Who is that making his way through dust as dense as a rainstorm faster than anyone else? Well it is Marc Marquez of course, dancing with arguably his favourite piece of tarmac. The Spaniard comfortably put a second into his pursuers as soon as the light went green and supervised the rest of FP1/track cleaning operation from the top of the timesheets. While his occasional rodeo did come with impressive pace at a track where he always seems to be one step ahead, the gaps throughout the field will come with a pinch of salt, as the morning session did not serve for much else than dealing with a very dirty track.
Nonetheless, the factory Yamahas looked like serious opponents throughout the session, chipping away a tenth here and there only for Marquez to bring the gap back up to a second every time they got any closer. Valentino Rossi broke that barrier to get as close as four tenths of a second in a final attempt to ensure a top ten position with the thundery forecast for Saturday in mind. The gap might be deceiving as the reigning world champion was not tempted by new soft rubber in the late stages of the session but Rossi and teammate Maverick Viñales have shown some encouraging early pace, the Spaniard in particular demonstrating good consistency despite looking less than smooth at times.
Jorge Lorenzo was the lead Ducati in a session where the top four was covered by a second. Championship leader Cal Crutchlow kept close behind in fifth position, with Andrea Dovizioso biding his time to make a late jump into the top six. Takaaki Nakagami was another, perhaps more surprising late improver but it’s not his first rodeo as top rookie in a session either.
Andrea Iannone was fastest in the final sector but only eighth overall, one and a half seconds behind Marquez and closely followed by Johann Zarco. The Frenchman had a bumpy start to his weekend, with a technical glitch forcing him to abandon his first run but his Yamana still recovered to a dignified ninth position. The final top ten spot went to Alex Rins, trailing his teammate by little over a tenth of a second.
Despite still recovering from fairly recent surgery, Dani Pedrosa joined the party for a significant part of the session but skipped the final attack to finish twenty-first and add some more painkillers to his lunch menu.