Suzuki boss Paul Denning praised Alvaro Bautista's practice performance at Sepang, as the Spanish rookie responded to his team's urge for him to get up to speed quicker on grand prix weekends.
Bautista has become a regular top-10 finisher in the second half of his rookie MotoGP season, having got fully up to speed after his early races were disrupted by an injury from a Motocross crash. But Suzuki felt he could be faster still if he pushed harder earlier, and was delighted when he took fifth place today.
"Alvaro has been consistently improving over the last four grands prix and this is his best Friday result by some margin," said Denning. "He knows that qualifying and the first three laps of the race are pivotal to his potential to improve his results and he has come out of the box pushing very hard straight away today."
Bautista felt that his experience from winter testing at the Malaysian venue had helped him hit the ground running.
"It was important that we were able to start with a good setting because we already had a good reference point from the winter tests," he said. "It was helpful to have that base setting, but today the conditions were much different from the test and I felt like I had less grip from the rear tire.
"We are still a bit away from the lap time at the winter test, so we have to improve on many things to get the bike where we want it. We have hard work ahead of us tomorrow and I want to say a big thank you to all my team, because they have started the weekend very well and we must continue like that."
While Bautista had a strong showing, his teammate Loris Capirossi was a very frustrated 12th.
"I don't know why I have gone like that today, because normally we go well on this track," he said. "I have something not working well because I'm not getting a good feeling in the bike and I don't really know what the problem is."
Denning felt Capirossi had taken a setup detour, and was confident he would be on the pace tomorrow for qualifying.
"Loris is very disappointed to be 12th on day one at a track that he considers to be his favorite of the year," said the team boss, "possibly he lost his way a little bit in trying two completely different bike setups.
"Clearly on some parts of the circuit he is very quick – fastest in sector one shows that – and his potential best lap is not far away from the best. He is angry, which is always a good sign, and we are looking for a lot more from him as the weekend continues."