Despite overnight rain affecting track conditions on Friday morning, there were only faint traces of damp across the surface by the time the premier class started fire – and it was hot. Barely five minutes into the session and Marc Marquez was doing Marc Marquez things, lap one putting him over a second ahead of the rest and lap two seeing him test the limits with yet another splendid save at turn two. Adding to the drama, the world champion was exploring the service road five minutes later, after his machine refused to go any further than turn 6, hindering his usual FP1 routine. After the Spaniard admired some replays of his save while his machine was getting a quick servicing, he resumed his plan for the final half of the session.
Meanwhile, Maverick Vinales was allowed to roam free at the top of the timesheets, the Yamaha man posting the first 1:59 time of the weekend in the midst of a solid run. Vinales appeared to be one step ahead for most of the session, with impressive pace in the low 2:00s, but the time attack in the final six minutes had a different idea. Not particularly shy on the back of a tricky weekend in Australia, Fabio Quartararo tested the grassy track limits early on but he nailed them soon after and the end of the session saw him take down the all time lap record around the home playground for his squad. The Frenchman was looking pretty smooth on rhythm too, in the mid 2:00s. Petronas Yamaha had even more reason to rejoice as Franco Morbidelli joined the top two, less than a tenth of a second slower than his teammate. Vinales made do with third, making it an all-Yamaha top three – a rather familiar sight of late.
Even Marquez had to give into the shootout this time and the Honda man was briefly dumped out of the top ten but his one flying lap was enough for fourth at the checkered flag, although half a second off the leader. Andrea Dovizioso added a Ducati to the top five mix, with Suzuki making an entry in sixth with Alex Rins. Aleix Espargaro climbed to seventh for Aprilia, while Valentino Rossi found some speed and a more positive start to his weekend in eighth position. Podium men last time out, Cal Crutchlow and Jack Miller shared the remaining top ten positions as the final riders to post a time within a second of the new lap record. Joan Mir and Danilo Petrucci narrowly missed out and are provisionally out of the top ten positions.
Miguel Oliveira tried to run some laps despite his lingering shoulder and hand injuries but could only manage a couple of them before pain took over and the rest of his weekend looks in doubt.