Seventh on the Thursday MotoGP timesheets in Qatar might seem a problematic start for Valentino Rossi, however the Italian was actually second in terms of the factory riders who had not previously tested at the circuit.
The top five had all spent three days at Losail earlier this month, with Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa the fastest of the non-testers in sixth place (+1.131s). Movistar Yamaha’s Rossi was 0.210s slower than Pedrosa.
“With seventh place you are usually worried but this time it’s a bit less,” confirmed the nine times world champion.
“Espargaro, Bradl, Smith, Iannone, Bautista have all had three days experience here so it’s normal that they are faster. The tyre was quite bad but for me the main problem is the condition of the track; it’s quite dirty. It’s normal for a Thursday and the bike is very difficult to ride because the tyres don’t help.
“I think, and I hope, that as the track cleans that our bike will improve. We’ve got to wait because this is just first practice. To make my lap time in 45 minutes is not so bad when the others have three days experience.”
The Italian confessed that while he is happy with the 2014 bike following winter testing he will have to wait until tomorrow before a clear picture emerges of his potential for this season.
“It’s very early to say and I want to see if tomorrow I improve and if I can stay with the top times. It will be difficult to close the gap to the top guys because maybe they could improve as well. I hope that practice by practice we can improve and that we can arrive in the front but I’m not sure.
“I have modified my position on the bike and the way that I ride the bike because these tyres have to be ridden differently. They have good stability [under braking] but less on the edge so you need to go step by step.”
Lorenzo, winner in Qatar for the past two seasons, was ninth fastest after struggling for grip with the new het resistant rear tyres.