Jack Miller will line-up at the head of row two, in fourth, for Sunday night's Qatar MotoGP season opener.

Row two is also where Miller started last year's Lusail rounds, when he was left a disappointed ninth in both races after being 'slapped by some reality'.

The Australian returns with a more 'humble' approach for the start of his second season at the factory Ducati team, working carefully on his pace in free practice and taking nothing for granted.

"At the beginning of last year I started with this big chip on my shoulder, 'I'm going to be a championship challenger' and I soon got slapped with some reality, brought back down to earth and then I was able to build a season from then on, more-or-less," Miller said.

"So this year I'm trying to start humble, calm and just build my championship from here.

"Last year I had maybe more expectations for myself. False sense of expectations let's say. This year I'm calm, I feel. What will be, will be. I gained a lot of experience last year.

"Nobody talks about it. I finished fourth in the world championship last year, gained a lot of experience, had two victories and I look forward to working on those strengths from last year."

On a day when Independent Ducati riders Jorge Martin and Enea Bastianini grabbed the limelight with first and second on the grid, Miller stuck with hard tyres in the daylight FP3 session, spent the whole of FP4 on used soft tyres front and rear, then lapped within 0.287s of Martin's pole time in Qualifying.

"[Slipstreams] made a bit of a difference today for sure with the headwind, but I felt good all day pretty much," Miller said. "Spent the whole day riding alone. We did a lot of laps in FP3 and FP4. Some really long runs. The pace feels good. I feel as prepared as we can be for the race.

"But it's going to be a big tough one. The level of MotoGP is ridiculous now. Everybody is a contender for the podium. You can see how bloody difficult it is. For example, I didn't put a new tyre in in FP3 and was 19th.

"It wasn't that I was riding around with one hand on the handlebars, going slow! I was pushing to my maximum, on the hard tyre, but still, 19th? That's how it is! Everyone is a contender.

"So it's going to be a stressful race, but that's what we live for."

The 27-year-old, who is hoping to find "a little more front feeling" in warm-up, added that while he doesn't expect the podium to be as close as last year (when teams and riders had testing data and then two races at the circuit) he doesn't think anyone will be able to make an early break.

"Everybody's got a chance. I feel it's going to be one of those races," he said. "For sure once we get 15 laps in, I think things will mellow out more than they have in the years' past. But to try and break away like a Stoner or Lorenzo of the past, those days are done. That's not happening."

Suzuki may have gained '30 horsepower'

One of many to be impressed by Suzuki's surge in top speed, Miller is 'intrigued' to see how the GSX-RR handles its extra power in the race.

First and third on Friday, Alex Rins and Joan Mir qualified tenth and eighth respectively, but have traditionally been much stronger in race conditions.

Miller estimates Suzuki may have found as much as 30hp over last year's engine, which would equate to a rise of around 10%, although Rins and Mir said some of the speed has come from having a rear ride-height device.

"I'm intrigued to see how this new Suzuki performs under race conditions," Miller said. "It seems like they've gained what would be in my opinion around 30 something horsepower.

"It'd have to be because last year here Mir got passed by two Ducatis [out of the final corner] before the finish line. And yesterday, watching the sessions back, I saw Rins pass di Giannantonio before the first corner.

"So they have quite a considerable improvement in terms of power. Suzuki is notably always been quite good on the tyres. Putting an extra 30 horsepower through the tyres, it will be interesting to see how that goes.

"Second of all is fuel consumption. You don’t make a bike go faster without putting more fuel in. So it'll be interesting to see how they get on."

Miller's team-mateand reigning title runner-up Francesco Bagnaia qualified in ninth place, on a night when just 0.470s covered the top ten riders from Martin to Rins.

"For me, a good result tomorrow will be a top five," Bagnaia said. "We have to be realistic and in this weekend a lot of riders are faster than me. But now I have my feeling back with the bike. We've been working a lot on testing and bike development this year and the first time that I touched something on the setting was today, so we can improve a lot tomorrow in the warm up and also in the race.

"We just have to think that this is the first weekend of the season, and we don't have to be worried. Because if we start to be worried now, it's traumatic. In any case, I'm quite confident, quite happy with what we did today. Finally I feel my bike again, and it's really great. I'm back riding my bike with my style, so I'm really happy."

Both Bagnaia and Miller have made a surprise switch to a 'hybrid' engine for this season, using a mix of 2021 and 2022 parts. The satellite GP22 riders remain on the 'new' 2022 engine.