11/21/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 11/21/2020 13:57
Can we really see a 10th different rider stand on the top step of the podium come Sunday afternoon at the Grande Premio MEO de Portugal? Well, yes. Five riders in the top nine in qualifying haven't won a race yet in 2020, but there's also rider's who have already won a race looking like strong contenders.
Portugal's Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) historically won the Styrian GP to become the first Portuguese premier class winner. On Saturday at the Algarve International Circuit, Oliveira sent the Portuguese fans watching from home into raptures with his maiden MotoGP™ pole. And on home turf, the number 88 is looking as strong as anyone to claim the final 25-point haul of 2020.
If Oliveira wins, then of course we won't see a 10th winner. But seeing Oliveira win the Portuguese GP will be something special. The Tech3 star finished P2 in FP4, his best lap time was a 1:40.184 set on the hard-front hard-rear Michelin tyres. They were seven laps old when Oliveira struck that time in and his run after was very inconsistent, so it's hard to gauge what his race rhythm might be. However, starting from pole and having been up the sharp for pretty much the entirety of the weekend, betting against Oliveira may not be wise. After all, he knows this track - probably - better than anyone.
Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) finished P1 in FP4, and we all know how hard he's going to be pushing for victory in his final race for the Austrian factory. Starting from P9, the former Moto2™ World Champion has work to do, but his pace looks good enough to at least challenge for a rostrum. With a 21-lap old hard-front tyre and 12-lap old hard-rear, the five-time 2020 podium finisher set a 1:40.313, then a 1:40.521 before landing his fastest lap - a 1:40.150. Pol Espargaro is a solid shout to become the 10th winner.
Before his second Turn 4 crash of the weekend, Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) was looking strong to become the 10th winner too. His pace on fresh medium-front and hard-rear tyres was strong and in the low 1:40s but a P11 grid slot makes his race-winning mission a complicated one.
From one Honda rider to another. Repsol Honda Team's Stefan Bradl has been bang on the money all weekend and his P6 in qualifying - his best since P4 in Malaysia 2014 - is the best of any factory rider. Impressive stuff. But how is the German's race pace looking, and could he really be in contention to become the 10th winner?
It may not look as good as Pol Espargaro's, but Bradl's pace - judging from FP4 alone - looks just as good as a lot of the riders around him. He set his fastest lap of the session on 13-lap old medium-front hard-rear tyres, a 1:40.608, and his final lap of the session on 16-lap old tyres was a 1:40.830. Bradl is certainly going to be mixing it inside the top 10 barring a disaster. And who knows, 2020 has been a crazy year and Bradl's pace in Portimao has been very impressive, so don't be surprised if Marc Marquez' stand-in is battling for the podium.
Predicting MotoGP™ races in 2020 has been incredibly difficult. The same can be said for Sunday's encounter. MotoGP™'s first battle on Portimao's incredible rollercoaster is set to be an insane sight, but can a 10th winner emerge? You can check the FP4 timesheets below to have a detailed look at how things might pan out.
Find out at 14:00 local time (GMT+0) on Sunday afternoon!