Qatar star Joe Roberts may have 'missed out' on victory at the season-opening Moto2 Grand Prix, but 'ticked another box' by leading the race and beat his previous best finish by six places.

Fast during pre-season testing after switching from the KTM to Kalex frame, Roberts nonetheless caused a stir by leading Friday practice at Losail.

The American Racing rider then proved it was no fluke by seizing a debut pole position the following day and was no lower than fourth throughout the 20-lap grand prix.

"In the first part of the race I was behind Bastianini and Martin, but when I got in front of them and behind Marini I felt quite comfortable with the pace," Roberts said.

"Just we gambled with the hard-front tyre and I had to save a couple of moments and then play it a little safe in the left corners."

When Marini began to lose pace, Roberts led across the start-finish line for the first time as a world championship rider on lap 15 of 20.

But the charging Tetsuta Nagashima, Lorenzo Baldassarri and Enea Bastianini would prove impossible to contain in the closing stages and Roberts crossed the line in fourth place, just 1.5s from victory and 0.131s from a debut rostrum.

"To have a pole position and fourth place - it's the best result in my career so I can't be upset with that," Roberts said.

"Also I'd never been up front with those guys before and even led a lap, so I can tick that box.

"But I really wanted to get the win, especially for the guys back home and all the support I've had over the weekend was driving me for that win and I was pushing so hard for it.

"We just missed out, but it's a long season and I think we've proved we're a frontrunner and can do this again… maybe in our home GP!"

The US round should be next on the schedule, at COTA from April 3-5, but that will very much depend on any further coronavirus restrictions.

Roberts' previous best grand prix finish was tenth place on his Moto2 debut for AGR (Kalex) at a wet Brno in 2017. The Californian then rode an NTS for RW Racing during 2018 (best finish 13th) before a peak of 14th place last season at the American Racing (KTM) team.