Takaaki Nakagami makes an early statement of intent after setting the only sub 1m47s lap in Mugello MotoGP FP1.
With rain on the forecast for Saturday, and searing temperatures expected for FP2, setting a good time was paramount for riders.
After welcoming new title sponsor Prima to the fore – Prima Pramac Racing is now the official team name until the end of 2024 – Jorge Martin and Johann Zarco showcased their all-new ‘Purple haze’ livery during FP1.
In more off-track news, an announcement concerning the future of RNF Racing was made just minutes into FP1.
Competing with Yamaha machinery in 2022, RNF Racing have confirmed a switch to Aprilia will take place for next season, meaning four RS-GP bikes will be on the grid for the first time in Aprilia’s history.
On-track, Joan Mir had an early off as he ran through the gavel in sector three. Francesco Bagnaia was very close to making the same mistake at turn one, however, the Italian got his Lenovo Ducati stopped just in time.
While all this was happening, wildcard rider Michele Pirro was setting an impressive pace aboard his Aruba.it-inspired colours.
The first rider to move Pirro off top spot was Alex Rins, however, the Suzuki rider was quickly replaced by Aleix Espargaro.
Fresh off their new two-year deals at Aprilia, Espargaro and Maverick Vinales were showing very fast and consistent pace, as was three-time MotoGP race winner in 2022 Enea Bastianini.
Down in 18th following his early off, Mir jumped up to 12th with just under half the session remaining.
With Mir already struggling to match the pace of his team-mate, Rins improved even further to go five tenths clear of his fellow Spaniard in second – +0.001s off Bagnaia’s top time.
There was a big moment for Miguel Oliveira as the Portuguese rider had to run across the grass [approach to turn one] at over 200mph.
With A. Espargaro on his inside, Oliveira attempted to go around the outside heading towards turn one, but quickly found himself off the circuit.
MotoGP 2022 keeps producing…
The incident had no effect on Espargaro as the Aprilia rider then set an identical time as that of Bagnaia.
Espargaro’s time meant the top three was separated by just +0.001s, before Takaaki Nakagami made his RC213V sing around Mugello.
The only Honda rider able to show serious pace, Nakagami set a time of 1:47.030s – 0.030s clear of Espargaro and Bagnaia.
Continuing his impressive long-run pace, Bagnaia, who was still using the same medium as the beginning of FP1, was setting low 1m 47.0s lap times with just over ten minutes to go.
A relatively quiet session by his standards, reigning world champion Fabio Quartararo was outside of the top five for most of FP1.
Struggles continues for Marc Marquez
As Nakagami led the way, and team-mate P. Espargaro moving up to seventh, the eight-time world champion was finding it impossible to break into the top ten.
Nakagami then set a stunning time of 1:46.662s – three tenths clear of anyone as the Japanese rider remained on-track with a used medium rear. Nakagami’s effort was 1.2 seconds clear of Marquez.
Marquez finished FP1 in 18th place.
Also struggling were KTM as Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira were P16 and 17. It appears as though the Austrian manufacturer’s upgrades have failed to deliver the expected results at this stage.