With a new track surface the long and wide open Sepang circuit provided a whole raft of changes to the established order until the very last laps of the first hour of track time.
Only on the very last lap of FP1 could Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) set a competitive time, but he nailed the fastest of all with his 2.05.613, to edge out his team-mate Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) by 0.097 seconds.
Languishing down the order for most of the session, Sykes and Rea finally leapfrogged the Honda duo of Nicky Hayden (Honda World Superbike Team) Michael van der Mark (Honda World Superbike Team) and the fifth placed Markus Reiterberger (Althea BMW Racing Team), who made a strong start in fifth place.
With his team-mate Sylvain Guintoli missing through injury Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) was a solid sixth fastest, ahead of the second Althea BMW, ridden by Jordi Torres.
A brace of Aprilias finished eighth and ninth, with Alex De Angelis (IodaRacing Team Aprilia) and Lorenzo Savadori (IodaRacing Team Aprilia) packed together.
Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) completed the top ten.
Eleventh place for Karel Abraham (Milwaukee BMW) was a relative breakthrough for the ex-MotoGP rider, especially as he ended up one place ahead of Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati).
Anthony West (Pedercini Racing Kawasaki) was 15th as he substituted for the injured Sylvain Barrier, and Josh Brookes (Milwaukee BMW) was 16th – one place ahead of Josh Hook (Grillini Racing Team Kawasaki).