Almost all weekend aside from MotoGP qualifying in Austin, Vinales has confirmed the notion that Aprilia’s race pace is very strong after setting multiple quickest times.
Last to leave pit lane, the king of COTA Marc Marquez joined the on-track action with just half the session remaining.
Immediately getting down to a searingly hot pace were championship leader Aleix Espargaro and team-mate Vinales.
The two factory Aprilia riders set nearly identical 2:04.8s lap times, while Bastianini put his Ducati into P3.
Despite windy conditions affecting several riders, warm-up specialist Takaaki Nakagami took over at the top.
Pole sitter for today’s race, Jorge Martin looked set to better the LCR Honda rider’s time, but after failing to do so, it was instead Bastianini who eventually did.
Eager to show their potential once again, Vinales and Espargaro bounced back to make it a 1-2 after setting the first sub 2m 04s laps of the session.
Bastianini then split the two Aprilia riders with a time of 2:03.756s.
Towards the back of the field, rookie Raul Fernandez suffered a crash at turn 12, making him the only rider to do so in warm-up.
Franco Morbidelli’s tricky weekend continued as the 2020 MotoGP runner-up completed just two laps.
After improving yet again on his penultimate lap, Vinales managed to hold on for top spot in front of Bastianini and Nakagami.
Lining-up third for today’s Grand Prix, Francesco Bagnaia made a good start to race day as he finished fourth, one place ahead of last weekend’s race winner Espargaro.
Joan Mir was the top Suzuki in sixth, while Johann Zarco, Marquez, Rins and Quartararo rounded out the top ten.
KTM’s dreadful weekend continued as Brad Binder was only 15th, although team-mate Miguel Oliveira, who was has been way off the pace even compared to the South African was 22nd.
Race Prediction – Fabio Quartararo to make it four different winners from four
Although Ducati secured the first-ever qualifying quintet, one lap pace has been the Italian manufacturer’s biggest strength so far this weekend, not race pace.
Of course, overtaking the Bologna bullets is going to prove extremely difficult for the likes of Quartararo in sixth, Alex Rins in seventh and Marc Marquez, who will line-up ninth.
However, Quartararo’s long run pace has been extremely impressive, while the Frenchman has also been strongest in the final sector, a part of the circuit where a last lap battle could be decided.
Aprilia would have been a very real contender in our eyes had this prediction been made pre-qualifying, but with both Espargaro and Vinales surprisingly going through Q1 and failing to advance, anything better than a top five would be an astonishing result.
Crash.net’s podium prediction:
3rd – Marc Marquez
2nd – Jorge Martin
1st – Fabio Quartararo