'I was scared!' – Espargaro thrilled with Portimao placing after crash-heavy qualifying

By Sports Desk April 23, 2022

Aleix Espargaro conceded he was fearful heading into the final session of Saturday's qualifying ahead of the Portuguese Grand Prix.

A crash-laden Q1 at Portimao saw Remy Gardner and Francesco Bagnaia, who has finished on the podium in his last two races at the Algarve International Circuit, crash, with the latter failing to set a time.

Johann Zarco produced a stunning lap to come out on top in Q2 to take pole and spare Ducati's blushes, finishing ahead of Joan Mir and Espargaro, who across four races this season has collected 50 points, more than in two of his previous five whole seasons with Aprilia (44 points in 2018 and 42 in 2020).

Reigning champion Fabio Quartararo – the winner at Portimao last year – also struggled in the wet, though the Yamaha driver overcame a tricky moment to clinch fifth on the grid, while Marc Marquez, chasing his 100th MotoGP podium this weekend, was left to rue a yellow flag, having initially set the fastest lap.

After negotiating the difficult conditions, a relieved Espargaro was thrilled with his efforts.

He said: "I hate to say it – I was scared! Today I was scared, the wet patches were very slippery.

"When you are sitting in the garage and see many crashes, and all the crashes have been huge. You have to be very focused but you cannot be.

"I tried to feel perfectly the whole track to see where I could push in the last five minutes. I am very happy, this is like a victory because I hate these conditions, so I'm super happy."

Having recorded a time of 1:42.003, Zarco, too, acknowledged the state of the track made assessing where and when to push hard difficult.

"Pretty, pretty happy. I did not expect it to be so good. It was so tricky," the Frenchman said.

"I was pretty happy to go straight through Q2. I couldn't analyse the Q1 well. The best strategy was to stay on track, do the full 15 minutes with the same tyre to get confidence with the track, it worked pretty well for me."

Mir, meanwhile, revelled in taking a place on the front row for just the second time in his MotoGP career.

"In normal conditions we always struggle to make one lap but in tough conditions we can give a little but more," the Suzuki Ecstar rider said.  

"My feeling is improving. We are following good steps, we are improving and it looks like when we make a good step [forward], we don't go back. So it's important. Let's see if we can go faster tomorrow, but it will be a hard race."

Related items

  • Mkhitaryan completes move to Inter after 'perfect end' to Roma career Mkhitaryan completes move to Inter after 'perfect end' to Roma career

    Henrikh Mkhitaryan says winning the Europa Conference League was the "perfect conclusion" to his Roma career after finalising a move to Serie A rivals Inter.

    The ex-Armenia international spent three years at Stadio Olimpico, the first of those on loan, following an underwhelming spell in England with Manchester United and Arsenal.

    Mkhitaryan made 117 appearances for Roma – only four others featured more regularly during his time at the club – and directly contributed to 55 goals.

    Indeed, over that period, Lorenzo Pellegrini (56) was the only player to score and assist more goals for the Giallorossi in all competitions.

    He played nine times in Roma's successful Europa Conference League campaign under Jose Mourinho last time out, with that the Italian side's first trophy in 60 years.

    Following the expiration of his Roma contract earlier this week, Mkhitaryan was unveiled as an Inter player on Saturday on a reported two-year deal.

    Mkhitaryan posted an emotional farewell to Roma supporters on his social media, reserving special praise for head coach Mourinho.

    "Roma is a truly unique club," he said in an open letter. "Your support has been outstanding and I will always be very proud of it.

    "When I wore this shirt for the first time, I had a goal: to make this club win and to make its fantastic fans happy. Goal achieved in Tirana! 

    "This triumph was the perfect conclusion to my three years in the Giallorossi. Now it's time to say goodbye.

    "I want to thank all the people who work in the club for the special relationship built together over the years. 

    "A huge thank you to our technical staff and in particular to Mr. Mourinho for his trust and attention towards me and for the extraordinary motivations he gave me as a player.

    "I gave my all for Roma on and off the pitch. It was a great honour to play here and I will never forget the amazing moments we had together. 

    "This club and the Eternal City will remain forever in my heart. I love you!"

    Mkhitaryan is Inter's fourth confirmed signing of the transfer window following the arrivals of Andre Onana, Romelu Lukaku and Kristjan Asllani, the latter two joining on loan.

    Simone Inzaghi's side, who finished second to Milan in a tense Scudetto battle last time out, begin their 2022-23 Serie A campaign away at Lecce on August 13.

