His Yamaha team-mate, Maverick Vinales, had his best qualifying time taken away from him after he was penalised when he ran over a kerb at the Spanish track.
Italy’s Francesco Bagnaia completed the front row as top Ducati, with Italian Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) a competitive fourth and Portugal’s Miguel Oliveira the leading KTM in fifth.
Reigning MotoGP champion Marc Marquez (Honda), who broke his right arm in last Sunday’s race, returned to action on Saturday, just four days after surgery to plate the fracture.
But the Repsol Honda star, 16th in final practice, pitted without setting a flying lap in Qualifying 1 and walked out of the garage.
Younger brother Alex Marquez then fell at the end of Q1 and appeared to be nursing his right arm, but the team later reported no serious injuries.
Fellow injured riders Cal Crutchlow (wrist fracture) and Alex Rins (dislocated shoulder) made their comebacks on Friday, although Rins sat out FP3.
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