Fully committed to his goal to decrease the 30-point gap to the rider in second place in the championship standings, Viñales hit the ground running in the morning session. Despite a stiff breeze, he was soon on the pace and climbed up to second place before shifting his attention to his bike’s set-up. The Spaniard ended the FP1 session in fifth place, with a 1’29.781s fastest lap and a 0.179s margin to first.
He continued his form in the dry afternoon session and it only took him a few laps to shoot up to second again in the provisional rankings. He planned on spending what was left of the 45-minute session testing various setting options, but had to slightly amend this strategy after a crash in turn 8, with 20 minutes to go. He was quickly up on his feet again and hurried to the box to rejoin the fray before the times started to drop in the final 15 minutes of the session. Back on the bike, Viñales put his head down, but was unable to improve on his time. His best result, a 1’29.423s on lap 7, kept him in fifth place in the FP2 and combined free practice timesheets, 0.198s from the front.
Keen on making the most of the dry session time on day one on Phillip Island, teammate Rossi also made a positive start to the Australian GP. Though riding with pain in his right shoulder, resulting from last week’s crash, he steadily upped his pace at the start of FP1. He briefly moved up inside the top-10, before he concerned himself with the set-up of his Yamaha. He set a 1’30.553s best lap as the session progressed and finished in 13th place, 0.951s from first.
The Doctor booked solid progress in the afternoon, quickly positioning his YZR-M1 inside the top-5. While he resumed his work, further fine-tuning the balance of his bike, the pace of the field increased. The Italian responded at the end of the session by dipping under the 1’30 mark with a 1’29.977s. He bettered his morning time by more than half a second, but it wasn’t enough for him to secure a position inside the top-10 and he ended the first day in twelfth place in the FP2 and combined results, with a 0.752s-margin to the front-runner.