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Lewis Duncan

MotoGP Malaysian GP: Binder tops FP1, disruption blights Aleix Espargaro

This weekend’s return to Sepang marks the first match point in the championship battle, with Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia able to wrap up the title as he comes to Malaysia 14 points clear in the standings.

Bagnaia needs to outscore reigning world champion Fabio Quartararo by 11 points and ensure he only loses two points to Aprilia’s Espargaro to seal the deal.

Insight: How Francesco Bagnaia can win the 2022 MotoGP title in Malaysia

Espargaro’s morning at Sepang was disastrous, the Spaniard completing just one flying lap as he crashed going through Turn 8 in the first 15 minutes of the session. This came after he had aborted his first run.

When he returned to the circuit, he was forced to pull into pitlane with a technical issue which left him down in 20th with a 2m01.654s.

Quartararo led the timesheets after the initial salvo of laps on his Yamaha with a 2m00.543s set with just under half an hour of the 45-minute session remaining.

This remained the benchmark until the closing five minutes, when initial pacesetter in FP1 Jorge Martin on the Pramac Ducati went top with a 2m00.105s on a fresh hard rear tyre.

Martin improved to a 1m59.966s, before Marc Marquez deposed him on a factory Honda fitted with a new soft rear tyre with a 1m59.623s.

But it was KTM’s Binder on a new medium who would see out FP1 fastest of all with a 1m59.576s.

Fabio Quartararo, Yamaha Factory Racing (Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images)

Binder was just 0.097 seconds clear of Australian GP winner Alex Rins on the first of the Suzukis, who ran a fresh soft tyre at the end of FP2.

Marquez rounded out the top three ahead of Gresini’s Enea Bastianini, who topped the pre-season test at Sepang back in February and still has an outside shot at the championship standing at 42 points behind Bagnaia, and the sister Suzuki of Joan Mir.

Martin was shuffled back to sixth come the chequered flag, with Quartararo electing against fitting a fresh rear tyre at the end of FP1 to finish seventh.

Gresini rookie Fabio Di Giannantonio shot up to eighth late on ahead of VR46’s Luca Marini and his team-mate Marco Bezzecchi – who had an early crash at Turn 1.

Championship leader Bagnaia was 11th having joined Quartararo in not running a fresh rear tyre in the latter stages of FP1, while Yamaha’s Franco Morbidelli shadowed the Italian ahead of LCR Honda’s Alex Marquez, the sister factory Ducati of Jack Miller and Pramac’s Joahnn Zarco.

Pol Espargaro was a distant 16th on the second of the factory Hondas ahead of KTM’s Miguel Oliveira and RNF Racing’s Cal Crutchlow.

Crutchlow’s RNF team-mate Darryn Binder was the only other faller in the session, the Moto2-bound South African 22nd behind Tech3’s Remy Gardner and the Aprilia duo of Espargaro and Maverick Vinales.

Raul Fernandez on the other Tech3 KTM and Takaaki Nakagami’s continued injury relief at LCR, Tetsuta Nagashima, completed the field.

MotoGP Malaysian GP - FP1 results:

Cla # Rider Bike Gap
1 33 South Africa Brad Binder KTM  
2 42 Spain Alex Rins Suzuki 0.097
3 93 Spain Marc Marquez Honda 0.144
4 23 Italy Enea Bastianini Ducati 0.396
5 36 Spain Joan Mir Suzuki 0.472
6 89 Spain Jorge Martin Ducati 0.487
7 20 France Fabio Quartararo Yamaha 1.064
8 49 Italy Fabio Di Giannantonio Ducati 1.073
9 10 Italy Luca Marini Ducati 1.254
10 72 Italy Marco Bezzecchi Ducati 1.288
11 63 Italy Francesco Bagnaia Ducati 1.291
12 21 Italy Franco Morbidelli Yamaha 1.292
13 73 Spain Alex Marquez Honda 1.536
14 43 Australia Jack Miller Ducati 1.555
15 5 France Johann Zarco Ducati 1.569
16 44 Spain Pol Espargaro Honda 1.721
17 88 Portugal Miguel Oliveira KTM 1.768
18 35 United Kingdom Cal Crutchlow Yamaha 1.772
19 12 Spain Maverick Viñales Aprilia 1.849
20 41 Spain Aleix Espargaro Aprilia 2.175
21 87 Australia Remy Gardner KTM 2.225
22 40 South Africa Darryn Binder Yamaha 2.352
23 25 Spain Raúl Fernández KTM 2.352
24 45 Japan Tetsuta Nagashima Honda 3.387
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