The 2023 MotoGP season continues just five days after the dramatic opening round of the season in Portugal, with the opening 45-minute session of the Argentina weekend taking place in dry conditions under threateningly grey clouds.
Having broken its MotoGP victory duck one year ago at the Rio Honda circuit, Aprilia set the early pace as Vinales ended FP1, 0.284 seconds clear of 2022 Argentina winner Aleix Espargaro.
With rain a threat for this afternoon’s hour-long practice, the final throes of FP1 were a mini qualifying, with Vinales setting a 1m39.207s on a fresh medium tyre.
Espargaro’s 1m39.491s ensured an Aprilia 1-2 in FP1, with the injured Jorge Martin on the leading Pramac Ducati completing the top three.
The opening stages of FP1 were topped by Yamaha’s Franco Morbidelli, who set the early pace with an unrepresentative 1m41.048s.
This was quickly usurped by Vinales, who made his first of several appearances at the top of the timesheets with a 1m40.924s just under 10 minutes into the session.
Martin, who is carrying a broken toe after getting caught up in the controversial Marc Marquez/Miguel Oliveira Portugal crash, edged ahead of Vinales moments later with a 1m40.704s.
A 1m40.559s from Vinales returned him to the top of the pile with just over 20 minutes to go, before Aleix Espargaro went top with a 1m40.322s.
Vinales would find himself back in the lead five minutes later with a 1m40.230s, having displaced Espargaro and Morbidelli.
With 15 minutes to go, following a brief stint heading the times for LCR Honda’s Takaaki Nakagami, Vinales led the way again with a 1m40.060s.
As part of the new format shake-up for 2023 due to the implementation of sprint races, the combined times at the end of Friday’s two sessions determined who goes straight into the pole shootout in qualifying and who has to face the Q1 knockout phase.
And with weather conditions uncertain across Friday, the last eight minutes of FP1 produced a mini time attack as the field fitted fresh medium rubber – the softest option available in Argentina this weekend.
Marco Bezzecchi on the VR46 Ducati was the first to make a move, going fastest with a 1m39.700s with eight minutes remaining.
This was beaten by Vinales on a 1m39.598s with four minutes remaining, before his final lap cemented top spot with a 1m39.207s.
Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia Racing Team
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
His closest rival was team-mate Espargaro, 0.284s adrift, with Martin heading Nakagami and Gresini Ducati’s Alex Marquez to complete the top five.
Johann Zarco was sixth on the second of the Pramac Ducatis ahead of VR46’s Luca Marini, Morbidelli, Bezzecchi and championship leader Francesco Bagnaia on the factory team Ducati.
Currently occupying the last provisional Q2 places, Bagnaia was only 0.051s clear of LCR Honda’s Alex Rins after he took a late tumble at Turn 1.
Fabio Di Giannantonio was 12th on his Gresini Ducati ahead of Tech3 GASGAS rookie Augusto Fernandez and factory KTM counterpart Jack Miller, while 2021 world champion Quartararo languished down in 15th.
The Frenchman battled the entirety of FP1 with rear grip issues as he accelerated out of corners and ended FP1 a dejected 0.909s down on former Yamaha team-mate Vinales.
KTM’s Brad Binder, RNF’s Raul Fernandez and the sole factory Honda of Joan Mir completed the depleted 18-rider field.
Marc Marquez and Oliveira are out of action this weekend following their collision in Portugal, while Ducati’s Enea Bastianini is also absent after breaking his shoulder in a crash in last week’s sprint race.
Tech3’s Pol Espargaro continues to recover from his violent FP2 crash in Portugal last week and will be sidelined for the foreseeable future, with former MotoGP rider Jonas Folger set to replace him from the Americas GP in two weeks.
FP2 for the 2023 Argentina GP gets underway at 7pm BST.
|12||Fabio Di Giannantonio||Ducati||19||1'39.926||0.719|
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