Hafizh Syahrin scored the first ever MotoGP points by a Malaysian rider on his premier-class debut in Qatar.

Drafted into the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team just a month before the start of the new season, Syahrin qualified in 15th place and - with his nerves steadied by some calming words from team boss Herve Poncharal - got a strong launch off the grid.

"I have a good boss, Herve Poncharal, who is really friendly and always says something funny. This helped me not to feel stressed or nervous," Syahrin said.

"He said to me, 'enjoy, don't be stressed, it's only your first race so just try to understand everything, don’t be too nervous'. I took this as my motivation and that's why I can arrive at this point in race one. Thanks so much to him.

"I thought maybe I would be a bit scared, but when the red lights went off suddenly my confidence was there. I felt good with the launch control. It's easier than Moto2! I made a good start, not bad, just a little bit of wheelie."

But the 23-year-old was soon in for a scare at turn one.

"I was near to touching the tyre of Lorenzo, so near to crashing, I'm lucky to save the bike," revealed Syahrin, who finished the first lap down in 17th place.

After holding that position for several laps, Syahrin was able to pass Aprilia's Scott Redding on lap 4, then gained two more places when Jorge Lorenzo and Alex Rins crashed out just after the midway stage of the 22 laps.

"I passed Redding and some others, then I stayed 14th for a long time but in the middle of the race I tried to change my electronics [settings] to save my rear tyre," Syahrin said.

"It was good but not so fast. So three laps from the finish I changed the electronics back to how they were at the beginning of the race. Understanding the electronics is all part of my learning."

After a tussle with Angel Nieto Ducati rider Alvaro Bautista, Syahrin picked off the fading Aleix Espargaro on the final lap to regain 14th place and second-best rookie behind only Moto2 champion Franco Morbidelli (12th).

"I'm happy and proud of myself because my target was just top 20 and to finish the race," Syahrin smiled. "At the end we scored points even though not many riders crashed and I stayed 14th for a long time.

"I really enjoyed the race because I didn't expect I can fight with them. I thought maybe I would be very far at the beginning of the race and then catch up little by little. But I was able to stay there.

"These two points are for my team and I'll try to improve more. I promise to train hard to be better and better at every race.

"This was only my first race and already I've learned a lot, it's like going to school! I really enjoyed it and thank you very much to Tech3 because they gave me a lot of information, a very good bike and now it feels like a family.

"I have a good relationship with the team, always joking with the mechanics, which also gives me more confidence and less stress. I really enjoy being with this team."

And what is his next target?

"Try to repeat this result and get more confidence to race with all the grand prix riders. I also need to improve my confidence in the beginning of practice, because all the MotoGP riders go fast directly out of the box. I need confidence with the tyres especially because MotoGP is fast, above 300km/h, and I need confidence in the front tyre to brake."

But one area where Syahrin is already satisfied is his physical fitness.

"I don't feel really tired, just a little bit," he said. "During training in the winter I made quite a big step and have improved my fitness a lot."

Team-mate Johann Zarco, who began the race on pole position, finished in eighth place after a front tyre issue.

Round two takes place in Argentina on April 8.