On paper, Fabio Quartararo is the least qualified of the 2019 MotoGP rookies, with only a single grand prix victory from four podiums in the Moto3 and Moto2 classes.

But the new Petronas Yamaha Sepang rider was a stunning second fastest at the Qatar test and came close to repeating that form on day one of the grand prix, claiming fifth place – despite some mistakes.

The French teenager has a 2019 M1, but only five (instead of seven) engine changes for the season and therefore a lower maximum RPM than the three factory riders - Maverick Vinales, Valentino Rossi and Petronas team-mate Franco Morbidelli.

But it didn’t hold him back much on Friday.

"We have managed to maintain a good pace and in particular a fast lap time," Quartararo said.

"I didn’t feel so good on the first tyre but I did have a full tank at that point. After that we tried another tyre and I actually made a few mistakes on my fast lap so it was a surprise to see that I had managed a 54.1, which means I could even have managed a high 53 or a lower 54."

A high '53 would have put Quartararo ahead of Ducati's Danilo Petrucci for fourth. Either way, Quartararo was the second best Yamaha behind Vinales and five places clear of next best rookie Joan Mir (Suzuki).

"I am really happy with the pace we have set tonight and the job the team has done. We need to stay calm and keep working in the same way.

"I have felt good so far in the two free practice sessions. In FP3 tomorrow we will have to take the heat into account and then in FP4 focus on our race pace. Then we’ll see what happens in qualifying."

Morbidelli had amore complicated eventing, due to a fast accident at turn one on his way to seventh overall.

"I was trying to understand a new aspect of the setting that we were trying and it was my first lap, so I think I just went too hard into turn one on used tyres and ended up crashing," he explained. "Maybe the tyre wasn’t quite ready for me to push so hard, so basically it was my own fault.

"After the crash we were able to rediscover the feeling very easily and I was able to go fast with the new setting on the second bike. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do many laps on it and we would have liked to have done more on used tyres, which was the plan. Despite that, we were able to get a few laps in so we do at least have some information to work from."

 

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