Hafizh Syahrin was once again the fastest of the MotoGP rookies on the first day of MotoGP free practice at the Circuit of Catalunya, the Malaysian pointing to a straightforward set-up change that saw him skim close to a second off his personal best lap time.

The ex-Moto2 podium finisher described Friday’s on-track action, in which he placed an impressive tenth on the combined time sheets, as a “big surprise” and revealed his squad “raised” his M1 at Mugello to provide greater stability when applying the brakes.

This wasn’t Syahrin’s first experience around the flowing, undulating Montmeló track on a MotoGP machine. A private one-day test here three weeks ago allowed him to get a feel for the layout, his fastest time at the end of that afternoon a 1m 40.502s. On Friday, he lapped the 2.8-mile circuit in 1m 39.782s.

“It's a big surprise for me,” said Syahrin, who will continue with the Tech 3 squad with KTM machinery in MotoGP in 2019. “Suddenly, I can stay in the top ten for Q2. I know some riders will go faster tomorrow, but anyway, I feel really good with the bike, I enjoy with team, and also I think the team understand me and I understand the bike.

“Since Mugello, we did something different on the bike, and we improved nearly one second compared to the test. So I'm really happy about this, and thank them very much for giving me a good package. So we will see tomorrow. In the morning, it's a little bit less hot, and for sure some riders will go faster and I will try to take this advantage to go faster as well.”

Pressed on the change, Syahrin continued, “I just moved the bike up. I didn't change the suspension so much, I just raised the bike, to give me more support on the braking, because at the moment, I've already improved on the brakes, before I was a little bit weak on the brakes.

“So now I already have an advantage on the brakes, because of this setup change. So I feel really good with the bike, with the team who made this. So I'm really happy with the feeling on the bike, and we will see tomorrow. I will try to push a little bit more tomorrow, to be a bit more in the comfort zone for Q2.

“So that's why we don't make a big change from the last race. We just raised the bike from Mugello, and we just ride and ride and I try to learn from [Johann] Zarco [Tech 3 team-mate], I also tried to follow him, and I changed my style and I changed my riding on the bike.”

Does it help this is a track that has historically favoured Yamaha? “I think so,” he said. “The bike helps me a little bit on this circuit, also it's not like Mugello, where it's a bit difficult to understand to carry the speed. And here, we know where is the limit, so we understand how to arrive at the limit.”

Is he seeking any improvements ahead of Saturday? “No, at the moment I don't have any problems on the bike, I just try to improve myself,” he said. “I try to work on myself. That's my first priority and my target, because I need to learn a little bit more, and also to believe in the tires when you brake the bike and then release the brake, you need to release it quickly, and that's what I tried to learn today.”