Called up in place of the injured Enea Bastianini, Petrucci, who now races for Ducati in WorldSBK, is returning to the team with which he won the 2020 French MotoGP.

The Italian also made a one-off MotoGP appearance for Suzuki last season but was instantly impressed by his first taste of the Desmosedici GP23.

Petrucci set the 19th fastest lap time, 2.072s from KTM’s Jack Miller but ahead of fellow replacements Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia) and Jonas Folger (GASGAS).

“I’m quite happy about today,” Petrucci said. “My lap time was not so bad. I even had riders behind me. I’m not far from the guys in front. Scoring a point is not so far but I need some kilometres more.

“After the Dakar, MotoAmerica, SBK, I tried many different bikes and I didn’t remember so well how to ride a MotoGP. I need to be really focussed because at the Dakar I was using my left hand to scroll the road book. Here it’s for the ride height device!

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“With this bike, you just feel the speed, and the stiffness. You need to be really aggressive. I’m slow to change the direction because I’m scared of losing the front.

“But it’s so impressive how easy is to open the throttle compared to two years ago.

“In SBK I’m struggling to not slide in the middle of the corner. Here, when you open the throttle it’s like electric. The power [delivery] is unbelievable. It doesn’t lose traction. I even said there’s too much traction! And there’s never too much!

“It’s really powerful, but easy. Some time ago it was let’s say really difficult to open the throttle.

“Also the gearbox is unbelievable, you just click and it’s like the bike put the turbo. Every gear you go, it’s more power, more power. I think I have arms 2cm longer!

“In the past the fairing was bigger. Now it’s smaller but the bike’s improved a lot in turning and stability.

“For sure I’m not using all its potential but it’s quite difficult to jump on it and be fast. I’m so glad to ride this bike. I would’ve liked to ride it more, but I think this (GP) is my last one.

“For me it’s like a prize. I hope Enea comes back as soon as possible. In Thailand I said it was my last time, wasn’t expecting to come back. I want to enjoy and stay in front of the other replacement riders.”

Team-mate and reigning champion Francesco Bagnaia was 1.5s ahead of Petrucci in ninth.

Petrucci will take part in his first ever MotoGP sprint race on Saturday afternoon.