2022 MotoGP Italian Grand Prix: When is it and what time does it start?
Celebrating his new two-year deal with Aprilia, which was announced on Thursday, Espargaro guided his RS-GP - which in FP2 was powered by a new engine - to top spot with a 1m45.891s.
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He was shadowed by the factory Ducati of Francesco Bagnaia on a 1m45.940s, who led an onslaught of Ducatis consisting of team-mate Jack Miller, Pramac's Johann Zarco, VR46's Luca Marini and Gresini's Enea Bastianini.
Zarco's day on his Pramac Ducati decked out in new colours was not without incident, as the Frenchman crashed twice during FP2 - his first tumble leading to a brief red flag stoppage.
Brad Binder was seventh on his factory KTM, while team-mate Miguel Oliveira - who was 14th overall - confirmed to the media that KTM has offered him a potential demotion to Tech3 for 2023.
Marco Bezzecchi ensured six of the nine Ducatis present at Mugello this weekend were inside the top 10 at the end of Friday's running, as the VR46 rider was eighth ahead of championship leader Fabio Quartararo.
The Yamaha rider and 2021 Mugello winner was left somewhat despondent on Friday as he felt his bike was completely "opposite" to how it was last season at the Italian GP venue.
Pol Espargaro completed the top 10 on his Honda as team-mate Marc Marquez was 12th having spent the day testing a new chassis.
Practice continues on Saturday for the 2022 MotoGP Italian Grand Prix on Saturday morning at 9:55am local time (8:55 BST) before qualifying takes place at 2:10pm local time (1:10pm BST).
The eighth round of the 2022 season sees MotoGP head to Italy for the first of two races in the country this year, with the series returning in September to Misano.
It also marks the first race at Mugello to be held with a full attendance allowed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reigning world champion Fabio Quartararo comes into the Mugello weekend leading the standings by four points from Aprilia's Aleix Espargaro, after struggling to overtake the Spaniard in fourth in the French GP two weeks ago.
Espargaro comes into Mugello with his future secured after Aprilia announced it had signed him to a new two-year deal, with Maverick Vinales also continuing as his team-mate through to the end of 2024.
Enea Bastianini will be hoping to add to Ducati's victory success at Mugello having stormed to victory last time out at Le Mans on his 2021-spec Gresini-run Ducati, with Bastianini just eight points off top spot.
Nine Ducatis will be present on the grid for the Italian GP as test rider Michele Pirro makes a scheduled wildcard appearance on a GP22 decked out in the marque's World Superbike livery, while Pramac Racing will field a striking new colour scheme from this weekend.
The first 45-minute session of the Mugello weekend got underway in perfect conditions, with Ducati test rider and wildcard Michele Pirro getting his head down in the early stages on his World Superbike-liveried GP22.
Pirro – who has completed thousands of laps around Mugello in his role as test rider – set the early pace with a 1m48.636s, improving to a 1m47.826s and a 1m47.432s over his first few flying laps.
With 10 minutes of the session gone, Alex Rins guided his Suzuki to the top of the pile with a 1m47.423s before Aleix Espargaro – who along with teammate Maverick Vinales has signed a new deal with Aprilia for 2023 - put his Aprilia into first with a 1m47.161s.
Many manufacturers have brought upgrades to Mugello, with Aprilia notably bringing a new engine and Formula 1-style rear wing – with wildcard Lorenzo Savadori putting miles on the new parts in FP1.
Espargaro noted on Thursday at Mugello that he will likely try the new engine in FP2 this afternoon.
Yamaha and KTM have brought revised aerodynamic packages aimed at reducing drag to increase top speed – something that is vital for the former, as KTM actually holds the top speed record at Mugello.
Honda also appears to have a different chassis trialled by Marc Marquez this morning.
With 15 minutes of the session gone, Francesco Bagnaia shot to the top of the order on his factory Ducati with a 1m47.070s, which was matched by Aleix Espargaro 15 minutes later.
While FP1 was largely uneventful, there was a scary moment between Espargaro and KTM’s Miguel Oliveira when the former overtook the Portuguese rider into San Donato at Turn 1.
As Espargaro drew alongside going through the kink at the crest of the hill, Oliveira ran onto the grass – but managed to keep it under control and stay on his KTM.
Moments after Espargaro had gone fastest, LCR Honda’s Takaaki Nakagami took over with a 1m47.040s.
When is the 2022 MotoGP Italian Grand Prix?
The 2022 MotoGP Italian Grand Prix takes place from 27-29 May and is the eighth of 20 rounds on the calendar, after the Finnish Grand Prix scheduled for July was cancelled earlier this week.