With barely any rest following the tense adventures in Brno, the premier class hit the fast and furious Red Bull Ring with a clear goal: to set an early benchmark while the sun was yet to give way to the predicted dark clouds for the remaining practice sessions. Marc Marquez was firing on all cylinders from the off and grabbed a lead of almost four tenths of a second until Andrea Dovizioso got the best of his softer tyres to sneak ahead with 15 minutes left on the clock.
The duo dominated the timesheets until the inevitable shootout started with five minutes to go. The two old rivals were eventually split in the final minute when the remaining Ducatis were unleashed. Dovizioso recuperated top position from teammate Jorge Lorenzo, while Danilo Petrucci made it an all-Ducati top three. Marquez could not quite improve on his early laptime to keep up with the red bikes and finished fourth but the Spaniard did not put in new tyres at the end and was still posting times within half a tenth of his best.
Andrea Iannone made a late jump into fifth position, six tenths of a second off the lead and closely followed by Dani Pedrosa, who was best of the rest for much of the session, until the final attack started. Another Honda of Cal Crutchlow joined in seventh position, the trio separated by barely half a tenth. On the other hand, Tito Rabat in eighth was almost two tenths of a second slower, another tenth keeping Johann Zarco at bay.
Despite the modest result and nearly full second separating the Frenchman from the leader, Zarco was top Yamaha in the session. His factory colleagues had a bit of a nightmare start, Maverick Viñales starting his day almost two seconds slower than Marquez and recovering one of those seconds to sneak into the top ten by the skin of his teeth. To add to their worries, teammate Valentino Rossi made it about ten minutes into the session until his engine started sounding like a turntable scratch and the M1 decided to take a break in the middle of the start-finish straight. The Italian rejoined the action soon after but 11th was the best he could muster, only just keeping Aleix Espargaro, Alvaro Bautista and Alex Rins behind.