And new season, same old show-offs at the top. Reigning champion Marc Marquez was keen to demonstrate that he’s still the man to beat despite his lengthy recovery from his now notorious shoulder surgery. The Spaniard set camp at the top of the timesheets early on and showed consistent pace in the low 1:55s, although times were not all that relevant due to the drastically different conditions to race time. Regardless of such practicalities, the final couple of minutes turned into a fierce battle for FP1 supremacy.
An equally convalescent Jorge Lorenzo served a first upset to his teammate in the final few minutes by picking up the lead but it was Valentino Rossi who settled the Repsol Honda squabble by taking over top spot as the checkered flag came out. The veteran Italian steadily climbed his way into the top ten before swooping past Lorenzo by seven hundredths of a second. Marquez finished a tenth behind the leader but he was not tempted by fresh rubber for a late time attack.
Ducati’s first rider (literally and metaphorically) was Andrea Dovizioso in fourth, half a tenth behind Marquez and the same gap keeping him ahead of teammate Danilo Petrucci. The Monster Yamaha squad bookended the top six with Maverick Vinales just two and a half tenths slower than his leading teammate.
The minuscule gaps continued throughout the top ten, Franco Morbidelli and Jack Miller putting some independent team bikes ahead of the factory Suzuki of Alex Rins in ninth. Takaaki Nakagami continued to impress by rounding out the top ten, less than four tenths slower than his factory colleagues. Fabio Quartararo was top rookie in 11th position, ahead of the KTM and Aprilia machines of the Espargaro brothers and with the top 18 riders within a second of the leader.