Back at 'full' two rider strength, Rizla Suzuki's Alvaro Bautista and wild-card John Hopkins began the Malaysian Grand Prix with seventh and 14th in places in Friday practice.

Bautista's best lap was 1.873sec behind Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa, but he was only half a second from third place Andrea Dovizioso.

"This morning we tried a different setting on the bike, similar to the one we used in Australia, and we preferred that one so we carried on with that this afternoon," said the Spaniard.

"We continued with the soft tyres we had been using this morning during this afternoon's session and I did more than race distance with them, and the rhythm felt good. In the middle of the second practice I tried a harder rear tyre, but I didn't feel too much initial grip and it didn't give me as much feedback as the softer one.

"We have got some good information on the tyres now and I think we will use the softer one for the race, if the conditions are similar to today. I will try to improve tomorrow in FP3 and then get a good lap in qualifying, so I am in the best possible position for the race."

"Alvaro's pace is better than his position, he equalled his best lap with race distance on the tyres and I think he can go a lot quicker tomorrow," added team manager Paul Denning.

"The GSV-R is working well and if everything goes in the right direction I think Alvaro has a chance to fight for the podium on Sunday."

Hopkins, who unlike the full time riders didn't test at Sepang in February, used Friday's track time to reacquaint himself with the GSV-R. The American, second in this year's BSB championship, will be looking for improved rear grip on Saturday.

"Today has just been about getting comfortable on the bike and building my confidence back up to be able to ride a MotoGP machine," said Hopkins, making his third MotoGP appearance of the season.

"My main thing was getting the confidence in the tyres, because unlike at Jerez and Brno, where the tyres gave me a good feedback and I was able to get used to them straight off the bat, here with the temperatures and humidity I am spinning up a bit and struggling a bit with rear grip.

"It's probably not so much struggling as getting used to how it's working and getting the bike picked up at the right time out of the corners. I feel quite strong in some of the parts of the track, but coming out of some of the corners I'm not quite where I want to be, which is mostly due to my rider technique and getting back on terms with the bike.

"The day wasn't too bad for us, but I think we can improve a lot tomorrow. I will think about the track tonight and I'm looking forward to the rest of the weekend."

"John's been through a lot physically in the last couple of months, and that combined with the shock of the way the MotoGP bike works compared to the Superbike, held him back a little bit today," said Denning. "I am sure that with a good night's sleep he will be quite a bit closer to his best tomorrow."