With a return to a familiar base setting with his Petronas Yamaha, Franco Morbidelli says he felt instantly faster at Sepang compared to his Australian MotoGP struggles.

The Italian rider completed a Petronas Yamaha 1-2 in FP1 ahead of his team’s premier class home race debut, before being shuffled back to fourth place in FP2, having demonstrated strong pace compared to his Phillip Island performance where he a lowly 11th place.

Morbidelli put his gains down to using a base setting from earlier this season, something he strayed away from in the cold and windy conditions at the contrasting circuit characteristics of Phillip Island compared to Sepang, which gives him confidence of fighting in the front group this weekend.

“We started with a different setting compared to Australia and it paid off as straightaway I was faster compared to Australia and the level was much better, compared to Sunday in Australia. I think this was the key,” Morbidelli said.

“It has been our base setting since forever so we started with that.”

Morbidelli also feels Yamaha’s Achilles heel of acceleration from slow speed corners and converting it into top speed on the straights has been a weakness reduced at the Malaysian track after Friday practice.

Yamaha riders have been exposed to rivals with a top speed advantage at recent races, but the current speed trap figures will be taken with caution as all riders will be preserving engine life in practice sessions over the final two rounds of the season.

“We all know that we are losing on the straight but looking at the speed chart this morning the difference between us and the top wasn’t so big, five kph, something like that compared to Marc,” he said, with the gap expanding to just under seven kph in FP2, said.

“I wasn’t so impressed by the difference. We know we are missing that but this weekend, especially this morning as now I have to check again, but the different now is not a lot.”

Morbidelli held on to second place on the combined practice times at Sepang but 0.534s off pace-setting Petronas Yamaha team-mate Quartararo.