Valentino Rossi says his fourth row starting berth for MotoGP’s season opener in Qatar disguises the “good step” he has made compared to 2013.
The Italian, who insists the first six races of 2014 will determine his future in the sport, did not qualify lower than ninth during last year’s campaign. While he therefore went backward at Losail, Rossi says his pace has actually improved and that his lowly starting spot is down to the rest of the field closing up.
“I’m not very satisfied because I am just in 10th,” Rossi said. “But I am only half a second from pole position and my lap time is not so bad – it’s seven tenths faster than last year for me so we made a good step.
“I have improved a lot. The problem is that the balance between everybody is very close; we are 12 riders within half a second.”
Rossi, whose best time was within half a second of teammate Jorge Lorenzo, said only Marc Marquez had a clear edge over the rest of the pack.
“Tomorrow we have to be ready for anything as anything could happen,” he added. “The pace is very similar between everyone except Marquez who was impressive and did a good job.
“The other guys, [Dani] Pedrosa and Lorenzo, are not very far, so we have to be ready for anything and maybe make some strong first laps, I think.”
Despite once again being visibly disgruntled with this year’s revised Bridgestone compounds, Lorenzo said he had been encouraged by his fifth-place finish in qualifying.
“We are improving little by little to adapt to the situation,” he said. “Obviously we are still having problems with the rear grip but we are getting closer to the front top riders.
“There are six riders within one tenth of a second and the race will be very long, so if we can make one step on the bike we can fight for the podium or even a victory, which would be amazing for the circumstances.”