Tech3 Yamaha's all-rookie line-up of Zarco and fellow Moto2 graduate Jonas Folger had impressed throughout winter testing, and Zarco went on to earn fourth on the Losail grid - decided by combined practice times after last Saturday's rain.
Zarco then grabbed the lead at the start and led a third of the race distance before crashing out going into Turn 2.
Despite his failure to finish, Zarco's showing drew acclaim from his more experienced rivals.
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Seven-time top-class champion Valentino Rossi described Zarco's ride as "very, very, very strong".
"I was curious about his performance in MotoGP because [Rossi protege] Franco Morbidelli always said Zarco did something special in Moto2, and he will be fast in MotoGP," Rossi added.
"It was a mistake of inexperience in the conditions, but it was a great performance."
The works Yamaha rider joked that being behind Zarco's satellite bike had been "my nightmare during the winter tests" given the Tech3 duo's pre-season pace, but suggested the 2016 machine at Zarco and Folger's disposal was a particularly straightforward bike for a MotoGP rookie to get to grips with.
"The bike they have is maybe a bit more easy to ride and it's at a very high level," Rossi said.
"The Yamaha is a great MotoGP bike, it's a bike that is a friend of the rider.
"In the race, with the pressure, they need time and they need experience - but they did a great job."
Qatar runner-up Andrea Dovizioso agreed that Zarco and Folger look set for a strong season, while adding that Zarco's accident showed they are not ready for immediate success.
"For sure they will be very competitive through the season," Dovizioso said.
"They have a good bike, but also they don't have the experience in MotoGP of how to manage everything so it's normal that they can make a mistake.
"[Zarco] had a soft tyre like me, I think he was trying to push because he was leading and he wanted to go fast, but 20 laps is different.
"It was impossible to push from the beginning to the end.
"For sure, he will be fast in the future. But maybe he pushed too much in that part of the race."
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