standings, is defending his Australian title after winning last year ahead of Rossi.
Call for date change
Several top MotoGP riders have called for the Australian Grand Prix to be moved to earlier in the season for safety reasons, due to the high number of crashes caused by unpredictable Phillip Island weather this time of year.
This weekend LCR Honda's Cal Crutchlow was ruled out after he broke his ankle in a fast off at Turn 1 in FP2, while Tech3's Hafizh Syahrin had to be taken to the medical center after a similar tumble in FP3 on Saturday morning – though fortunately escaped unscathed.
When asked about potentially changing race times and dates for safety purposes, Yamaha's Maverick Vinales believes racing an hour earlier at 1500 local time would make “a lot of difference”, but would “push” to have the race staged earlier in the year.
“I think for sure changing the race time one hour earlier will help, because here we reach the top temperature at 3pm,” said Vinales, who qualified second.
“But the matter of the crashes is the weather, it's really cold always and especially this year it's so windy.
“So I think it's always going to be difficult in that period of the year, but if I'm going to push I want to change the dates because when we came here in February last year [for testing] it was excellent.
“It was quite warm, and not many crashes. So let's see, but for sure it will make a lot of difference to race at 3pm because it's the best temperature on the track and for sure the win is a little bit more warm.”
Yamaha stablemate Johann Zarco echoed Vinales' thoughts, with the Tech3 rider admitting he “expected” to have better weather this year due to the Thai Grand Prix pushing the triple-header flyaway back a week.
However, poleman Marc Marquez believes changing race times and dates will not have much effect on the number of crashes seen at Phillip Island due to the fast nature of the track, and feels there are more pressing safety issues with the track, such as the amount of grass lining the circuit.
“Will be maybe better for the race time, but the amount of crashes will be very similar,” commented the world champion.
“The thing is here, we are riding very, very fast, it's cold and everything becomes stiff, all the tires.
“Then the reactions of the bike become more on-off, more aggressive, so for that reason we have a lot of crashes.
“So, yeah, if we change the time schedule, just advance it one hour, maybe it improves a little bit.
“But it will not change much. I think first of all we speak about this but also we speak about other safety issues on this race track that are more important to push.
“That is, for example, to remove the natural grass in some areas because it is the only circuit we have the natural grass.”
Pole Position 1'29.199
“Pole position today was quite difficult, and it was especially tricky to understand when it was the right time to push. The light rain that was falling wasn’t strong enough to wet the tarmac, but when you see the little drops on your visor and windscreen, things become a bit scary at this track.
"As soon as I realized that the drizzle had stopped, I did a good lap that was enough to be on pole for tomorrow. At the moment, I’m able to be fast and close to the top riders, but honestly speaking, I’m not feeling as comfortable as I would like.
"We were able to improve over the weekend and our mentality remains positive like always, but we don’t know exactly what to expect from tomorrow’s race.
"We saw many crashes and we crashed as well, and the weather is very unpredictable. Tire choice will be important, as will understanding that it’s not an on-off situation—we have the Constructors and Team Championships to think of, and if it’s not possible to win, then it’s time to look for the podium.”
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