FP1 appeared to be one of the few fully dry sessions forecasted for Motegi and it showed on the timing screens, with everyone eager to find some pace and then attack the timesheets on fresh rubber. There were a few brave exceptions to that rule but all the fastest men going into Friday afternoon rode Yamahas. Maverick Vinales was consistently amongst the top riders throughout the session and overhauled colleague Fabio Quartararo to top spot. Franco Morbidelli kept up with his teammate to complete a Yamaha top three.
Marc Marquez got to stretch his legs as a world champion on Honda’s home track and led the way for a considerable amount of time but was in no rush to prove his speed and was not tempted by a late attack on new tyres. His usual routine dropped him nearly half a second off the leader but safely in fourth and with solid pace – as if there was any other way. Alex Rins did give the soft rear tyre a late go and used it to join the top five, narrowly ahead of teammate Joan Mir.
Jack Miller in seventh spot found himself as lead Ducati but his cause was helped by Andrea Dovizioso taking the Marquez approach and not swapping to new rubber to end the session. This left the Italian in a sensible eighth position but compatriot Valentino Rossi, who tried the same strategy, was less successful, getting demoted from the top ten by late attacks from Pol Espargaro, Cal Crutchlow and Aleix Espargaro. Both him and pal Danilo Petrucci will be hoping for a dry FP2 to set things straight.