Drafted in at short notice to replace injured 2020 world champion Joan Mir, Friday free practice at Buriram was Petrucci's first time on a MotoGP bike since ‘retiring’ from the premier class at last November’s finale.

It was also Petrucci’s first ever taste of a Japanese grand prix bike, with the corner-friendly GSX-RR powered by an Inline 4-cylinder engine compared to the V4 layout at Ducati and KTM, the brands Petrucci raced for from 2015 to 2021.

Hoping the forecast wet weather would help his cause this weekend, the Italian feared he might even struggle to meet the required 107% time when the clouds suddenly lifted to provide dry conditions in both Friday sessions.

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But such concerns were unfounded, Petrucci finishing FP1 just 2.183s from the top and 22nd out of 24 riders.

The afternoon session proved tougher in terms of a time attack and Petrucci slipped to last place (+2.6s) but he was left in awe at the cornering ability of the soon-to-be-extinct GSX-RR.

“I am happy but at the same time upset because in my [FP2] time attack I found two yellow flags, and then made a mistake,” Petrucci explained. “The only thing I missed was the time attack, but it’s OK.

“But I was happy because using the tyre from this morning I was able to ride in 32-high, which is more-or-less one second off the pace of the top guys, but it was only the first day.

“This morning I was so happy not to be last and this afternoon, I think I could have finished 1.0 or 1.3s from the top.

“I am still struggling in the first two sections with the hard braking but in the other part, which is really flowing, the bike is simply unbelievable because you have a big lean angle, big corner speed.”

Petrucci: Suzuki is so different to Ducati, KTM

“This bike is so different from what I used in the previous years, not only the Ducati but also the KTM,” said Petrucci, a double race winner on the Desmosedici before a disappointing final campaign with KTM.

“It’s incredible how much you can carry the speed inside the corner and it is something you need to understand, because you always think ‘I’m going too fast, too fast, too fast’ but then it stays on the line.

“You think you have to brake as hard as possible, but this is not the way this bike wants to ride.

“I was used to squaring the corner. To brake hard, stop the bike and accelerate but this bike is not like this. You can carry a lot of [corner] speed and I am used to picking up the bike when I [apply] the throttle, but on this bike you can stay on maximum lean angle, have a lot of good corner speed and can still stay tight to the kerb.

“It is something I never tried in my life and I need to get used to this.

“I was not able to put one lap together, but the first two sectors where the straights are I am losing 0.7 to Alex [Rins, team-mate] but in the last sector, where there are more corners, I am only +0.3s.

"Still the braking is something I need to understand but I am so happy about today because I was scared, excited, curious… I thought I would be slower than I was!

“When I saw it was not raining this morning, I thought ‘will I qualify for the race?!’ and at the end, I was only two seconds from the lead. [Already] more-or-less the same position where I left MotoGP last year!”

Petrucci: Maybe I wouldn’t have retired… I want to buy this bike!

Petrucci enjoyed the sweet handling of the GSX-RR so much that he feels he might have remained in MotoGP if he had been racing it last season, when he left to seek new challenges in the Dakar and then MotoAmerica after a demoralising time on the RC16.

“Maybe if I raced with this bike last year, then I wouldn’t have quit my career in MotoGP. This is for sure,” said the 31-year-old. “Because I really enjoyed riding this bike.

“It is my first Japanese bike and it is so different. But it is so good.

“I have no money otherwise I would buy this bike! After the Dakar I bought the [KTM] but it was only 15,000 euros. I think this one costs a little bit more and I don’t have all this money!

“But in general, I think this weekend I am one of the happiest men on the planet.”

Sadly for Petrucci and MotoGP, the Suzuki GSX-RR will be mothballed after the season finale following the factory’s surprise decision to quit the world championship.

Petrucci’s own 2023 plans are still to be confirmed after finishing title runner-up in his debut MotoAmerica season, with Ducati.