MotoGP championship leader Fabio Quartararo admits he would be riding in “damage limitation” mode if the race was held at the Catalan Grand Prix right now.
The Monster Energy Yamaha rider was ninth-quickest on combined Friday practice times, his personal-best 1:40.123s being 0.721s off the pace set by Aprilia Racing's Aleix Espargaro, on a warm day at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Aprilia was in fact first and second at the end of the opening day of action, Maverick Viñales 0.303s slower than team-mate Espargaro, and the broad consensus is that their superiority is genuine given the RS-GP's liking for low-grip surfaces.
Quartararo, however, hopes to make up some of the deficit as more rubber is laid down.
“If the race is now, it will be damage limitation, but we know that in this track the more rubber you put down the more grip you have,” he said.
“So, I hope we can put down a lot of grip during the weekend, and we know it's not going to rain, so every day [we will be] putting rubber on the track.
“I hope Sunday arrives where we can make a massive improvement on the pace because, right now, I think only Aleix can really make a really fast pace.
“He's just five tenths faster, he's dropping also [on long-run pace] but he's still five tenths faster. But for us it drops a lot.”
Quartararo said he feels “super-slow” despite how well he is riding, with his YZR-M1 spinning up its rear tyre too much through some of the longer corners.
“On this track you can feel if you are going slow or not, and I feel slow but I feel like I could not go faster because Turns 3, 4, 9 you open the throttle and you spin,” he recounted.
“I felt I was riding really good, but just super slow.”
However, ‘El Diablo' is at least not so worried about tyre consumption.
“The problem now is the tyre drops and we are slow,” explained Quartararo.
“So, I am not worried about the tyre consumption, but more worried I feel super slow and I think a lot of riders will feel the same.
“It's tough to really see your potential when there is such bad conditions on track.”
The Ducati Lenovo team's Francesco Bagnaia and Jack Miller ended up fourth and seventh respectively, while Tech3 KTM's Remy Gardner was dead last, but focused entirely on a race simulation in the Friday afternoon session.
Free Practice 3 starts this evening at 17:55 AEST, before Free Practice 4 at 21:30, Qualifying 1 at 22:10, and Qualifying 2 at 22:35.