Petronas SRT rider Franco Morbidelli continued his brilliant form of last season as he topped the first free practice session of the 2021 MotoGP season.
The session got underway with an initial flurry of fast laps between Jack Miller and Aleix Espargaro as the pair changed places at the front several times.
In what were very warm conditions at the Losail International CIrcuit, many of the top riders from testing showed their pace including Maverick Vinales, Fabio Quartararo and Francesco Bagnaia who all briefly led the way too.
However, it wasn’t long before Morbidelli took over at the top, a position he held until the closing stages.
As the session came to a close, a late surge from Espargaro momentarily put the Spaniard top, but as the checkered flag came out, the Petronas Yamaha rider regained top spot with a 1m 54.921
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from FP1 was Espargaro and Aprilia, who showed that their form in pre-season testing is a true sign of their progression this year.
Fastest during the Qatar test was Miller, who recovered from an early crash at turn 4 to take third spot.
Fourth was Quartararo on his competitive debut for the factory Yamaha team, while reigning world champion Joan Mir put a fast lap in at the end to take fifth.
It was a good start for the Spanish rider who was unanimously called the title favourite during Thursday’s press conference.
Sixth was Vinales who was once again seen practising his race starts at every pit exit. While Alex Rins was seventh for Suzuki.
Rounding out the top ten were Bagnaia in eighth, Valentino Rossi on his Petronas debut in ninth and Miguel Oliveira in tenth.
Along with Miller, Johann Zarco was the first rider to crash which was also at turn 4, while Pol Espargaro and Enea Bastianini were the other fallers.
MotoGP riders will be back on track later today at 20:00 local time for FP2.