MotoGP is returning to Misano a month after their last visit following the cancellation of the Malaysia GP that was due to take place this weekend.
The 2021 title could be decided this weekend, with Yamaha Bagnaia’s Fabio Quartararo leading the overall standings with 52 points.
Much cooler conditions welcomed the field for the start of FP1 with early morning rain that made the track wet as the riders set out for their first 45-minute practice session of the day.
Conditions were so difficult that LCR Honda’s Alex Marquez and KTM’s Brad Binder crashed early in turns 2 and 8 in quick succession.
Tech 3 KTM rider Iker Lecuona – now a proven rain specialist in MotoGP – set the early pace to 1: 49.084 minutes before improving it to 1: 46.696 minutes.
The top position changed hands several times as the conditions made the riders safer, the Ducati duo Jack Miller and Bagnaia and the works KTM team rider Miguel Oliveira took turns leading the table.
With just over 33 minutes remaining, Miller had taken the lead with 1: 43.999 minutes.
But at the same time the rain was returning and intensifying, and it would not be until the last 10 minutes when the weather subsided before Miller’s time was seriously threatened.
It was Zarco who beat Miller’s time with 1: 43.836 minutes at the start of a series of session-best laps that culminated in 1: 42.374 minutes on his last tour.
This means Zarco finished 1.417 seconds ahead of the field, with Honda’s Marc Marquez being his next challenger to the checkered flag.
Miller completed the top 3 ahead of Jorge Martin from Pramac and the works Yamaha from Franco Morbidelli.
Bagnaia finished the morning in sixth after losing the front of his Ducati in the closing stages in the left turn of Turn 8, but escaping unscathed.
Oliveira finished seventh on the KTM ahead of the Tech 3 duo Danilo Petrucci and Lecuona, with outgoing world champion Joan Mir completing the top 10 on the Suzuki.
Valentino Rossi starts his last appearance on home soil in 12th place on the time tables after FP1 ahead of Ducati wildcard Michele Pirro and Alex Marquez after his early retirement.
Maverick Vinales returned to action at Misano Friday morning after missing the Austin lap following his cousin’s death in a World Supersport 300 accident last month.
The Aprilia rider finished 17th between Suzuki’s Alex Rins and World Championship leader Quartararo, who’s 3.1 seconds behind Zarco showed that Yamaha had made little progress in improving their wet setup.