The Desmosedici GP12 will start its debut Grand Prix on the second row this evening, with Ducati Team rider Nicky Hayden having posted a top-five time in last night’s (Saturday) qualifying session at Qatar’s Losail International Circuit. Team-mate Valentino Rossi, after a trio of progressively improving free-practice sessions, encountered set-up problems that prevented him from doing better than twelfth place.
While Nicky Hayden immediately felt at home with his bike’s set-up and was able to log consistently good lap times even with the hard tyre, Valentino Rossi had a much different experience and didn’t find the same feeling that had enabled him to post better times on Friday.
Nicky Hayden: "Our goal tonight was to be in the top five, and I’m pleased that we achieved that. I did a 56.1 on a hard tyre and to be honest, I thought maybe I could do something really special with the soft, but all things considered, I think we did decently in our first qualifying session. We’ll see if we can come here and turn it into a result tomorrow night. Tyre life is going to be important, and since we’re using up the tyre a lot, we need to work on that. I still struggled a bit with chatter and understeer, especially in the fourth sector, where the corners are flat, but the GP12 is certainly the fastest Ducati I’ve ever ridden, which could come in handy in the race. I think it will be a hard race, but I’m really looking forward to it. There’s a big gap to the top two, but we’ll try our best to get a good start, get into that second group and fight like dogs to hold on. Hopefully we can leave here with something positive."
Valentino Rossi: "Yesterday was nothing fantastic but a lot better, especially with the used tyre, so my goal was to qualify on the second row. I’m very far from that target though, as the problems that we had before were worse. It’s very strange because we only made some small changes from yesterday, but the feeling was very different. After that we returned to yesterday’s setting and I went a little bit faster, but it wasn’t enough to significantly improve the result. I’m not sure what to expect for the race, but obviously, I hope to do better. Nicky made a different setup choice than ours and did a good session with both tyres, so now we’ll also look at his data and try to do better."