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There’s a rigorous two-day Qualifying procedure before MotoGP races, which involves four Free Practice sessions and two Qualifying Practice sessions. Although ‘Free Practice’ is integral to MotoGP Qualifying, many diehard fans are still unsure of what these practice sessions entail.
There are four Free Practice (FP) sessions for MotoGP riders on race weekends. The results from the first three 45-minute FP sessions are timed to determine Qualifying Practice participation. Free Practice 4 is a reduced 30-minute session that is not timed and does not affect QP participation.
Once we’ve explained what the various Free Practice sessions entail, we’ll discuss how the results from these sessions affect the Qualifying Practice sessions and the upcoming race. We’ll also look at the timeline of these various practice sessions on regular race weekends!
What Are Free Practice Sessions In MotoGP?
While there have been many updates made to MotoGP’s Qualifying format over the years, the Free Practice sessions have largely remained the same. These practice sessions were named “Free Practice” to differentiate them from Qualifying Practice and demonstrate that there aren’t consequences related to Free Practice sessions.
However, the lack of consequences has changed in recent years to increase the spectacle for MotoGP fans. The times achieved during the Free Practice (FP) sessions count towards the Qualifying. The results from the first three FP sessions will determine whether a rider participates in the Qualifying Practice sessions.
Overall, there are four Free Practice sessions for riders and their teams. These sessions will be held on Day One (Friday) and Day Two (Saturday) on standard race weekends. Before we explain how the results from these FP sessions affect MotoGP Qualifying Practice, let’s break down the different Free Practice slots!
Free Practice 1 (FP1)
During the first 45-minute Free Practice session, teams have little to no data to tune their bikes with. FP1 is a rider’s first introduction to the racetrack and how it will be run for the upcoming race. During this session, bikes are tuned based on the rider’s preferences, as well as race data and experiences from previous years. FP1 is generally held on Friday mornings.
Free Practice 2 (FP2)
The second 45-minute Free Practice session is held on Friday afternoons. During this session, teams can use the data collected during FP1. During this session, teams also consider any feedback from the rider. Like FP1, Free Practice 2 is timed for Qualifying Practice participation. FP1 and FP2 take place on Day One of a regular race weekend.
Free Practice 3 (FP3)
The third 45-minute Free Practice session is held on Saturday mornings. Once again, data from the previous day’s practice sessions are used to optimize the rider’s bike. Like the previous practice sessions, FP3 is timed for Qualifying Practice participation. FP3’s times are combined with the results from FP1 and FP2 to determine who participates in the Qualifying Practice sessions.
Free Practice 4 (FP4)
Unlike the previous Free Practice sessions, FP4 has no bearing on which Qualifying session a rider takes part in. Instead, FP4 is used to accommodate any adjustments or changes that need to be made by teams. This is a shorter 30-minute practice session, which is not timed and is held before the two Qualifying sessions.
How Does Free Practice Impact Qualifying Practice In MotoGP?
As we explained in the above section, three of the four Free Practice sessions are timed to determine which riders participate in the two Qualifying Practice sessions. The combined results from FP1, FP2, and FP3 determine whether a rider participates in QP1 or QP2.
Riders whose times are 11th place and up will compete in Qualifying Practice 1, which is a 15-minute session held on Saturday afternoons. During QP1, the riders are positioned based on their top Qualifying time, usually from the third Free Practice session.
The top two riders from QP1 are promoted to Qualifying Practice 2. The top ten riders from Free Practice 3 will also partake in QP2, making up a total of 12 riders during this 15-minute session. QP2 determines the starting order at the front of the race.
Riders who weren’t in the top two times in QP1 will take grid positions 13 and up, based on their QP1 placements. Naturally, this rigorous Qualifying procedure sets up an exciting race for Sunday. In the following section, we’ll break down MotoGP’s practice timings on race weekends
MotoGP Practice Timings On Race Weekends
Now that we’ve outlined what the various Free Practice sessions entail and how these impact the Qualifying Practice sessions, you might be wondering about the timelines of these sessions on race weekends. Ultimately, all these practice sessions are held on the first two days (Friday and Saturday), with Sundays reserved for races.
Day One (Friday)
Two timed Free Practice sessions are held on Fridays during MotoGP race weekends.
Free Practice 1
FP1 is a 45-minute session held on Friday mornings. This session is timed for Qualifying Practice (QP) participation.
Free Practice 2
FP2 is a 45-minute session held on Friday afternoons. This session is also timed for QP participation.
Day Two (Saturday)
On Saturdays, the final Free Practice sessions are held, as well as both Qualifying Practice sessions.
Free Practice 3
FP3 is the last timed Free Practice session. This session is also 45 minutes and is held on Saturday mornings during race weekends.
Free Practice 4
As we discussed earlier, FP4 is not timed and only lasts for 30 minutes. Free Practice 4 is held on Saturday afternoons. FP4 is followed by a 10-minute break for riders and teams.
Qualifying Practice 1
Qualifying Practice 1 is held on Saturday afternoons after the 10-minute break. QP1 lasts for a total of 15 minutes.
Qualifying Practice 2
After QP1, there’s another 10-minute break. Following this, Qualifying Practice 2 is held, which also lasts for 15 minutes. QP2 concludes MotoGP’s two-day Qualifying procedure, with riders and teams gearing up for the race on Sunday.
On MotoGP race weekends, there are four Free Practice sessions held. FP1, FP2, and FP3 are all timed 45-minute sessions that determine a rider’s participation in the Qualifying Practice sessions. Free Practice 4 is a 30-minute session that is not timed and does not affect QP participation.