Spark to the powder keg in the premier class, kicked off at 2:45 PM local time with the first free practice session at Losail. Anticipation was high for the opening MotoGP session which highlighted the qualities of Andrea Dovizioso, who set the time to beat at 1’55”366. This is good news for the Italian riders after the performance by Enea Bastianini and Lorenzo Baldassarri in the other categories.
As usual, the Borgo Panigale rider confirmed his confidence on the Qatar track, using the GP18 without winglets and maintaining the same settings as the tests. The Italian has therefore blazed the trail, followed closely by Valentino Rossi, just 61 thousandths behind his compatriot.
This is a sign of vitality from the Doctor who had to reckon with the absence in his garage of Silvano Galbusera, forced to throw in the towel due to a health problem connected with food poisoning. The nine-time world champion has therefore sent a clear message after a winter conditioned by more than a few difficulties. The opposite was true for Maverick Viñales (+0.764), astonishingly not in the top ten with a gap of more than six tenths behind the leader. We should also point out that the Spaniard used the entire session to work exclusively with hard tyres, unlike his teammate.
Getting back to the top of the standings, in the final stages came a last ditch effort by Marc Marquez (+0.377), snatching third place ahead of the Suzuki ridden by Andrea Iannone (+0.450) who also managed to pull out a little extra in the final moments. Losail is probably not the favourite track for Honda, but number 93 proved to be able to make the difference. Also trying to make the difference was Jorge Lorenzo (+0.522), doing the fifth best time at the end of the first session with a half second gap behind his teammate.
The Majorcan took the old frame out on track and then made a few changes to the rear of the GP18 to favour his position in the saddle. What can we say? The first one was a wrap for number 99, although there was no lack of tensions since when he did his start simulation, the Ducati popped a wheelie and to show his irritation he made a rude gesture.
Behind Jorge there was space for the Yamaha ridden by Johann Zarco (+0.577), who ran long but without any consequence. Then came Crutchlow (+0.623), Rins (+0.631) and Danilo Petrucci (+0.710), the latter forced to reckon with electrical problems which left him sitting in the garage for the first few minutes of the session.
In addition to Viñales, also finishing outside of the top ten was Dani Pedrosa (12th, +0.899), as well as Aleix Espargaró and Scott Redding on their Aprilias, both with a black ribbon on the occasion in memory of Ivano Beggio, the founder of Aprilia who passed away on Tuesday. Franco Morbidelli was twenty-first and Alvaro Bautista ended up in the gravel.