  • Hamilton pleased with 'small step forwards' as Sainz tops British Grand Prix practice Hamilton pleased with 'small step forwards' as Sainz tops British Grand Prix practice

    Lewis Hamilton was pleased with the "small step forwards" taken by Mercedes after setting the second-fastest time in practice ahead of the British Grand Prix.

    The Briton was 0.163 seconds slower than pace-setter Carlos Sainz in FP2, while compatriot Lando Norris was third and championship leader Max Verstappen in fourth.

    Hamilton has yet to win a race this season, but he offered plenty of promise heading into a big weekend on home soil at a packed Silverstone with his performance in practice.

    However, the seven-time world champion offered a word of caution over the ongoing porpoising issue that has dominated recent races.

    "It's bouncing still, quite a bit," he said. "Not necessarily on the straights but through the corners it's pretty harsh – not physically harsh but in the car on the tyres and everything.

    "So we still have work to do but it feels like a small step forwards.

    "Our long run pace isn't as good as the other guys but it's not miles off. We've definitely made an improvement. I'm sure overnight we can work and improve the car a bit more."

    Hamilton may have endured a difficult campaign to date, lagging as he does 98 points behind leader Verstappen, but he boasts an impressive record on his home turf.

    The 37-year-old has won the British Grand Prix eight times and could become the driver to have won the most races at a single Grand Prix with victory this weekend.

    Mercedes, meanwhile, have recorded eight of the last nine wins at Silverstone, while also taking eight of the last nine poles.

    McLaren driver Norris looks good value to challenge for a second podium of 2022 after a surprising rise up the timesheets, having finished 15th last time out in Canada.

    "As good as it looked, it is still difficult to put things together and be consistent but I am happy," he said.

    "The car seems to be in a decent place, at least a little better than we were expecting."

    Friday was rather unimpressive for Red Bull's Verstappen, who has won six of the nine races this year, including five of the last six.

    But the Dutchman – who is out to surpass Valtteri Bottas and equal Rubens Barrichello as the driver with the eighth-most podiums ever (68) – is confident of finding improvement.

    "It's always a bit tricky, of course, after not driving in FP1 and then FP2 becomes a bit of guessing, let's say it like that," Verstappen said. 

    "It was maybe not ideal, but also not a big issue. I think we know what we have to work on and that's what we'll try to do overnight. 

    "But, again, tomorrow probably it's raining so you have again different kinds of conditions. This time probably was not amazing, but it was also not really bad."

  • Wimbledon: Mother of all shocks as Sakkari slumps to Tatjana Maria Wimbledon: Mother of all shocks as Sakkari slumps to Tatjana Maria

    Tatjana Maria bumped Maria Sakkari out of Wimbledon as the German who once played at the All England Club while pregnant condemned the Greek star to a stunning exit.

    Mum-of-two Maria dazzled in a 6-3 7-5 victory over the fifth seed, reaching round four of a grand slam for the first time in her career. She had suffered eight successive first-round losses in slams until this week's turnaround, last getting a win at the 2018 US Open.

    The inspired Maria revelled on the Court Two big stage, becoming the oldest German woman in the Open Era, which began in 1968, to make it through to the last-16 stage of a major.

    At the age of 34 years and 228 days, world number 103 Maria is also the oldest woman remaining in the Wimbledon singles this year.

    Sakkari lost in two tight sets to Maria at the Australian Open in January, but the roles were reversed this time, the impressive German landing a fifth career win over a top-10 player.

    Husband and coach Charles-Edouard Maria watched from the stands, while their daughters, eight-year-old Charlotte and one-year-old Cecilia, played in a nearby creche.

    Maria said in an on-court interview: "I came here with my two kids for the first time. I was so happy to be in the main draw. I love to play on grass. It's such a special place for me. One year, when I was in my first pregnancy, I played pregnant.

    "I love to play Wimbledon and to make this happen with my family there are no words for this, only joy and only happiness."

    She said her daughters were probably "jumping in front of the TV", and spoke of wanting to set a positive example for her tennis-playing elder daughter.

    "I try to be really a role model for my daughter, because she will be the next champion, so I try to show her the best way possible," Maria added. "I cannot wait to go over to the creche now and see my kids."

    Neither Maria nor Sakkari had ever gone beyond round three at Wimbledon, with this the one grand slam where the Greek world number five has not reached the last-16 stage.

    Maria was one of three mothers in the draw, the WTA said, along with Serena Williams and Yanina Wickmayer, both of whom made early exits. The next test for Maria will be posed by big-hitting Latvian Jelena Ostapenko.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.