Factory Ducati rider Francesco Bagnaia ended MotoGP Friday practice at Jerez as the pace-setter, leading Fabio Quartararo in the second session.
Petronas Yamaha rider Franco Morbidelli headed former team-mate Quartararo in the early going, the pair having become the first riders to dip below the 1m38s margin this weekend.
Aleix Espargaro and Takaaki Nakagami then whittled down Morbidelli’s lead, but he stayed top until the late-session emergence of fresh soft-compound rear tyres.
Quartararo used one of those soft tyres to overhaul Morbidelli by 0.009s with just over a minute left on the clock, only for Espargaro to immediately go half a tenth faster.
But the Aprilia man’s tenure out front was likewise short-lived, with Bagnaia moving up from 14th with a 1m37.209s.
Having snuck in a lap right before the chequered flag that took him back past Espargaro, Quartararo wound up another attempt at a flying lap and was up on Bagnaia after two sectors, but ultimately settled for second.
Espargaro and Morbidelli completed the top four, while Quartararo’s works team-mate Maverick Vinales made it three Yamahas in the top five. The other Yamaha in the field, that of Petronas rider Valentino Rossi, was 21st.
Rins’ team-mate, reigning champion Joan Mir, was only 13th and therefore faces what would be his fourth Q1 appearance of the season.
Also currently looking at a Q1 outing is the returning Marc Marquez, who was only 16th in the session.
Pramac’s Jorge Martin stand-in Tito Rabat had a big crash at the hairpin-like Jorge Lorenzo corner, tumbling through the gravel along with his heavily damaged Ducati. He returned to the track in the final stages but was 23rd and last.